Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper bypassed his state’s legislature and signed an executive order Tuesday, joining a coalition of sates supporting the Paris climate deal.
Hickenlooper’s executive order makes the same pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as those outlined in the non-binding climate accord. His position on whether Colorado would join the so-called Climate Alliance has shifted significantly from one he made last month.
Colorado’s goal is to “maintain a strong oil and gas industry and reduce emissions to help keep those fuels globally competitive while at the same time cleaning our air and cleaning our water,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat and supporter of the natural gas industry, told reporters at a press conference.
He said in June that Colorado might join the coalition so long as the decision moved in lock-step with the state’s legislature, Hickenlooper told reporters during a June 8 radio interview. “But we want to do it in concert with our General Assembly and with more specifics than maybe some of those other governors have provided.”
Energy analysts and industry insiders criticized Hickenlooper’s move and suggested wealthy environmental Tom Steyer might have helped influence the governor’s decision.
Steyer applauded Hickenlooper’s decision in a press statement Tuesday, calling the executive order a “crucial step to move Colorado forward and stand up to the Trump Administration.” His political action group, NextGen Climate, campaigned for the governor to join the coalition, which includes state such as California and New York.
Hickenlooper “can solidify his role as a clean energy leader nationally by joining other strong governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance,” the group wrote on a campaign page earlier this month. NextGen spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Colorado to put Democrats in full control of the state legislature.
Mike Kopp, president and CEO of Colorado Concern, a lobbying organization in Colorado, told reporters that the governor’s executive order blindsided business leaders in the state.
“The creation of this executive order seems to indicate a significant reversal in the administration’s approach to achieving a balanced energy policy,” Kopp said. “The governor has built a well-deserved legacy of safeguarding the state’s energy policy from rank politicization. A one-sided approach, however, could be hurtful to our state’s strong economic progress.”
Hickenlooper joins a campaign that could be more symbolic than practical. The so-called We Are Still In campaign will fall flat unless is participants manage to convince nearly every fossil fuel burning state in the country to back the Paris deal. So far only the greenest states with the most to gain politically from opposing President Donald Trump have joined the pact.
Former President Barack Obama’s target of 26 to 28 percent greenhouse gas level reductions by 2025 based off 2005 emissions levels mostly missed the mark, according to an analysis in January by the Rhodium Group. The group found the U.S. would not be able to hit the mark under Obama’s climate regulations, which were substantial at the time of the Rhodium’s report.
Major energy producing states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, and the Dakotas have not signed onto the coalition’s non-binding pact, which could greatly hamper the campaign. Most of the states in the campaign reside on the coasts.
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