Clean power debate flares up in Colorado
DENVER — A national debate over global warming has turned into a major sticking point at the Colorado Legislature, where Democrats and Republicans this week started tussling over paying for efforts to curb carbon emissions.
Republicans say it’s a waste of money to try to comply with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. That plan is on hold because of a decision last month by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Democrats insist that Colorado should move ahead on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper wants lawmakers to approve some $200,000 for the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to work on the Clean Power Plan.
However, budget writers in the Legislature haven’t agreed to the request. The budget is being debated this week by the House, which is controlled by Democrats. Those Democrats amended the budget bill Tuesday to restore the clean-air money.
But that put them on a collision course with Republicans, who control the Senate. This week the Senate narrowly passed a bill to expressly prohibit Colorado authorities from working on the Clean Power Plan until a court-ordered stay is lifted.
“This bill is not about climate change or global warming, whether you believe in it or not. This is about the rule of law,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley.
Democrats scoffed, calling the bill a clear broadside at efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“As a matter of conscience, no matter what the Supreme Court decides … Colorado needs to move forward,” said Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.
It’s too soon to say which side will prevail in the clean-air debate. The money to start implementing it is a tiny fraction of the state’s $27 billion budget, and there’s plenty more in the spending package for lawmakers to haggle over.
“I there will be a lot of opportunity to kind of compromise,” Hickenlooper told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
But the spending has turned into a fierce political battle about funding and global warming. Democrats are accusing Republicans of burying their heads in the sand about climate change, while Republicans accuse Democrats of wasting money to pursue a national air policy that may never come to be.
The debate isn’t unique to Colorado.
Colorado is among at least 24 states considering legislation this year about Obama’s climate plan, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Colorado also joined a multistate lawsuit against the 2014 plan, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent nationwide by 2030. Simply joining the lawsuit became a political football last year, when Hickenlooper tried and failed to stop Colorado Republican attorney general from joining the lawsuit.
The Clean Power Plan is the most heavily litigated federal environmental regulation in U.S. history, the NCSL reported.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt
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