A Colorado Plan for Climate Action
We must take urgent action to address climate change and its impacts on our communities. Because of climate change, Colorado faces a warmer future, with effects including shorter winters, increased air pollution, and devastating fires, floods, and droughts. Climate change threatens our fragile water supply. Our iconic outdoor recreation and tourism economies are vulnerable to ecological changes from warming. We need ambitious, structural change to achieve critical climate goals.
My plan for bold action includes three main pillars: reducing carbon and instituting a renewable energy economy; taking care of communities; and making our systems resilient against immediate and future impacts. I am already taking steps to achieve Colorado’s climate goals, and building coalitions with climate leaders to drive sound environmental policy for our state. This document is an outline of key actions I plan to take.
Judy Amabile is a candidate for Colorado House District 13 in the 2020 election.
Jakki Davison is a volunteer policy researcher for Elect Judy Amabile. She is a Masters of the Environment Candidate in Environmental Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Fight Climate Change
- Prioritize carbon reduction ahead of the demands of the oil and gas industry, and give our communities local control.
- Set a realistic price for carbon emissions so businesses are incentivized to emit less.
- Revitalize rural communities through the development of clean industries.
Transition to a Green Economy
- Revolutionize how we power transportation and indoor heating and cooling through electrification.
- Boost energy efficiency across the state in the residential, commercial, and utility sectors.
- Uphold environmental stewardship and conservation in our communities and industries.
Build A Climate-Resilient State
- Support community-based resiliency plans that encourage coordination and collective action.
- Support rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments by key government and community institutions, so they can better prepare for future conditions.
- Educate and engage with the public regarding risks and climate adaptation planning.
Fight Climate Change
Climate change is an extraordinary crisis threatening present and future generations. Colorado is vulnerable to rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and earlier snowmelt, which, among other impacts, affect our water resources, tourism industry, and agricultural industries. The impacts of climate change will constrain economic growth, especially in the outdoor recreation industry. Taking bold action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is necessary for a sustainable future. My plan:
1. Prioritize carbon reduction ahead of the demands of the oil and gas industry, and give our communities local control.
For far too long, the state of Colorado has placed the interests of oil and gas companies ahead of fighting climate change. That must stop. I will support legislation making carbon reduction the top priority of our state’s energy policy. We must move away from oil and gas production to conserve our iconic landscapes. In this transition, I will prioritize worker and community safety, as well as methane emissions reductions. I will support ending oil and gas subsidies and increasing industry severance taxes, so that we are no longer among the states with the lowest taxes. Colorado’s recent passage of SB181 was a landmark step forward in forcing regulators to consider the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction. Now we need to apply the same framework to the climate impact of oil and gas.
And when our state does develop its fossil fuel resources, communities deserve to feel safe. In the aftermath of the Firestone explosion, and other oil and gas disasters, the ability to say no to oil and gas should be a legal right. Communities know themselves best, so local governments should have veto power in the development of new oil and gas drilling in their own backyards. At the same time, our state government should permit new oil and gas development only in alignment with our climate goals. Oil and gas development can only move forward if it receives local and state approval.
To accomplish this, I will support a two-part approval system for oil and gas development to ensure local communities have the legal authority to restrict oil and gas development as they see fit. In addition, I will provide tools and support to local governments and communities, inspired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Resources for Local Governments. Low-income communities will receive special attention and modified programs that better suit their needs. I also plan to improve the conversations between Colorado residents and their representatives by streamlining avenues for two-way communication. To better ensure the public is up-to-speed on policy and policy changes in the climate space, I will conduct public outreach and education measures like newsletters, informative town halls, and social media postings.
We are grateful for the generations of oil and gas workers who have supported Colorado. But now we are faced with the critical need to shift away from oil and gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. Workers and communities who are deeply connected to carbon-intensive energy production will be supported so that the transition is just. I will partner with private industry to create clean energy jobs for displaced oil and gas workers and ancillary affected businesses, and I will sponsor and support legislation that studies mechanisms to ensure their financial wellbeing through a just transition process. I believe special attention should be paid to clean energy industries that are quickly growing and bringing benefits to the entire state, but we must also incentivize manufacturing, technology and outdoor industry jobs in rural parts of our state.
