State Senate passes Clean Air Clean Jobs bill, giving nod to gas over coal

The state Senate passed the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act (HB 1365) on third reading Wednesday, sending to Gov. Bill Ritter the bill that will retrofit or shut down several aging coal-fired Xcel power plants.

The push to convert to natural gas-fired plants that burn up to 50 percent cleaner than coal is seen as a boost for the Colorado’s natural gas industry and a victory for clean-air advocates on the state’s often smog-choked Front Range.

smoggy denver

Three Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the Ritter-backed bill – Ken Kester, Greg Brophy and Senate co-sponsor Josh Penry – and two Democrats went the other way: Abel Tapia and Lois Tochtrop. The final vote was 20-13.

Environment Colorado recently released data alleging the Cherokee and Valmont power plants – both slated for closure under the bill – account for more than 4,000 cases of respiratory disease annually.

“Cleaning up our air is a no-brainer, something everyone can get behind,” Environment Colorado program director Pam Kiely said in a release. “Colorado is in the fast-lane, truly building a new energy future — and in order to clean up our air and protect our communities it’s clear that coal has to quickly take a backseat.”

Ritter, who earlier in the session saw his push to up the state’s renewable energy standard to 30 percent by 2020, is expected to sign the bill.

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