Environmental groups again urge bolder action after Polis touts climate ‘roadmap’

    BRIEF

    The Suncor oil refinery, located just north of Denver city limits, is one of the region's largest sources of toxic air pollution. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

    As climate-intensified wildfires continued to rage across Colorado on Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis touted his administration’s collaborative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in remarks to a state air-quality board — and environmental advocates once again faulted the governor for not pushing hard enough with strict regulations.

    Polis addressed the members of Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission ahead of a briefing on his administration’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, a 171-page report outlining how the state can achieve its emissions-reduction targets in sectors like electricity generation, transportation, and oil and gas production.

    “If anybody here has driven — hopefully an electric vehicle — you know you need a roadmap to get where you’re going,” Polis told commissioners in the virtual hearing. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to get there very fast.”

    Throughout its 18-month development process, however, the roadmap has become an object of frustration among environmental advocates, many of whom believe that Polis’ administration hasn’t acted boldly enough to enact new emissions-cutting policies. The document, a draft version of which was released last month, contains few concrete commitments to additional regulatory actions, and the AQCC isn’t expected to conduct major rulemakings until mid-to-late 2021.

    “Colorado has made important progress to date, however, we remain far off track from meeting our state’s science-based goals to reduce climate pollution and we are running out of time to get on track,” Stacy Tellinghuisen, a senior climate policy analyst with Western Resource Advocates, said in a statement Thursday. “We appreciate the governor’s aspirations to act on climate, but we still need specific, quantifiable, enforceable, and equitable policies that will quickly reduce greenhouse gas pollution across our economy.”

    While he didn’t respond directly to his critics in his comments to the AQCC on Thursday, Polis continued to endorse an approach to climate policy that largely favors collaborative efforts between the state and the private sector over strict regulatory mandates.

    “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and we need to look to every corner of state government and the private sector to meet our goals,” Polis said. “The draft roadmap is a continuation, with specifics, but certainly not the end, of an inclusive conversation that we need to have with folks across the state to get it right for Colorado.”

    Colorado’s statutory emissions goals, set by legislation enacted by the legislature in 2019, begin with a required 26% cut below benchmark levels by 2025 — and, as Polis acknowledged in his comments, even the administration’s own analysis suggests that the state is currently on track to achieve only about half of that target. Without strong, enforceable emissions regulations, environmental groups fear that Colorado won’t be able to close the gap.

    “The governor ran and won as a climate champ, but his Roadmap needs a bold boost to catch up to other states who are national leaders,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, in a statement. “An astounding 71 percent of Coloradans support action this year to guarantee that we meet our climate targets — targets that can only be met if we have specific plans to meet the deadlines science has given us to protect our kids and their climate legacy.”