An important economic benefit of this change is it puts an end to the boom-and-bust cycle of the fossil fuel industry, which through the years has devastated so many Colorado communities. Instead we will be investing in stable, clean industries that can serve our state infinitely better. To further protect Colorado’s communities and natural appeal, I will support adding sensible restrictions on where new drilling can take place. I will support new construction requirements to minimize waste and environmental damage. I also will support oil and gas water use limits to ensure our communities’ water resources are secure.
My goal is to ensure a healthy balance between state regulators and local communities that is in line with Colorado’s values and the reality of climate change. I will support legislation that will increase choice in Colorado communities. I will partner with existing rural organizations, including Rural Development Colorado and the Colorado Rural Electric Association, to ensure smooth transitions that are just for all. Rural communities deserve access to cheap and clean electricity, so I will support rural electric co-ops pursuing contracts that best fit their current and future needs, including the right to self-generate a larger share of their energy and the right to choose electricity from independent producers of renewable energy. I will be open to all conversations on how I can help specific communities.
2. Set a realistic price for carbon emissions so businesses are incentivized to emit less.
Putting a price on carbon emissions is a growing practice that is integral to a just transition away from carbon-intense energy production. A carbon price protects citizens from the negative impacts of carbon pollution by major emitters, like oil and gas production, by charging emitters for their pollution, which has historically been unchecked. This widely praised market-based solution provides advantages to companies with low-carbon profiles. The current central estimate of carbon’s social cost is over $50 per ton. I will support setting the social cost of carbon at $46 per ton as defined by the Obama administration to align with our needs and climate goals. While Colorado must take action at the state level, I also will encourage our elected officials at the federal level to implement a nationwide price on carbon. Federal action is necessary because the impacts of emissions cross state boundaries and Colorado’s pricing mechanisms can be more successful when plugged into markets that extend beyond our borders.
An emissions price of $46 per ton will not raise costs for consumers; renewable energy in Colorado is cheap and getting cheaper. We are working on increasing energy efficiency to drive spending down even further. Still, implementation will require serious thought and planning. I will work with stakeholders to devise plans to equitably collect carbon pollution offset fees from industries. I will continue to be mindful of minimizing the cost burden of such fees on consumers. One way we ensure this is through incremental and predictable price increases over time, which will allow firms and their customers to adjust. Revenue generated from this fee can further our impact when invested back into social and environmental protection programs, including clean transportation and technological innovations, like carbon sequestration.
3. Revitalize rural communities through the development of clean industries and the integration of cheap and clean energy into the electricity grid.
Colorado has one of the strongest renewable energy industries in the US, and we are poised to continue leading. Our wind and solar industries have grown rapidly over the last 10 years. Other sources of renewable energy, including small-scale hydropower, geothermal power, and energy from biomass, are being vigorously researched and developed in Colorado. Right now, solar and wind energy are the cheapest available. I will support the integration of more than 80% renewable energy into the grid to bring Coloradans cheaper and cleaner electricity, particularly in rural areas. To accomplish this, I will encourage the development of better storage technologies, the management of electricity usage demand, and technological innovations in related areas, including carbon capture and sequestration. I will encourage the widespread distribution of wind and solar farms to make our electricity system more resilient.
As the climate changes, crop viability will change too. Our agricultural communities need to be prepared for uncertain future conditions both in practice and in resources. I will work with local communities and build coalitions to identify creative ways to revitalize communities that have historically relied on water-intense agricultural practices and fossil fuels. I will work to provide options to rural communities, like diversifying local economies to be more resilient as changes manifest. Leveraging local outdoor industries, for example, can expand and boost local economies, further incentivizing environmental protections through clean industries.
The just transition to a green economy is gaining bipartisan support across the country. In Colorado, a green economy means transitioning to energy production and other systems that protect human and environmental health. We must ensure this transition is fair to all Coloradans by implementing innovative policies and integrating efforts across multiple sectors. My plan:
1) Revolutionize how we power transportation and indoor heating and cooling through electrification.
