Dems don’t buy GOP push for EPA clean power plan approval

DENVER — Consistent strong Republican opposition in the legislature to the science of climate change and to the clean-energy industry led Democrats on Monday to vote down a measure pitched as a good government energy-consumer protection bill.

Majority Democrats on the House State Affairs Committee saw the bill as an effort to protect the fossil fuel industry from new clean-energy demands imposed by the federal government to address climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

“This is a transparency measure,” said Tim Dore, a Republican from Elizabeth, who plead the case for the bill before the committee. “Consumer rates could be highly affected. We want to make sure we’re representing our constituents.

“This isn’t about saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to any plan,” he said. “We just want a seat at the table.”

Right now, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Commission is beginning to devise a strategy to meet goals to be set out by the EPA in a national Clean Power Plan set to be finalized this summer. The department of public health will hold meetings asking for input from citizens, state government staffers and representatives of business and environmental groups.

States are supposed to submit their compliance plans to the federal government by next summer.

The Colorado Electric Consumers’ Protection Act would have required that the health department present its compliance plan to the state’s public utilities commission for review and to the General Assembly for approval. The utilities commission would have been required to write a report on how the plan might likely effect power rates and reliability.

“This has been touted as a transparency measure,” said Erin Overturf, a lawyer for Western Resource Advocates. “But an open public process is already in place. This bill would just open up the plan to politics.

She said any major delay would force the federal government to impose its own plan on Colorado.

“This is a political maneuver designed to derail Colorado’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan and undermine our ability to address climate change on our own terms.”

Supporters of the bill — which included organizations funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers — said that the EPA carbon-reduction plans will fundamentally alter the electricity industry and that such an enormous and influential undertaking demands that the representatives of the people get final say.

David DiCarlo, a Colorado Springs resident, testified that the bill would provide vital pushback against the federal government.

“We already have a perpetual-energy machine,” he said. “We can just hook up the country to the body of President Richard Nixon spinning in its grave at what the EPA he created has become, a vast overreaching bureaucracy.”

Dore argued that the state’s utilities commission is expert on the power industry and at protecting consumers against high prices.

“But does the PUC have expertise in the fact that our rivers and soil are drying up?” asked Rep. Max Tyler, a Lakewood Democrat. “There’s a bigger reason why were having to do this. Coal is big driver of carbon pollution.”

Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a Republican from Severance, protested that U.S. coal-burning plants produce “only 3 percent of global carbon emissions.”

“Will this even make a difference in regard to climate change?” he asked one witness.

The bill drew no Democratic co-sponsors since it was introduced. It was voted down Monday on a party line 6 to 5 vote.