Climate bill compromise: Colorado Democrats say they’ll give ground to avoid Jared Polis veto

Democratic lawmakers will no longer attempt to pass SB21-200, a bill that sought to put emissions-reduction goals into Colorado law and empower state regulators to enforce those goals. In the waning days of the session, they say they’ll look to avoid a veto from Gov. Jared Polis by putting much of that bill into HB21-1266, including help for people who live close to pollution.

Lead Democratic sponsors Sen. Faith Winter and Rep. Dominique Jackson said they’ll compromise with the governor because it’s better to achieve part of what they want instead of pushing a more ambitious, but doomed bill.

“Ultimately our job is to reduce as much pollution as we can, while taking care of environmental justice issues. We’ve gone as far as what’s doable this year,” Winter said, adding that there’ll be more climate legislation in future years.

In a statement, Polis spokeswoman Shelby Wieman touted the administration’s work to address climate change, including through the “landmark climate-forward” transportation funding bill, SB21-260, passed by the legislature on Wednesday.

“We welcome the opportunity to keep that momentum going by reaching agreement on additional climate legislation this session,” Wieman said.

SB21-200 was designed to be a follow-up to the governor’s climate “roadmap,” enforcing the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions-cutting goals that were defined in 2019 — 26% of 2005 levels by 2025, at least 50% by 2030 and at least 90% by 2050. Multiple reports have found Colorado is not on track.

The disagreement with Polis in large part came down to Democratic state lawmakers’ desire to ensure the goals were met through strict enforcement — putting “a ring on it,” Winter said — versus the governor’s desire to incentivize progress rather than mandate it.

“We feel that if Colorado is going to meet these carbon goals and air quality goals, it should be in the light of day, with legislative debate,” Polis told the Colorado Springs Gazette in April, “and not through a top-down mandate” from unelected state regulators.

The parts of SB21-200 planned to go into HB21-1266, Winter and Jackson said, include enforcing emissions reductions in the electric, oil and gas and industrial sectors, and creating an ombudsperson and an environmental justice board to represent the interests of communities that suffer heavy pollution.

“From the dawn of time,” Jackson said, “communities of color and low-income communities have been made sick from pollution and have been denied access to health care, and have not been given any sort of a voice or a real seat at the table, so this is a big freaking deal.”

Their combined bill still would address the disproportionate affects of pollution and climate on low-income communities and communities of color through a statewide “environmental justice strategy” and plan, they said.

But stricter enforcement of emissions reduction in transportation and commercial and residential building sectors will fall by the wayside, the sponsor said. Transportation is the biggest polluter of any sector in Colorado, at close to a quarter of overall greenhouse gas emissions; buildings account for about a tenth of emissions.

Winter and Jackson said they remain in talks with the governor’s office on several aspects of the compromise, though Winter said “there’s peace on a lot of this at this point.”

HB21-1266 passed the Democrat-controlled House last month on party lines and awaits its first committee hearing in the Senate.

Lawmakers must adjourn no later than June 12, giving them little time to resolve this and dozens of other matters. But Capitol leaders believe the revised version of HB21-1266 should have no problem passing.

Source: Read Full Article