We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and move people in sustainable ways by electrifying our transportation sector. Colorado’s current goal is to reach one million electric vehicles (EVs) by 2040. I will support the expansion of tax credits for EV purchases to incentivize consumers to choose EVs when purchasing a new car. I will be smart about financial incentive programs, and careful not to over subsidize EVs.
To swiftly meet Colorado’s EV goal, I will encourage the development of charging technologies to make EVs a viable choice in people’s everyday lives. I will further support the expansion of ample, accessible, and profitable EV charging stations across the state. Partnering with other western states to extend our EV charging grid across the West will benefit interstate drivers and invite western EV owners to enjoy Colorado tourism.
Successful transportation electrification goes beyond cars to include buses and trucks. The Colorado Department of Transportation is already investing in electric buses and chargers so that we will reduce our emissions, provide better options to commuters, and have cleaner air. To drive investment in our transportation electrification goals and further reduce emissions, I will support a clean fuel standard and work to determine incremental decreases in carbon intensity that are appropriate for Colorado.
The heating and cooling of Colorado’s buildings is a top-three contributor to greenhouse gas emissions today. I will support legislation to transition the power for our building systems from fossil fuels to clean electric power sources. By encouraging the switch from natural gas heating to alternatives, like electric heat pumps, I will work to reduce the demand for natural gas in our homes. I also will support statewide building codes that require electric heating and solar PV panels installation on all new homes over a certain size. In addition to emissions reductions, there are other benefits to electrifying buildings, including reduced local air pollution, greater demand flexibility for utilities, and increased production of local renewables. This is an especially ripe area for progress: Colorado has 100% potential for buildings to be electrified. Clean technology for the electrification of buildings already exists and, in many cases, it is economically competitive.
I support smart approaches to building electrification. I will prioritize electrifying buildings that currently use propane and heating oil, slow the expansion of natural gas distribution systems, and bundle demand flexibility programs, new rate designs, and energy efficiency with electrification initiatives. Reducing emissions through electrification is successful when the electricity is generated with clean fuels, so I will ensure that our renewable energy and electrification plans are complementary. The goal? We will all be living and working in sustainable, low-carbon buildings that have no negative impact on productivity and comfort.
2. Boost energy efficiency across the state in the residential, commercial, and utility sectors.
Increasing energy efficiency can lower costs to consumers and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing rejuvenation of existing buildings is an opportunity to create jobs while increasing energy efficiency. To be the most effective, my policies will be tailored to the different needs of the residential, commercial, and utility sectors. For residential buildings, I will support subsidizing energy efficient appliances, promoting behaviors that reduce energy waste, and implementing statewide building codes that increase energy efficiency.
Many are already familiar with Energy Star, the national program that quickly guides buyers in choosing efficient appliances. In Colorado, I will work to make Energy Star appliances accessible to all consumers. Individuals can make a great impact too, and we can educate our residents by making easily understandable materials available, like the Colorado Public Interest Research Group’s Citizens Guide to Reducing Energy Waste.
Our commercial sector will benefit from many of the residential sector programs with some modifications, and I will support incentives that reduce energy consumption. Appliances in commercial buildings should be efficient and business owners will be encouraged to adopt behaviors that increase energy efficiency. This can be as simple as installing security cameras that work in the dark so that the lights can be turned off after hours.
In the utility sector, I will engage with energy producers to facilitate cleaner practices. I will support efforts to reduce the waste of precious water. Collaboration between energy and agricultural sectors is one way to reduce waste. I will also support incentivizing refineries to use innovative technology and modern infrastructure.
Such innovative technology includes methane capture and waste heat recovery. The clean fuel standard that I will support also applies to carbon-intensity reductions at refineries.
Both building and transportation electrification need to be accessible by all Coloradans. I will support tax credits for building electrification and energy efficiency, EV purchasing for low- and moderate-income households, and EV purchasing of medium and heavy duty vehicles. The dollars for this tax credit will come from ending the ad valorem tax write-off that oil and gas companies currently have. We must be committed to awarding tax credits to the behaviors we want to encourage.
