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Environmental groups urge Colorado to take ‘once-in-a-generation’ shot at clean energy spending


Environmental groups urge Colorado to take ‘once-in-a-generation’ shot at clean energy spending

Sep 30, 2022 | 11:20 am ET
By Chase Woodruff
Environmental groups urge Colorado to take ‘once-in-a-generation’ shot at clean energy spending
Xcel Energy's coal-fired Comanche Generating Station, shown here on Jan. 19, 2019, is located in Pueblo and is the largest power plant in the state. (Mike Sweeney/Special to Colorado Newsline)

Nine major Colorado environmental groups on Thursday called on state and local officials across Colorado to maximize the benefits of the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity presented by congressional Democrats’ passage of $369 billion in new spending to combat climate change.

In a letter sent to hundreds of elected officials, organizations including Conservation Colorado, the Colorado Sierra Club and the Colorado Fiscal Institute urged leaders to use the new funding under the Inflation Reduction Act — much of which will be administered by or with the assistance of state and local governments — to “build a better future for everyone.”

“New federal funds have enormous potential to save residents and businesses money on energy and transportation, create new jobs, and expand prosperity — while also improving our health and protecting our climate,” the letter reads. “However, how states and local governments choose to implement new policies will have a large effect on their overall impact.”

Colorado is in line to receive roughly $8 billion in federal funds for clean energy programs as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act. Together with funding from a bipartisan package of infrastructure spending passed last year, the bill could help cities and counties invest in public transit, bike and pedestrian improvements, electric-vehicle charging, fleet replacement, building electrification, energy efficiency and more.

Independent analyses estimate that nationwide, the IRA’s climate measures could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40% by 2030. The scale and ambition of actions by state and local governments could play a crucial role in determining whether that target is met.

“These transformative investments put us on a path towards real solutions to the climate crisis,” Pat O’Connell of environmental group Western Resource Advocates said in a statement. “It’s an unprecedented opportunity, and as billions of dollars flow to states and local governments, it is critical that decision-makers work with stakeholders across their communities to make the best choices.”

Colorado lawmakers have set their own ambitious goals for state-level climate action, targeting a 50% cut in statewide emissions by 2030, but a progress report presented to regulators earlier this month showed the state falling behind on some of its goals, especially in the transportation sector.

In their letter, the Colorado groups endorsed the Justice40 movement, which aims to ensure at least 40% of the benefits of clean-energy programs go to communities who have been disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution. It also calls for a continued emphasis on a “just transition” for workers and communities that are dependent on fossil fuel jobs.

“This is a once-in-a-generation chance to imagine what a better future for Colorado looks like, and then to make it real,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “We’ve got to get it right.”