Supreme Court EPA ruling likely won’t derail Colorado’s transition from fossil fuels

Matt Whittaker

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The U.S. Supreme Court buildingWally Gobetz / Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Across Colorado) Last week’s Supreme Court’s decision limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants likely won’t change Colorado’s utility decarbonation trajectory.

The high court ruled that the Clean Air Act doesn’t give the agency broad power to regulate climate change-causing emissions from utilities.

While Colorado Democrats decried the decision as a significant setback in the broader fight against climate change, utilities under Colorado law are already working to reduce carbon emissions amid the transition away from fossil fuels.

“There’s very little practical impact for Colorado,” said state senator Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat who has worked on energy legislation. “We are on a very steady timeline to increase decarbonization in Colorado.”

Among Colorado’s climate legislation, a 2019 bill set goals to lower the state’s 2025 emissions by at least 26 percent, 2030 emissions by at least 50 percent and 2050 emissions by at least 90 percent from 2005 levels.

Investor-owned Minnesota-headquartered Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state and the main natural gas and electricity provider in the Denver metro area, is working within that framework.

“Xcel Energy already surpassed the goals of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan in 2016 and has reduced carbon emissions 50 percent since 2005,” spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said. “By working closely with our states, we’re delivering the clean energy our customers want while protecting affordability and reliability and are now implementing groundbreaking clean energy plans for Colorado and the Upper Midwest that are forecasted to reduce carbon emissions more than 85% by 2030.”

Colorado’s other investor-owned utility company, South Dakota-based Black Hills Corp, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Even though it appears unlikely the Supreme Court’s decision will materially affect Colorado’s decarbonization trajectory, politicians from the state still took to Twitter to weigh in.

“The Court is harming America once again by playing politics instead of following science and the law,” tweeted U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and member of the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Climate change is the crisis of our lifetime and Colorado is on the frontlines.”

Colorado’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Michael Bennet tweeted: “As climate-fueled droughts and wildfires incinerate Colorado and the American West, the Supreme Court’s decision to hamstring the EPA is judicial malpractice.”

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Silt Republican who is on the House Natural Resources committee, applauded the decision.

“SCOTUS effectively killed the Green New Deal today,” she tweeted. “Good riddance.”

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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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