3. Uphold environmental stewardship and conservation in our communities and industries.
A just, green economy is rounded out by our goals beyond energy and electricity, including the reduction of plastic pollution. There are some concrete actions we can take together to improve our local environments. In particular, to reduce our growing landfill waste, I will work to disincentivize the use of disposable containers. I will also work to disincentivize overall waste production, including in construction activities, and curbing virgin plastic production. Together these efforts will reduce our demand for fossil fuels and decrease the amount of recyclable plastic going to the landfill. We must adequately protect our natural treasures through leadership and legislation.
Our state’s departments, local governments, and major industries should be encouraged to commit to environmental stewardship. Some groups are already working on this, including Colorado’s Department of Transportation, which published its Environmental Stewardship Guide. I believe that state agencies should actively work to protect our state’s natural treasures. Businesses will be rewarded by customer loyalty for committing to greener practices. Environmental stewardship may look different for everyone, all across our state. I will work to ensure that environmental stewardship is rewarded and easily incorporated into the lives of all Coloradans.
Today, Colorado faces the threats of fires, flooding, and drought, all of which are projected to increase in intensity and frequency over the next several decades. In 2013, we spent over $4 billion on flood response. In order to reduce the cost of hazards to state residents, we need to act today to elicit institutional change. Enhancing Colorado’s resilience is directly linked to a safe and prosperous future. My plan:
1. Support community-based resiliency plans that encourage coordination and collective action.
Colorado has already invested in resiliency planning and the state Resiliency Office is committed to guiding decision makers and residents in creating more resilient communities. Colorado’s Resilience Framework states “It is not enough to survive, our aim is to thrive.” In order to thrive, our state and local policies must be adaptable to a changing world. Successfully adaptable policies consider local conditions and resources. I will ensure that stakeholder engagement is at the forefront of planning processes. To further strengthen these plans, I will facilitate coordination across community boundaries and encourage collective action.
At the state level, I will work with representatives to pass legislation that incentivizes and supports statewide and regional plans for enhancing resilience and climate adaptation. The legislature commits us to a plan and funding, and to meet everyone’s needs, we must collaborate. Colorado’s Resiliency Playbook will shape my actions at the state level and is a great tool for local leaders to use in institutionalizing resiliency.
2. Support rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments by key government and community institutions, so they can better prepare for future conditions.
In addition to fire, floods, and droughts, Colorado faces other hazards, including winter storms, landslides, and tornadoes. Adequately planning for these events requires rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments. These assessments must be conducted thoroughly and with sufficient frequency. Integrating plans across sectors is another crucial way to build resilience. We will see fluctuations in population in response to national hazards and events. This happened after Hurricane Katrina, so we must revamp our institutions to ensure that residents and newcomers are treated fairly. Schools and community centers, for example, should be equipped to handle substantial influxes of people. I will support the work of risk assessment and contingency planning in key institutions — like our schools, human services agencies, justice system, etc. — to ensure we are prepared for atypical events. I will go further by calling for the quantification of threats and needed investments. Our time frames must be specific to be most effective.
3. Educate and engage with the public regarding risks and climate adaptation planning.
Colorado’s resilience requires action and understanding at all levels. Through focus groups, interviews, surveys, and other outreach methods, the Colorado Resiliency and Recovery Office determined areas in need of state leadership, including expanding the knowledge of the public to be better prepared for hazards and changes. I will support efforts to inform and educate all Coloradans about emergency planning and response. The state should also promote its relationships with communities so that they feel invited to advocate for local issues. Advocacy is enhanced when communities are built through well-connected social systems, supported by the state. Finally, all state policies must be flexible and empower cities and counties to adapt under their specific conditions.
Because of climate change, Colorado is facing serious challenges. Now is the time for serious leadership.We must engage all Coloradans to fight climate change, create a green economy, and build a climate-resilient state. I am confident that with effective leadership, Coloradans can sustain and protect our beautiful state.
I am determined to be a positive force for progress and bold action.
Special thanks to the industry experts and climate advocates who provided their thoughtful input as we developed this plan.