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Life stays busy as the session moves on

This week was a busy week.

The Agriculture and Natural Resources and Appropriations committees heard HB 1365, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. I am sponsoring this bill with Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction).

As I’ve mentioned before, this bill will create good jobs in the natural gas industry in Colorado. It requires Xcel Energy to replace, retrofit, or repower coal-burning power plants with cleaner burning natural gas. HB 1365 will help clear our air in Colorado, reduce the “brown cloud” that often looms over Denver and bring us into compliance with EPA mandated environmental regulations. This bill is a bipartisan and collaborative effort that will allow us to comply with federal regulations in a uniquely Colorado way. Some have expressed concerns about the expediency by which this bill has been moved through the Legislature. It is important to pass this bill quickly so we can operate in our own framework and on our own terms. Our Colorado-based solution will create high quality jobs and cost taxpayers less than the federal government coming in and imposing its plan on us.

Xcel Energy, the Department of Public Health, the Public Utilities Commission, the natural gas industry and the environmental community came together to testify in support of the bill. This broad coalition understands that converting to natural gas will allow us to reduce the regional haze over the Front Range and obtain a 70-80 percent reduction in hazardous emissions.

The coal and mining industry remains opposed to the bill. They believe that HB 1365 will cost jobs and decrease the demand for coal. However, 70-80 percent of the coal mined in Colorado is actually exported out of our state. It should also be noted that a new Comanche III coal-burning plant is coming online in Colorado. This plant will offset any of the supposed decreases in coal demand. The majority of our energy will continue to be derived from coal and it has a secure place in meeting our future energy needs. If we allow the EPA to impose a federal plan, the impact on the coal industry could be far greater. The bill passed the Ag and Natural Resources Committee 5-2 and passed the Appropriations Committee on Friday. We should be debating the bill on the Senate floor next week.

This week I also introduced an amendment to House Bill 1171 to further protect farmers, ranchers and other trailer owners from excessive late fees for vehicle registration. Originally, the bill reduced late fees only for non-motorized vehicles weighing less than 2,000 lbs. The amendment I introduced lowers the late fee to a maximum of $10 on all trailers regardless of weight. Many of you have had to pay up to $100 in late fees. Such a large amount is unjustified because most trailers are used infrequently. Unfortunately, my proposed amendment was not approved by the House and they voted to adhere to the original bill, but I am hopeful the conference committee created with representatives from the House and Senate will acknowledge that the excessive late fines for trailers are unfair.

Last Tuesday, I braved the storm that swept over Denver to congratulate Maricruz Mosqueda, a senior at Olathe High School who was selected as one of the finalists for the Boys and Girls Club 2010 Youth of the Year Award. Maricruz has been involved with the Black Canyon Boys and Girls Club for over eight years. She is an exceptional young woman and has been accepted to both Mesa State College and Fort Lewis College. I’m sure Maricruz will succeed at whatever college she decides to attend and will make southwest Colorado proud.