An anti-Clean Power Plan bill Colorado Senate Republicans insist has “nothing to do with climate change” prompted those same lawmakers to argue on the Senate floor Monday that human-caused global warming is a myth.
Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 157 would halt much of the state’s work toward cleaner energy for the foreseeable future, until the Supreme Court approves President Barack Obama’s emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan. Though they’ve previously criticized the federal plan as unenforceable and illegal, Republican lawmakers are now using the it as an excuse not to take environmental action at the state level.
Senate Republicans seeking support for the bill argued it has nothing to do with global warming — while simultaneously casting doubt on established scientific consensus by implying that climate change is neither real nor manmade.
“I find it quite incredible that there are those among us who say that there’s no debate and there’s no discussion, global warming is an established fact — and its anthropogenic, it’s human caused,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud). “But no. No, the facts just do not demonstrate that.”
The bill was proposed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hold off on the Clean Power Plan pending further judicial review. It essentially says that until the federal government demands it, Colorado will not take action toward cleaner energy.
The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, primarily by tightening restrictions on coal-burning power plants and transitioning toward wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy.
The Environmental Protection Agency calculated specific emissions reduction targets for each state based on factors like the number of existing power plants. States can choose to develop their own plans of action to meet these targets, or let the EPA do it for them.
Republicans argued that the bill is simply about respecting federal authority and doing nothing until the Clean Power Plan passes.
“This bill is about the rule of law and about the separation of powers,” said Republican sponsor Sen. John Cooke of Weld County.
Cooke has previously called the Clean Power Plan an “expensive, likely unconstitutional EPA plan that will cost Coloradans thousands of jobs.”
But Democratic opponents countered that Colorado has every right — and, further, a responsibility — to progress toward a cleaner energy future, regardless of the federal plan’s status in the Supreme Court.
“The EPA is stayed, but the state can still move ahead because we have a pressing need,” said Sen. Matt Jones, a Democrat from Louisville. “We need to move ahead. And the reason is that climate change is happening, and it’s going to have a big effect on Coloradans and Colorado’s economy,” he added.
More than two dozen states, largely those with appetites for coal, have filed lawsuits against the EPA for overreaching its authority in the development of the plan. Colorado, much to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chagrin, is one of them.
Hickenlooper supports the Clean Power Plan, which satisfies cries for climate action while going easy on his all-important oil and gas ties. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman defied the governor late last year when she joined anti-EPA lawsuits against his wishes.
But Colorado is also one of 19 states still preparing to meet the emissions-reduction target the Clean Power Plan would set. Just in case the plan is approved, as many legal experts anticipate, the state doesn’t want to be left behind.
Environmentalists say this bill would put Colorado behind the curve. Otherwise sensible steps toward greening the state’s energy portfolio, like switching to wind power if the price is right, could be interpreted as implementing the Clean Power Plan.
And, despite arguments to the contrary, the bill has plenty to do with climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is vital if humans want to keep the planet below catastrophic temperatures.
As Jones testified, “There wouldn’t be a Clean Power Plan if it weren’t for global warming and human caused carbon dioxide emissions.”
Detractors complain Republican lawmakers are politicizing the environment at the expense of future generations. Just last week, Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee refused to approve funding for clean air protections.
“Legislators who stand in the way of action risk not only the health and safety of Coloradans, but also their own credibility,” Frank Swain, an energy advocate for the environmental group Conservation Colorado, said in a statement. “Their efforts will fail in the House and will have accomplished nothing more than a handful of Senators demonstrating how very out of touch they are with public opinion.”
Indeed, a recent poll shows that two-thirds of Coloradans support EPA action to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Jones ended his testimony with a call to trust the experts, underlining a problem that has plagued climate action for years.
“[This bill] takes decision-making power away from people who do this job as professionals, as scientists, and gives it to politicians like ourselves,” he said.
Photo credit: Nams82, Flickr, Creative commons