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Opinion | Susan Knopf: Is it hot enough?

Susan Knopf
For the Record

As we sweat the hottest June in local memory, it’s nice to know the Legislature is trying to do something about it.

The Colorado Energy Office announced that Colorado had adopted “nation-leading policies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from buildings.”

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that more greenhouse gas escapes from buildings than from cars, but it’s true.



For the record, the Environmental Protection Agency has a great pie chart that shows 28% of greenhouse gases come from transportation and 10% from agriculture. The rest is produced by industry and the generation and consumption of electricity.

This year, the state published its findings in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap. The road map found that combustion of fossil fuels in buildings is one of the four largest sources of greenhouse gases in Colorado. That’s also true for Summit County.



What can we do about it?

Recently passed Senate Bill 21-264 requires gas utilities to reduce greenhouse gases by 4% by 2025 and 22% by 2030. There´s definitely some finagling. The state says this is a “technology neutral, outcome-based approach.” Energy efficiency and recovered methane are among the technologies eligible to accomplish the state-mandated goals. Utilities must file their greenhouse gas reduction plans with the public utilities commission.

“The Legislature kept pressing on the accelerator for significant climate change,” Summit County state Rep. Julie McCluskie wrote in a text. “SB21-260 is the most significant transportation bill to pass in decades and incentivizes the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and electrification planning efforts. … SB21-230 (puts) $40M into the clean energy fund for renewable energy grants. And finally, SB21-1266 will reduce pollution and (create) a process for environmental justice … for disproportionately impacted low-income communities.”

Nancy Hassinger, Summit County Sierra Club chapter vice chair, shares McCluskie’s enthusiasm for SB21-1266.

“I strongly support (the bill),” she wrote in an email. “It is time to address environmental injustice disproportionately affecting poor and disadvantaged communities.”

McCluskie wrote that she’s proud “these environmental bills maintain Colorado’s place as a champion for climate action (and that) we were mindful of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and economic crisis. HB21-1105 creates for the first time, a sustainable stream of funding for low-income utility assistance through Energy Outreach Colorado and the Department of Human Services.”

House Bill 21-1105 supports low-income families with utility bill assistance, expands energy conservation efforts and renewable energy programs. Good news for folks who need help conserving power and reducing energy use and waste, the Colorado Energy Office says SB21-231 “transfers $3-million to … fund the Weatherization Assistance Program, which serves low-income Colorado families.”

I know a commercial property owner who might not be too happy about HB21-1286. The bill requires owners of commercial, multifamily and public buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to report energy use annually. The state will gather this data and information from utilities. A “diverse task force” will make recommendations to achieve a 7% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 and a 20% reduction by 2030, from a 2021 baseline. That one is going to land close to home.

Ultimately, I think we can all see climate change is happening. You can wishfully think this is caused by the natural ebb and flow of nature. But scientific proof that climate change is caused by human activity is irrefutable.

“This legislation is comprehensive and takes into consideration crucial pieces of the climate change challenge puzzle,“ Friends of the Lower Blue River board member Tom Koehler wrote. ”It importantly focuses on recovered methane which is a powerful (greenhouse gas) whose release is highly detrimental to our economy and human health. Perhaps as important is the inclusion of the social cost of carbon requirement that our utilities will need to seriously evaluate in future project implementation. Strong steps for a healthier future.”

I’m just hoping the future includes some rain and cooler temperatures!

 


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