Polis defends record as environmentalists call for stronger climate action

Matt Whittaker

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Drilling rig and cows near Piceance Creek in Rio Blanco County, Colo., on May 2009.Jeff Foster/Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak

(Denver, Colo.) Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is defending his environmental record in the face of a new environmentalist campaign urging the governor to ratchet up enforcement of the state's climate laws.

“Governor Polis is taking bold climate action," said spokesman Conor Cahill in response to a call this week for the governor to declare a climate emergency and spur state regulatory agencies to step up the pace of emissions reductions. 

The campaign, which mailed out tens of thousands of postcards this week, is led by climate advocacy group 350 Colorado Action.

"The situation with regards to oil and gas pollution, impacts on Colorado communities and our state’s contribution toward the climate crisis has failed to improve as needed," said the group, which contends not enough has been done since the state passed legislation in 2019 calling for 26% greenhouse gas reductions by 2025 and 50% reductions by 2030 from 2005 levels. 

The state has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 9.4% from 2005 to 2019, according to a 2021 inventory report.

Pointing to wildland fires and air quality issues from smoke and fossil fuel pollution, 350 Colorado is urging Polis to:

  • Stop agency delays and increase enforcement relative to the 2019 climate legislation
  • Direct the Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to end fracking within 2,000 feet of homes and schools, end drilling approvals in highly polluted areas and phase out oil and gas permitting by 2030
  • Require the Air Pollution Control Division to revoke permits of companies violating the Clean Air Act
  • Require the Air Quality Control Commission to reduce air pollution until the state is compliant with the Clean Air Act.

“We have F-grade air quality … as the polluting industries releasing GHG emissions are also releasing toxic chemicals into disproportionately impacted communities, whose health and wellbeing are suffering terribly,” said 350 Colorado Action president Bobbie Mooney. 

But Cahill said the state is well on its way to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and more than 99% of its electricity is on a path to emissions reductions by 2030.

"Gov. Polis has proposed over $400 million in transformational air quality and climate investments in this year’s budget request to the state legislature and has taken significant action in partnership with the federal government to prepare for and address wildfires," he said. "And in just the last six months, the administration has created nation-leading climate and emission reduction standards."  

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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