Nine Things We’re Fighting For This Legislative Session

While news coming from Washington, D.C. is almost always dire for the environment, in Colorado it’s much more hopeful.

So far this year in Colorado’s Capitol, it’s been an exciting legislative session for many issues. Here are some of the highlights so far on what we’ve been up to at the state Capitol:

  • Elementary school kids came to talk about the impacts of oil and gas operations near schools. The bill in question would close a loophole in current Colorado law. Right now, oil and gas operations have to be 1,000ft away from school buildings, but not playgrounds or fields. This bill would clarify that industrial oil and gas activity must be 1,000ft away from a school’s property boundary (rather than the building itself). The kids who testified made an interactive poster to demonstrate that it is common sense for oil and gas companies to locate their operations a little further from playgrounds and fields.
Third graders bringing their message to the state House committee.
  • Nearly 80 people signed up to testify on the transportation bill. One of the most attention-grabbing bills this year has been the transportation funding bill. This bill would ask voters to raise the state sales tax by a small amount and direct that money towards roads, transit, and local governments for transportation options that benefit all of our citizens. After seven hours of debate, it was clear that Coloradans are in support of funding for transportation options that include buses, bikes, and beyond. The bill passed through the House with bipartisan support, and will soon be moving to the Senate.
  • The water projects bill started off on a good foot. Every year, the Colorado legislature votes to approve a bill that determines how we invest in our state’s water resources. This year that bill includes a real commitment to funding conservation and ensuring we have healthy rivers. It passed through its first committee in the House, with a promising start.
  • Colorado is still making strides to promote clean energy, regardless of our president’s proposed cuts to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other research institutions. Thus far, several bills to support clean energy in Colorado have been introduced. One would renew a successful energy efficiency program that has been saving money and reducing pollution for five years. Another bill would allow utility companies to build charging stations for electric vehicles, helping create a system of charging stations and making Colorado the best state to drive an electric vehicle.
  • A bill nicknamed the “Cliven Bundy Protection Act” died in committee. This would have threatened criminal felony sanctions for people doing their jobs to enforce laws on federally owned lands. The bill died before making much headway, sending a clear message that Colorado lawmakers won’t stand for this type of attack on our public lands and their management.
  • More than 200 people showed up for Latino Advocacy Day, making a big splash at the Capitol. In partnership with other community organizations, these activists spent the day speaking to our state Representatives and Senators about the issues that matter most, like public health and clean air.
On Latino Advocacy Day, a group gathers in Senator Kerry Donovan’s office to talk about environmental issues (Sen. Donovan at right with phone).
  • A recently introduced bill will provide funding to test for lead in schools’ drinking water, protecting our most vulnerable communities. Lead can leach into drinking water from old pipes and fixtures. In fact, of the Colorado school districts that have already tested for lead, 77 schools found water sources with elevated levels of lead. There is no safe level of lead exposure, and it can be especially damaging to young children. Therefore, providing schools the ability to proactively test for lead in schools will pay off in a big way when it comes to safeguarding our children’s health and protecting our water.
Rolling coal
  • The bill to stop “rolling coal” is back! Rolling coal is when certain individuals tamper with their vehicles’ exhaust to cause a release of smoke and emissions that creates a black cloud. This is done solely for the purpose of annoying pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. Right now, the law against rolling coal is cumbersome and difficult to enforce. A new bill would to make it a Class A traffic infraction to blow smoke out of your tailpipe in a way that would make a reasonable person feel harassed or annoyed. This version of the bill has specific exemptions for anything other than a passenger vehicle, to address concerns from farmers and diesel truck drivers. We’re hoping this bill will pass to prevent unnecessary pollution for the sole purpose of harassing others. (Curious what this looks like? Check it out.)
  • We’re standing up for low-income communities across Colorado by supporting the reauthorization of “LEAP”. The Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), helps low-income families by providing important energy bill assistance and energy efficiency programs. Since LEAP began in 2006, it has saved Colorado families over $140 million in energy costs. This program is set to expire soon, so we supported a bill that would extend it indefinitely to continue aiding low-income families.

We’ll keep fighting for all these bills — and more — through May, when the legislative session ends for the year. If you want to get involved in any of these issues, take action with us!

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