Colorado environmental groups change strategy | VailDaily.com

Colorado environmental groups change strategy

John Ingold
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Faced with a tight state budget and tighter-fisted state lawmakers, Colorado environmental groups had a quieter session at the Capitol than in years past, though they still proclaimed the session a success.

The state fiscal situation “colored every bill proposal and committee hearing,” said Elise Jones, Colorado Environmental Coalition. “We couldn’t spend money. In fact, we had to save money and create jobs with every proposal.”

In response to the shifting winds, green groups ” which have been among the most successful interest groups at the Capitol since Gov. Bill Ritter took office in 2007 ” changed tack.

Arguments about environmental ethics took a back seat to pitches on economic development.

Out went some of the sweeping environmental regulations of previous sessions. In came a series of “opt-in” programs to help schools or homeowners afford renewable energy devices.

“This year has really been about cutting down some of the barriers,” said Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado.

Among the green bills passed this year were two measures to assist homeowners and schools in financing solar-panel purchases; a bill providing tax incentives for buying solar-heated water systems; a measure giving small power providers the ability to charge higher rates to bigger electricity users; and a requirement that homebuilders offer solar panels as an option on new, custom homes.

Democrats say the bills will help grow the “New Energy Economy” in Colorado, bringing jobs and investment to the state.

“These are sustainable jobs in the long-term that can’t be outsourced very easily,” said House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver.

Republicans, though, say many plans missed the mark. Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said he supported some of the green bills at the Capitol, such as one providing a tax credit for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles. But he said others gave boosts to renewable energy at the expense of more practical options.

“It’s clear the far left of the environmental movement is kind of where everything starts at the Capitol,” Brophy said. “On occasion it turns back slightly from that, but sometimes they shove it through as is. . . . These guys have an agenda that excludes traditional fossil fuel.”

John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or jingold@denverpost.com


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