Gov. Hickenlooper commits Colorado to emissions reductions with executive order
July 11, 2017
With the stroke of a pen on Tuesday morning, Gov. John Hickenlooper committed Colorado to joining a group of states in upholding the nation's prior pledge to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change from which President Trump announced withdrawal in June.
Hickenlooper issued the executive order supporting the state's transition to clean energy from outside Red Rocks Park, also entering Colorado into the U.S. Climate Alliance founded the same day Trump changed course on the country's environmental policy. The collection is now made up of 13 states and Puerto Rico, with the governors of California, New York and Washington state as the co-chairs and Massachusetts and Vermont the lone states with Republican leadership.
The particulars of the promise are goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the state by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels in the next nine years, and cutting carbon dioxide releases from within the electricity sector by 25 percent from 2012 levels in that same span. Trimming the latter by another 10 percent by 2030 is also included in the plan.
"Coloradans value clean air and clean water," Hickenlooper said at the event. "The vast majority of our residents, and indeed the country, expect us to help lead the way toward a clean and affordable energy future. In this process, we no doubt can address climate change while keeping a priority on household budgets."
Also included in the order is a list of other energy-reduction commitments, among them developing a greenhouse gas emissions tracking rule through the Department of Public Health and Environment and creating a statewide electric vehicle plan by the beginning of next year. Devising actions between agencies and partnering with local governments are listed as top priorities within the document as well.
"The actions that the governor has announced will not only help us fight climate change, but will bring clean energy jobs and business innovation to the Centennial State," Pete Maysmith, executive director of environmental protection firm Conservation Colorado, said through a news release. "With today's announcement, President Trump has become even more isolated from the world, whose leaders are taking aggressive action to fight climate change."
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"Longer and hotter droughts, severe storms, flooding and increased wildfires are too harmful to stand by and do nothing," Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of land, air and water conservation group Western Resource Advocates, added in a statement. "The governor is representing our citizens well in taking clear action to clean our air."
The two organizations, along with a crowd of preservation organizations and climate-based companies nationwide that included Vail Resorts, Inc., decried Trump's decision to pull out of the historic deal struck with 194 other countries under his predecessor. Hickenlooper's action Tuesday now positions Colorado with a minority of states that have recommitted to the previous environmental parameters set for the country.
"We applaud and support the executive order signed earlier today by Gov. Hickenlooper," Rob Whittier, Vail Resorts' director of sustainability and compliance, said Tuesday. "Alongside the state of Colorado, Vail Resorts remains committed to finding significant ways to minimize our carbon footprint through reducing our energy use to help address one of the most serious challenges facing our worldwide community."
The governor and his staff were considering a similar executive order dating back to August of last year only to jettison the idea by January just ahead of the legislative session's start. He cited discord it might create with conservative state lawmakers as the reason for dumping the decree.
"The response — the pushback — from the executive order was so intense that the potential benefits were outweighed by the collateral damage," Hickenlooper said at the time. "That being said, I continue to hold it up as a vision."
The state's Senate Republican majority issued an afternoon news release accusing the governor of circumventing state law in the surprise, unilateral decision. They threatened a forthcoming legal fight.
"This is not Washington, D.C., and here in Colorado we do not govern by executive order," said Senate president Kevin Grantham, R-El Paso. "The governor's failure to proceed in an open, collaborative, bipartisan way means this policy never will have the stamp of public legitimacy it needs, and that it most likely will be challenged in court."