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A good week for energy matters in Colorado

It’s been a good week for the future of energy in Colorado.

House Bill 1001 (raising the renewable energy standard requirement for investor-owned utilities to 30 percent by 2020) was set to be signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday, March 22.

To further support Colorado’s New Energy Economy, I am sponsoring House Bill 1365, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, along with Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and Reps. Ellen Roberts and Judy Solano.

The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will require Xcel Energy to replace, retrofit, or repower coal-fired plants with cleaner-burning and less polluting natural gas by 2017. Colorado is the seventh largest producer of natural gas and we retain the third largest reserves in the United States.

Under the federal Clean Air Act the federal government requires states to be in compliance with clean air mandates by early next year. Colorado is currently in violation of that statute and if we don’t act now and figure out our own Colorado-based solution, the Environmental Protection Agency will implement its own plan and sanction Colorado for non-compliance. That is not the best solution for Colorado and it will cost taxpayers more in the long run. With this bill, we are working toward a solution that will not only bring us into compliance with federal regulations but also benefit Colorado by creating new jobs, reducing air pollution and encouraging the use of cleaner energy sources.

This bill is truly bipartisan and embodies the collaborative work of stakeholders ranging from the Public Utilities Commission, investor owned utility companies like Xcel, and the environmental community. With this bill we will implement a plan for a 70-80 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides. This will help clear up the infamous’“brown cloud” that occasionally looms over the Front Range. Reduced harmful emissions will also make our air easier to breathe and make people with respiratory illnesses healthier. The House passed HB 1365 on second reading Friday.

On Friday, the Senate inserted a strike below amendment to HB 1188, the rafting bill, was passed requiring an evaluation be done of the criminal and civil trespass issues associated with rafting in Colorado. The amendment would implement a study to be coordinated by the Colorado Water Congress, with a report to the legislature by October of 2010 to evaluate the need for further legislation. This is a very complex legal matter and a contentious issue, and the hope is that this evaluation will bring all the various interests to the table to come up with a solution that makes sense for Colorado.

Friday was also an important day because we got our March economic forecast and there was encouraging news. There will be no more cuts for the 09-10 budget.

However, because of caseload increases and other factors, there is still a shortfall for next year’s budget, which we will take a look at in the Senate in two weeks. As we work through this economy we will continue to balance the budget in a manner that is consistent with our values and focused on our top priority; Colorado families.

The week began by meeting with Latino leaders from southwestern Colorado for Latino Advocacy Day, and the week ended with a Senate Joint Resolution honoring the Tri-Ute tribes (Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and the Northern Ute) that I sponsored in the Senate along with Sen. Suzanne Williams. I also want to extend my congratulations to two constituents who were recently appointed to various boards and commissions. John Wells was appointed to the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees and Wanda Carson was appointed to Cover Colorado Board of Directors. I’m sure the state will benefit greatly from their experience and commitment.

We are well into the second half of the session. Being away from home and my family is never easy. However, serving you in our state’s Legislature has been profoundly rewarding. Please continue to write and call. I look forward to hearing from you.