Colorado lawmakers join calls to Polis administration for faster climate regulation

By: - August 24, 2020 12:43 pm

Smoke obscures views of the Rocky Mountains from Downtown Denver on Aug. 13, 2020. The smoke came from the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek fire outside Glenwood Springs. (Andy Bosselman/Colorado Newsline)

Two sponsors of the landmark climate-change legislation passed by Colorado Democrats in 2019 have joined a growing chorus of criticism against Gov. Jared Polis’s administration over what environmental advocates say are unacceptable delays in implementing the new law.

In a statement issued Aug. 21, state Sen. Faith Winter and state Rep. Dominique Jackson charged the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission with not moving fast enough to enact rules that are consistent with House Bill 19-1261, which committed the state to a series of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 2025 and 2050.

Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter, from Colorado’s 24th District.

“With this legislation, our state has the instructions and momentum to act quickly in combating the ongoing environmental crisis,” the lawmakers said. “Unfortunately, efforts have stalled at a time when the ravaging effects of climate change are knocking at our door. Now is not the time to slow down.”

“The AQCC’s actions must reflect the urgency of the disaster we face,” Winter and Jackson continued. “This means immediately creating specific, measurable policies that can be effectively enforced and are drafted with community input.”

The AQCC is facing two lawsuits from environmental groups over its failure to propose comprehensive greenhouse gas rules by a July 1 deadline. Colorado’s overall emissions levels remain far above the targets set by HB-1261, but administration officials contend that future regulatory changes by the AQCC in 2021 and beyond will be enough to put the state on a path towards achieving its new goals.

Critics say the AQCC’s efforts has fallen short, especially with regard to engaging the communities who are most affected by fossil-fuel production and the effects of a changing climate. Dozens of environmental advocates and Democratic elected officials — including Winter, Jackson and Colorado House Speaker KC Becker — urged the administration in an Aug. 17 letter to take “bold action” to meet HB-1261’s targets, and to ensure that people of color and other disproportionately affected communities are included in the process.

Winter and Jackson said Friday that the wildfires that have caused evacuations, closures and unhealthy air quality across Colorado in recent weeks are yet another reminder of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to stop treating climate change as a problem for tomorrow,” they said. “Our state is literally on fire and the consequences of inaction will only get worse. People are breathing in toxic air, delicate ecosystems are being irrevocably damaged, and natural resources are dwindling. This is a full-blown crisis — we cannot afford to wait.”

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Chase Woodruff is a senior reporter for Colorado Newsline. His beats include the environment, money in politics, and the economy.