Colorado governor unveils road map for slashing emissions

Source: By Edward Klump, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2020

An evolving climate road map for Colorado runs straight through the energy sector, suggesting major emissions reductions in power generation, oil and gas, transportation, and buildings.

The new draft — publicized yesterday by the office of Gov. Jared Polis (D) — could help guide the state toward cutting statewide greenhouse gas pollution 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.

“Findings show meeting the 2025 and 2030 goals is achievable with existing cost effective technologies, but progressing toward those goals will require additional policies beyond the actions the state has taken already,” Polis’ office said in a news release.

The Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap process follows the passage of H.B. 19-1261 in 2019 to help push climate action. In a statement yesterday, Polis said Colorado is experiencing two of the three largest wildfires in the state’s history. That’s one of “countless indicators” that climate change is a rising threat to the way of life and economy in Colorado, he said.

Still, some industry and environmental groups questioned aspects of the road map and its possible effects.

The draft outlines a potential 80% pollution reduction by 2030 in the power sector through clean energy plans, regional haze rules and other items. It also mentions the possibility of having nearly 100% electric cars on the road by 2050 and 100% market share for new vehicle sales of zero-emissions trucks and buses by 2050.

For oil and gas, the draft suggests lowering methane emissions, including at least a 33% reduction by 2025 and a 50% drop by 2030. It says lowering methane emissions from places such as landfills and sewage plants also will be needed, particularly after 2030. And buildings are targeted for energy efficiency and further electrification.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, told E&E News that key actions for hitting 2025 and 2030 targets include continuing a transition toward renewables and emissions reductions in the power sector, as well as deeply reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Toor said there also will need to be work on strategies around transportation, buildings and natural gas utilities as 2030 approaches and to set the stage for an economywide transformation needed for a 90% reduction by 2050.

Seeking ‘realistic goals’

John Putnam, director of environmental programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said regulatory actions, legislation, and public investment in infrastructure and resources could help Colorado meet the 2030 goal.

“Technology will continue to evolve, and we’ll need to take advantage of some of that technology … as we get farther out in the 2050 time frame,” Putnam said in an interview.

Advocacy groups sought yesterday to frame issues around emissions in Colorado, from defending the state’s fossil fuel businesses to calling for stronger climate action.

“Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry has a history of effectively reducing its emissions, and the data shows that we’ve been incredibly successful on that front,” Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement. “The fact is natural gas will continue to be part of Colorado’s future, and our global future, to power our everyday lives.”

Haley said climate change is a global issue, adding that “leaders need to be careful that we are not trading emissions, or making decisions that produce larger environmental damages elsewhere.” He pointed to issues such as mining for solar cells and batteries and needing land to host wind and solar facilities.

“We need to be driven by realistic goals and expectations founded in data and science and not political agendas,” Haley said. He said Colorado produces “some of the cleanest oil and natural gas molecules on the planet.”

In a separate statement, Lynn Granger, executive director of the Colorado division of the American Petroleum Institute, said the road map “appears to be a modeling exercise, and while such an exercise can be a useful tool, the state must answer foundational policy questions before adopting sweeping rules with the potential to transform Colorado’s economy.” She said the organization looks forward to playing a role in the discussions.

More ‘will be needed’

Micah Parkin, executive director of a climate organization called 350 Colorado, said in an email that the road map “is a start, but to achieve the goals of HB 19-1261 and eventually more aggressive goals that climate science and justice demand, more specific policies and enforcement will be needed.”

In the power sector, the Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association said it worked with other parties on an energy plan announced in January. The power provider said it plans to add more than 1,000 megawatts of solar and wind resources by 2024. And it plans to retire a remaining Colorado coal-fired power plant by 2030.

“The significant carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets and renewable energy additions in Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan help advance statewide emission reduction goals, while ensuring reliable and affordable power for our member cooperatives across Colorado,” Lee Boughey, a Tri-State spokesman, said in a statement.

Boughey pointed to other potential ways to reduce emissions, such as expanding use of electric vehicles and participating in a regional transmission organization.

Xcel Energy Inc. has said its vision is to provide customers with carbon-free power by 2050, and Xcel Energy-Colorado yesterday commended the governor’s office for providing an analysis of what’s needed to meet statewide carbon goals.

“Having a plan and a path forward is valuable to all industries in the state,” the company said.

Earlier this week, a report promoted by groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club laid out a variety of suggestions, including moving rapidly to renewables in the power sector, lowering oil and gas production levels, and addressing energy burdens in communities of color and among low-income people.

Ariana Gonzalez, Colorado policy director at the NRDC, described the climate crisis in a statement as “smoky skies from wildfires year after year and the smoggy skies from the cars and trucks” on Interstate 70.

“That’s why we’re calling on the state to prioritize reducing pollution and inequitable energy costs right alongside reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and why we’re calling for strong commitments in the electricity and oil and gas sectors,” Gonzalez said.

The current public comment period will run through 5 p.m. Mountain time Nov. 1, a state news release said, and the road map is expected to be finalized and released before the end of this year.