Colorado gov signs bill doubling solar, wind energy demands

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper officially put the contentious 2013 lawmaking session to rest Wednesday by signing the remainder of the bills passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature, including one that many rural lawmakers hoped he would veto.

That measure, Senate Bill 252, doubles to 20 the percentage of renewable energy that rural electricity cooperatives are required to provide by 2020 — a standard many believe will raise electricity rates in mountains and plains communities.

“Hold onto your wallets, rural Colorado,” House Minority Leader Rep. Mark Waller said in a statement after the bill was signed. “Senate Bill 252 will cost the average farm family thousands of dollars in higher energy costs and force rural electric associations to pay billions of dollars to comply with the Democrats’ new energy mandate.”

Opponents campaigned hard for a veto — including through the unusual step of buying TV airtime for commercials encouraging him to reject the proposal.

But in the end, Hickenlooper said investing in renewable energy sources like wind, solar, coal mine methane and synthetic gas produced from municipal waste (through “waste-to-energy” technology) would boost the economy and create jobs in rural areas.

“Each waste-to-energy facility creates an estimated $54 million in economic activity and most of the proposed facilities have been targeted toward rural communities,” he wrote in a signing statement explaining his support of the bill. “Also as a newly eligible resource, waste-to-energy projects create profitable outlets for the more than 70 million waste tires stockpiled in the rural areas around Colorado.”

“Additionally, this legislation includes coal mine methane as an ‘eligible energy resource’ which will allow Colorado to more safely develop coal gas production in rural communities,” he wrote. “Again, these are mostly rural projects and rural jobs.”

Republican lawmakers have said that achieving the new 20 percent renewable requirement is impossible without raising rates, although the bill caps any increase at 2 percent, computed annually.

Hickenlooper said he would have vetoed the bill if it didn’t contain that provision.

“I don’t care what he does,” Republican Sen. Larry Crowder told Denver’s Fox 31, “it’s going to raise rates for people in rural parts of the state.”

Overall, Hickenlooper signed 60 bills on Wednesday. Among them were a bill creating a special drivers license for illegal immigrants, a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to test all rape kits, a bill allowing prosecutors to file extra charges in crimes where a woman loses her pregnancy (such as in a drunk driving or assault cases), and a bill making it easier for firefighters to unionize.

By signing the renewable energy bill into law, Hickenlooper accomplished what he said was a goal of not having to veto any bills this year.

At least one Republican lawmaker wasn’t impressed.

“There are some bills out there he should have vetoed, because that would have been good governance for the people about Colorado,” House Minority Leader Mark Waller told Fox31.

“It’s not about being able to tout a score of no vetoes, it’s about doing what’s right for this state.”

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