Owens: Energy-efficiency bills too expensive

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

Gov. Bill Owens said Tuesday that energy-efficiency legislation he vetoed would have been “way too expensive for consumers.”

Speaking during an interview at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Owens defended his decision a day after environmentalists criticized his vetoes of that legislation and other conservation-oriented measures.

Environmentalists have pressed for energy-efficiency measures in Colorado and nationally, both as a way to fight rising utility rates and as a means to reduce the pressure to drill in energy development hot spots, including Garfield County. Owens vetoed House Bill 1162, which would have mandated energy efficiency standards for 14 appliances and devices, and House Bill 1133, which sought to let utilities raise fees to finance energy-efficiency programs.

Proponents of the latter bill said it would have saved Colorado households $700 million in energy spending. But Owens said the savings would not have been enough to offset the expenses required. He said House Bill 1162 would have placed Colorado among only a handful of states where energy standards would have limited consumer choices of appliances. He doesn’t believe that’s something Colorado, a state with a small population, can afford.

“It would have pretended that Colorado was like California,” he said.

Owens said that as energy prices go up, the free market acts on its own to promote efficiencies, and government mandates aren’t needed. He also has argued that the energy efficiency legislation was unfair to homeowners who already have invested in energy efficiency.

House Bill 1133 supporters had won the backing of Xcel Energy and natural gas supplier Kinder Morgan.

Last month, Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder environmental group, released a report contending that a combination of energy-efficiency measures and renewable energy efforts could cut natural gas usage in electrical energy generation nearly in half by 2020 in the Interior West. The report said current demand for energy is resulting in an “intense, almost frenetic pace of development on the West’s public lands (that) threatens to forever change large areas of wild lands.” The report singled out as one area for concern the Roan Plateau, near Rifle, which the federal government is now considering opening up to drilling.

In other comments Wednesday, Owens:

– Said he would need more information before being able to comment on efforts by state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, to better protect surface use owners when natural gas development occurs on their property. Her surface use bill was defeated in a House committee this year.

Owens said that though he’s not familiar with the particulars of that issue, a study about three years ago found Colorado’s oil and gas regulations to be stricter than those of surrounding states at that time.

– Said he might support oil shale development if technology is found that would make the industry viable.

“I don’t want to be a Luddite and simply say no, never” to oil shale development, he said.

However, he said if a boom mentality emerges, it will be important to remind people about the bust that followed the last shale boom. Exxon’s pullout in the early 1980s put thousands of people out of work in Garfield County.

“Hopefully we’ll be smarter about it this time,” Owens said.

– Reiterated his support of two state measures, Referendum C and Referendum D. The first would ease Taxpayer Bill of Rights restrictions for five years, and the second would allow for bonding against the resulting revenues.

Owens said he supports TABOR, but not its so-called “ratchet effect,” which prevents revenues from catching back up with expenses when the state emerges from hard economic times. He said officials from other states see TABOR as a model worth emulating ” with the exception of its ratchet effect.

“As they look at TABOR in other states, they say, ‘Don’t make Colorado’s mistake,'” Owens said.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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