Conservationists Win Late Legislative Victories

Environment Colorado

As the clock ran out Wednesday on the Governor’s chance to sign or veto bills from the 2006 legislative session, Colorado conservationists won several important victories capping off an overall successful legislative session for the environment.

“The people of Colorado won several important victories this week – for smart growth, clean energy, and the fight against global warming,” said Elise Jones, Director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Among the bills the Governor signed on Wednesday were House Bill (HB) 1003, a bill that requires environmental review of any proposed private toll road projects; HB 1411, a bill that protects private property owners from eminent domain condemnation for private development; HB 1281, a bill to allow for the development of a state-of-the-art coal project featuring lower pollution emissions; and HB 1322, the first ever Colorado legislation aimed at combating global warming.

Susan Le Fever, Director of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club added, “Conservationists across Colorado should be pleased with the work of this legislature.”

Conservationists’ enthusiasm over their success this session was tempered by Gov. Owens’ earlier vetoes of several key proposals to protect air quality and open space, to require more efficient use of natural gas, and to encourage the use of renewable fuels like ethanol.

“Gov. Owens blocked the most significant proposals brought forward to improve our health, environment and quality of life – from increased protections for air quality, to requirements for increased energy efficiency and renewable fuels,” said Will Coyne of Environment Colorado. “It’s a shame that the Governor does not share Coloradans’ support for clean air, open space and affordable energy supplies.”

Gov. Owen’s first swipe at the environment came with the veto of HB 1309, sponsored by Rep. Anne McGihon and Sen. Dan Grossman. Supported by a broad range of public health, labor and agricultural interests, HB 1309 would have given Colorado increased flexibility to protect air quality by allowing the state to keep high air standards even when the federal government weakens federal air rules, as the Bush administration has done.

The governor later vetoed HB 1147, which would have required public energy utilities to use natural gas more efficiently; HB 1354, which would have enabled counties to increase funding for conservation easements, and SB 138, which would have established an Renewable Fuels Standard for Colorado.

Carrie Doyle, Executive Director of Colorado Conservation Voters, added, “Our elected leaders deserve praise for passage of measures to protect Colorado’s environment, but critical work remains undone. Conservationists look forward to working with a new Governor in 2007 to win stronger protections for our air, open space and energy resources.”