Opinion | Susan Knopf: Support bill to reduce greenhouse gases, increase environmental justice | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Support bill to reduce greenhouse gases, increase environmental justice

Did you get the circular in your mailbox saying, “Urgent action is needed to protect Coloradan’s health“?

It got my attention. It came from Healthy Air and Water Colorado, and it addresses Colorado Senate Bill 21-200, a bill to reduce greenhouse gases.

I like to say, “Every day is a learning day.”

No surprise to anybody, but I’m a bit of tree-hugger, and I didn’t know anything about the bill. I looked it up. Then I called Frisco’s Tom Koehler, a board member for Friends of the Lower Blue River. Koehler wasn’t up on it either, but he did me a solid. He gave it a look, and told me what he likes about it.

First, you need to know current law requires the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt rules that will result in statewide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 as compared to 2005. Apparently, they don’t have many tools to accomplish that. This bill lays out the plan.

I like to talk to Koehler about this stuff because he was a financial analyst for 13 years, and he gets that conservation isn’t free. He sees the cost benefit analysis. Koehler said he likes that:

  • Greenhouse gases are added as a pollutant regulated by the Air Quality Control Commission. He says this is an important and valuable move in the right direction.
  • The bill directs the commission to consider the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Fees collected from polluters would be used to promote environmental justice and to help marginalized communities that disproportionately suffer the cost of pollution.

For the record, the group that sent the circular bills itself as health care professionals who are concerned about the health impacts of climate change, particularly on vulnerable communities.

As the equity conversation progressed over the past pandemic year, there’s been a lot of discussion about health equity: costs associated with living in marginalized communities.

As I see it, this bill begins to calibrate those costs, assigns the costs to the polluters, and then works to mitigate the costs with those who suffer from a problem they didn’t create.

Summit County Sierra Club Conservation Chair Pam Bradley says the bill is a “high priority” for Colorado Sierra Club.

Of course, there are naysayers. Gov. Jared Polis’ staff told The Denver Post, “… we cannot support hard sector-specific emissions caps as the bill outlines.” Interesting, since the bill is intended to shore up and codify the governor’s climate goals.

I had to stop myself from laughing when I read an opinion piece in The Gazette. Colorado Sen. Ray Scott suggests nuclear energy as an alternative. What is the cost of building a nuclear energy facility these days?

I have a friend who worked as a nuclear engineer. He advocates nuclear energy. He also tells me there is no viable academic program producing trained people who could staff such a program.

My biggest concern about nuclear power is that the issue of what to do with the nuclear waste was never really solved. It’s dangerous, and it poses security risks. Back in the 1980s in Louisiana, they were proposing to store the waste in salt domes. A few years back, that same salt dome collapsed from brackish water intrusion. Can you imagine what would have happened to the oil industry, the fishing industry and all the people of southern Louisiana if they stored nuclear waste in that salt dome?

Perhaps Scott should check out the Xcel website. The company is on board, and ready to meet the climate goals with renewables — even exceeding some goals. That’s good news for a lot of Summit County customers getting their power from Xcel.

I guess the bottom line is, there’s no free lunch. Turn on the news, and you can see the cost of global climate change everywhere: floods, fires, droughts. My water well produces about one-third of the water it gushed less than 25 years ago. We can pay to repair and replace property damaged by violent weather, or we can make changes to sustain the planet and bring back its health and abundance. I think change costs less and gives us more.

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