Senate committee passes clean energy bill, environmental group unimpressed

Colorado’s environmental community wasn’t exactly singing the praises of the Senate version of clean-energy legislation passed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday.

Environment Colorado issued a release saying the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 “does little or nothing to spur renewable energy in this country. The proposal risks sensitive coastal ecosystems [in Florida] to pollution and spills from off-shore drilling, while worsening global warming by opening the door to high-carbon fuels such as liquid coal, tar sands and oil shale.”

The Denver-based group urged Colorado’s Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to introduce an amendment to require more renewable energy while supporting efforts by Congressman Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in his efforts to strip coastal drilling provisions that would allow production as close as 10 miles from shore.

The bill does contain a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind, biomass, or hydropower by 2021, but Environment Colorado wants to see a 25 percent by 2025 standard.

Udall did submit four amendments, but none of them dealt specifically with raising the RES. Three of the four sought to promote energy efficiency in residential buildings and certain types of appliances, and a fourth would establish a Bureau of Land Management office in Colorado to facilitate renewable energy development on public lands.

But Udall admits the bill comes up short on the renewable standard, and he promised to try and strengthen it when debate begins on the full Senate floor as early as this fall.

“In particular, I’m going to continue to encourage my colleagues to support a stronger RES,” Udall said in a release. “Here in Colorado, we have demonstrated the benefits – since 2004, when our state RES [of 10 percent] was first approved by voters, more than 3,000 jobs have been created in the wind and solar energy fields alone, and the legislature has since increased the standard [to 20 percent by 2020].

“I believe that we cannot – and will not – meet our nation’s joint goals of leadership in the renewable energy industry and energy independence if we don’t follow Colorado’s lead.”

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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