Odd bedfellows tour rolls on with Clean Air, Clean jobs rally at Capitol

About 300 people rallied on the west steps of the state capitol Monday morning to show their support for the proposed Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, which would require Xcel Energy to mothball or retrofit three coal-burning power plants in favor of cleaner-burning gas-powered facilities.

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State Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, reportedly stood in for State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, who would not attend Monday’s event but did participate in a conference call in support of the bill with Gov. Bill Ritter over the weekend.

HB 1365 is a key part of Ritter’s ongoing reformation of the state’s energy landscape via his “New Energy Economy.” The bill seeks to position Colorado as a proactive player on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and Front Range haze ahead of looming federal climate change legislation and tighter enforcement by the EPA.

The bill has the support of the state’s largest power-producing utility, Xcel Energy, as well as officials from the natural gas sector, but coal industry representatives say it’s a slippery slope to higher electricity prices and the loss of jobs and revenues in their sector.

Penry has long been at odds with Ritter over environmentally tougher natural gas drilling regulations he claims have cost the industry jobs in his Western Slope district, but he supports this bill on the grounds that it will boost the industry and cut down on smog. He refuses to acknowledge the potential climate change benefits.

McNulty was part of Penry’s plan to use energy issues to reclaim key state Senate seats in 2008 using a nonprofit astroturf group called the Western Skies Coalition. That group has resurfaced lately as possible platform for GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis.

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