Groups call for expanded Colorado emission goals

Two conservation groups are calling on Colorado to expand on a goal set by Gov. John Hickenlooper for reducing carbon emissions to fight climate change, and say that measures needed to meet stricter goals include a market-based approach.

Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado made their pitch Wednesday in a report outlining policies they want the state legislature and state agencies to take to combat carbon pollution.

Hickenlooper this summer announced that Colorado is joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states that have committed to pursue the goals of the Paris climate agreement despite President Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the agreement. In an executive order, Hickenlooper set a goal to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by 26 percent in 2025, compared to 2005 levels.

The two conservation groups want Colorado to set further goals of a 45 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, and a 90 percent cut by 2050.

“These emission reduction targets are ambitious, but grounded in science and informed by the level of action needed to maintain a stable climate,” the groups’  report said.

They say meeting their proposed goals would require approaches such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

“The modelling in the report shows that sector-specific policies alone are not enough to drive the needed carbon pollution reductions and that market-based policies can help Colorado achieve the cheapest reductions in carbon pollution,” they said in a news release.

Among their sector-specific recommendations for reducing emissions, the groups say:

■ The Public Utilities Commission “should advance actions to retire older, coal-fired (power plant) units and invest in clean energy resources, a modernized grid, and energy efficiency programs.”

■ State agencies should expand on Colorado’s first-in-the-nation rules to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, including by increasing the frequency of required leak detection and repair.

■ The state should promote adoption of energy-efficient building codes, increased use of zero-emission vehicles, and expansion of public transportation.

■ The Colorado Energy Office should explore measures to promote voluntary carbon reductions in sectors like agriculture, waste management, and coal mine methane, such as what’s vented from Arch Coal’s West Elk Mine near Somerset. It says one approach could be the use of carbon offsets, where, as an example, a power plant required to reduce its emissions could pay to install methane capture equipment at a mine.

Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said of the report, “Clearly Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates have adopted a ‘keep it the ground’ approach to the responsible development of Colorado’s natural resources and … have disregarded the importance of those resources to Colorado’s economy and citizens. Their policy recommendations are a prescription for economic disaster, creating new bureaucracies, new taxes, new red tape.”

Hickenlooper said in a statement responding to the report, “Reaching the goals we set for responsibly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions will require broad collaboration and innovative thinking. We look forward to a robust discussion regarding this and other policy proposals to advance a clean, affordable energy future for our state.”


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