For good of Colorado’s economy and environment, legislature must stop SB 258


Siemens' employees work on the nacelle of a wind turbine at NREL's National Wind Technology Center in Boulder County. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Siemens’ employees work on the nacelle of a wind turbine at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center in Boulder County. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

By Susan Nedell

A bill that’s bad for Colorado’s economy and bad for Colorado’s environment is making its way through the state legislature this week. It’s up to lawmakers in the House who want to take a stand for Colorado’s business community to stop it.

SB 258, the “Colorado Electric Consumers Act,” is designed to slow and politicize implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan in Colorado. It would upend a transparent process that’s provided certainty to Colorado businesses for decades. Instead of allowing scientists, technical experts, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop our plan, SB 258 would give either house of the legislature the ability to veto whatever plan is developed.

This unnecessarily politicizes the issue. It adds bureaucratic delay. And it creates uncertainty for all stakeholders.

Because of forward-thinking policies like our Renewable Portfolio Standard, Colorado is already 75 percent along the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan’s emission-reduction goal for our state. With the flexibility the Environmental Protection Agency built into the Clean Power Plan, Colorado can achieve the final 25 percent reduction through whichever options work best for our state, including energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Putting smart policies in place that help grow clean energy industries means more jobs for Coloradoans. For example, Colorado already has more than 73,000 jobs in green goods and services, including 30,000 in clean tech, 14,000 in energy efficiency and 5,000 in the wind industry.

One example that shows how clean energy works for Colorado comes from NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which is spending $640 million on two massive new wind farms in eastern Colorado. That’s on top of the roughly $2 billion the company has already invested in Colorado via seven existing wind farms. Together, these wind farms generate 1,175 megawatts of power.

With a well-drafted State Implementation Plan, or SIP, the Clean Power Plan will help Colorado send a strong market signal to the private sector that will result in new investments in clean energy infrastructure and energy efficiency technologies. This boosts Colorado’s economy and creates jobs. Over the long haul, this also helps save money for consumers and businesses.

SB 258, on the other hand, is not about creating jobs, growing our economy, and protecting consumers. It’s about unnecessarily delaying the need to address the economic threat of climate change. SB 258 would make it nearly impossible for Colorado to submit its own SIP by the June 2016 proposed deadline. As a result, EPA would have the authority to write Colorado’s plan, and we would lose our ability to craft our own solution tailored to our unique energy system, priorities, and vision.

Commonsense clean energy policies like the Clean Power Plan have already proven to be good for our economy, businesses, and environment.

That’s why the legislature must reject SB 258. It should let the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment maintain its existing authority to implement federal air quality protections. This agency has proven it will take a comprehensive approach to facilitating Colorado’s Clean Power Plan, while maintaining a strong economy for our citizens and businesses.

Colorado-based Susan Nedell is the Rocky Mountains advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs.