Rep. Salazar takes green heat for bucking climate change bill

Colorado environmental groups were quick to criticize Democratic Congressman John Salazar Saturday after he joined the two Republican members of the state delegation in voting against the American Clean Energy and Security Act Friday.

The landmark climate change bill, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions in the United States 80 percent by 2050, passed out of the House by a scant seven-vote margin late Friday (219-212), with Colorado Democrats Diana DeGette, Betsy Markey, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis voting for the bill.

“We applaud the Colorado representatives who voted for this critical legislation, yet we are disappointed with Reps. Salazar, [Mike] Coffman, and [Doug] Lamborn for opposing this critical legislation,” Pam Kiely, legislative director for Denver-based Environment Colorado, said in a release.

Salazar, brother of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, told the Denver Post he couldn’t justify raising utility rates in his largely rural 3rd Congressional District at a time when the economy is just now starting to stabilize.

Markey also represents a mostly rural and more conservative district but voted in favor of the bill because of last-minute pro-agriculture changes to it. DeGette, vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that painstakingly negotiated the framework of the bill over the last several weeks, said the costs to the average American will be negligible.

Independent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and the EPA puts the costs at less than $200 a year for the average American, instead of the thousands predicted by Salazar.

The Colorado delegation’s mostly partisan divide on the bill mirrored the final vote. After an intense day of arm-twisting, 44 House Democrats voted against it and eight Republicans — providing the margin for the bill to pass — bucked strong GOP opposition and voted in favor.

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where the Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a version last week that was criticized by environmentalists for not going far enough in establishing a national renewable electricity standard.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, instrumental in establishing this state’s standard (which now stands at 20 percent renewable sources by 2020), first proposed then pulled an amendment that would have increased the national RES in the Senate version from its current level of 15 percent by 2021. Udall didn’t have the votes but hopes to get the job done on the full Senate floor.

In a statement Friday, Udall said it will take bipartisan cooperation to get a Senate version of the House bill passed.

“When Republicans and Democrats work together we can do great things. I’ve spent many years reaching across the aisle on the state and national level to pass an RES. It’s become a reality in Colorado and I believe it’s time to bring that same spirit of ingenuity to the national level. If we all work together, our country could follow Colorado’s lead on passing an RES. But more importantly, we could finally take one of the biggest steps in implementing new and meaningful energy policy.”

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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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