Capitol report

Efforts to stem energy mandates fail

Bills mark third attempt to undo new rural energy standards this sesson

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Attempts to scale back implementation of increased rural renewable energy mandates suffered another set of defeats at the Capitol this week.

Two Republican-sponsored bills that would have either lowered the bar on new energy standards on rural electric providers or that would have pushed back the implementation start date failed in separate legislative committees.

New standards for rural electric providers will require that they generate 20 percent of their energy through renewable sources. The mandate is scheduled to take effect in 2020.

Three GOP-backed bills that sought to undo those new standards have been introduced this session — a year removed from the contentious passage of Senate Bill 252, which doubled the former renewable energy standard of 10 percent.

But those efforts have failed, most recently as Jan. 30 when the House Transportation and Energy Committee killed a bill that sought to reduce the energy mandate to 15 percent.

Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, the bill sponsor, told committee members that the new standards are too high, and they will hurt rural economies.

"Has our policy been misdirected?" Scott said. "Are we putting too much pressure on different types of energy-related sectors?"

Diana Orf of the Colorado Mining Association, speaking in support of Scott's measure, said last year's Senate Bill 252 was passed "very hastily" and the new standard "needs a second look."

"We believe the standard can be achieved, but it needs more time," Orf said.

Moffat County commissioner John Kinkaid was more direct in his criticism of SB252, calling it a job killer for coal mining and power production employers in rural parts of the state.

"I'm here today to say that I hope that the war on rural Colorado is over and that we can have a spirit of bipartisanship," Kinkaid said.

Scott's bill was met with opposition by SB 252 supporters who said that Colorado is the home to great wind and solar energy resources, that those industries are creating new jobs here, and the new standards will be a boon for new energy jobs here.

"Coloradoans are with us on this issue," said Kim Stephens of Environment Colorado, an environmental advocacy group. "They want more clean, renewable energy."

The Democrat-led committee killed Scott's measure following a party-line vote of 8-5.

The day before Scott's measure died, Rep. Kathleen Conti's bill that sought to delay the implementation of the new standards until 2025 suffered the same fate.

"We're really not seeking to change much, but simply extend the deadline that was given," Conti, a Littleton Republican, told the same committee.

Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Douglas County Republican, a supporter of Conti's bill, said even though Senate Bill 252 puts a 2 percent cap on energy rate hikes, any hikes would be a burden on some living in rural parts of the state.

"I know 2 percent doesn't sound like much, but when you have people on fixed incomes who are struggling to coming out of this recession, 2 percent is a lot," Lawrence said.

Democrats on the committee believe the new standards will work. They also rejected a long-held Republican argument that last year's passage of SB 252 was rushed through the Legislature without enough input from rural Coloradans.

"People were brought into the process, and negotiations were long and hard," said Rep. Cherylin Peniston, D-Westminster. "I just didn't want the public to be left with the idea that the bill was drafted without participation because I believe that would be a misconception."

That bill also died following a party-line vote of 8-5.

The bills became the third effort seeking to undo to the new energy mandate standard to fail this session. On Jan. 15, a Senate committee killed a bill seeking an all-out repeal of the new standards.