Activists: Colorado Climate Action Plan needs more rules

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Turbines blow in the wind at an Xcel Energy wind farm located on the border of Colorado and Wyoming (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER  | Colorado lawmakers have promised more on climate than their policies can deliver, according to an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund and Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates.

The organizations commissioned the analysis by the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates, which addressed Colorado’s clean-air laws and the Climate Action Plan lawmakers passed last year.

Colorado will have to do more, environmental advocates said after the report’s release on Tuesday.

“It’s going to take hard work, but Colorado has an opportunity to lead on climate, while growing our economy and preserving our way of life,” Stacy Tellinghuisen, senior climate policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates, said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with the administration and state agency leaders to develop the innovative policies and solutions Colorado needs to get on track to meet our emission reduction goals.”

The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050, based on 2005 levels.

The report found a “significant gap” between goals and the likely reality, exceeding emission goals by about 30 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2025 and 46 million metric tons in 2030.

“Colorado set nation-leading, science-based goals to cut greenhouse gas pollution across our economy by mid-century, in order to do Colorado’s part to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and ensure we maintain a healthy, livable climate,” Tellinghuisen said.

“But this analysis shows we can’t succeed if we just continue business as usual. We need – and Coloradans want – ambitious action that meets the urgency of the climate crisis we face.”

Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association trade group, says the advocacy groups are getting way ahead of themselves.

“This analysis is the definition of premature,” he told Colorado Politics. “The Climate Action Plan was passed by the legislature less than a year ago, as well as other key pieces of legislation, which require a number of regulatory rulemakings. This analysis reeks of our instant-gratification society. Laws are passed, rules are written, and then rules must be implemented. It takes time.

“Regulators are making massive changes as we speak, and many more are still yet to come. Let the ink dry on the regulations before labeling it a failed effort. Meanwhile, let’s also note that emissions continue to fall.”

The report notes Colorado’s electric utilities play a big part in reducing climate pollution and credited utilities — Xcel Energy by name — for committing to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, though other sectors, including oil and gas production, are expected to increase emissions.

The report also cites emissions reductions from closing remaining coal-fired power plants and replacing them with zero-carbon energy generation, as well as the work of Gov. Jared Polis and the legislature to expand the state’s inventory and ability to use zero-emission vehicles.

“Working together with greater ambition and innovation, our state can achieve the bold climate pollution reductions essential to protect public health, our environment, and our economy for all Coloradans,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.