State Legislature

Effort to repeal energy measure fizzles


Republican state lawmakers' first effort this legislative session to undo key Democratic accomplishments from last year failed on Jan. 15.

A Democrat-led Senate committee killed a measure that sought to repeal a law that increased renewable energy mandates that were placed on rural electric providers.

Last year, the Legislature, through Senate Bill 252, mandated that rural electric associations generate 20 percent of their energy through renewable sources. That doubled the former standard of 10 percent.

The law has drawn the ire of Republicans, who argued that the legislation hurts business in rural parts of the state and will drive up energy costs.

"Why are we continuing to have this bad bill on the books?," said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, who sponsored the repeal effort. "This bill rights a terrible wrong.

The 20 percent target is common throughout much of Colorado, but supporters of Harvey's bill testified that the new standard hurts rural parts of the state, in particular. They insist that the mandate will hurt rural economies, even though the law puts a 2 percent cap on energy rate hikes.

Sean Conway, a Weld County Commissioner, told the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee that the bill is unfair and that lawmakers should "hit the reset button" on the legislation.

Conway was a leader behind a recent movement by several counties to secede from the state, due in large part to last year's passage of Senate Bill 252.

"The 800-pound gorilla in this room is that rural-urban divide," Conway said.

But several testified against Harvey's effort, saying that the new standards have expanded the renewable energy field in the state and has created new jobs.

"What I heard overwhelmingly from the testimony today is that Senate Bill 252 has led to job creation," said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat from Adams County and committee chairman.

Ulibarri added that he "did not hear specifically from rural electric cooperatives their concerns on this bill."

As expected, the repeal effort failed on a 3-2 party line vote. The State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is known as the "kill committee" inside the Capitol, a place where certain bills proposed by the minority party are sent to die.

Earlier in the day, Harvey and other Senate Republicans held a press conference, where they blasted Democrats for sending a good number of their bills to the so-called kill committee.

But the committee has been used in similar fashion by Republicans in the past. And Democrats insist that every bill will be considered appropriately.

"There is no promise of outcome," said Ulibarri. "There is a promise of a fair hearing."

The repeal bill's defeat hardly spells the end of this issue. A Republican effort to reduce the energy mandate from 20 percent to 15 percent was introduced in the House the same day.

This session, Republicans will also seek repeals or changes to other pieces of Democrat-sponsored laws that were enacted last year, such as gun-control legislation and election reform.

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