Proposition 112 was Defeated, but Colorado’s New Governor is Aware of Climate Change

by admin on November 8, 2018

Colorado’s new Governor Jared Polis supported Proposition 112

Colorado’s New Governor Has Most Ambitious Renewables Goal in U.S.

From an Article by Lorraine Chow,, November 7, 2018

Democratic Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis arrives onstage with running mate Dianne Primavera on November 6th in Denver. Jared Polis, who won Colorado’s gubernatorial race to become the nation’s first openly gay governor-elect, is charting the state’s bold path towards clean energy.

The Democrat, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2009, ran on a platform of transitioning Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 — the most ambitious renewable goal in the entire country, Climate Home News reported. That’s even faster than California and Hawaii, which both aim to phase out of fossil fuel generation by 2045.

On his campaign website, Polis said the green energy transition would create tens of thousands of jobs and save consumers 10 percent on energy costs. Pointing to a government study, he said that utility-scale wind is now cheaper than natural gas and that new energy storage technology would further improve these cost benefits. That’s not to mention the public health benefits of cleaner air and water.

Aside from a strong environmental platform, Polis campaigned on other progressive issues such as Medicare-for-all, paid family medical leave and stronger gun laws.

“At the end of the day we all believe in our children’s future, we all believe in protecting our amazing parks and open space, we all believe in saving people money in health care,” Polis said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “And together we are going to get back to work because we have work to do to turn a bold vision into reality here in our amazing state of Colorado.”

The fossil fuel industry has a major presence in the Centennial State — the sixth largest and one of the fastest-growing U.S. oil producing states. Oil and gas companies and their supporters poured about $40 million into a campaign to help successfully defeat Proposition 112, according to the Colorado Sun. The ballot initiative, which Polis supported, would have banned oil and gas drilling on 85 percent of the state’s land, but was voted down 57 percent to 43 percent on Tuesday.

But with a Democrat in the governor’s seat, a Democratic-controlled legislature and the 825,000 Coloradan voters who supported 112, the fight against polluting energy companies is not over yet. Polis had the endorsement of the Colorado Sierra Club, which praised his plans to make Colorado energy independent and his efforts to protect the state’s outdoor spaces.

“The Colorado Sierra Club — with 100,000 members and supports across the state — threw our wholehearted support behind Jared Polis from the early days of his candidacy because of his leadership on climate and protection of public lands,” club director Jim Alexee said in a press release. “As the Trump Administration rolls back critical pollution protections and tries to stifle our nation’s clean energy leadership, the state of Colorado is moving forward with our clean energy future with Jared Polis as our Governor.”

The club also praised Polis for being a leader on environmental issues during his time in Congress. The press release noted that Polis is a founding member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, that he introduced legislation to designate 90,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado’s high country, led the effort to cut fossil fuel subsidies, defended President Obama’s rules on methane and partnered with environmentalists and ranchers to protect the sage grouse’s habitat.

“The Sierra Club was proud to support Jared Polis throughout this race and we are thrilled to congratulate him on this victory,” National Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in the press release. “Coloradans made a clear choice in this election to support Jared Polis because he will defend Colorado values from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope. Jared will lead Colorado to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2040, and work to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

>>> Jared Polis speaks after defeating Walker Stapleton in Colorado’s gubernatorial race. See the video here:

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Kate Aronoff November 8, 2018 at 2:01 pm

The Fossil Fuel Industry Spent $100 Million to Kill Green Ballot Measures in Three States — and Won

Article by Kate Aronoff, The Intercept, November 7 2018

Patricia Nelson was eager for a fresh start when she moved her family from Louisiana back home to Weld County, Colorado, in 2016. Soon after, Nelson’s friend encouraged her to come out to a meeting where Lisa McKenzie, an environmental chemist and epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, was presenting her research on the health impacts of oil and natural gas drilling.

Weld County has one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells in the country — 23,000 within county limits. Its air quality carries an “F” rating from the American Lung Association, with infant mortality rates twice as high as those in surrounding counties. With around 50,000 active wells overall, Colorado just surpassed California to become America’s third-largest oil and gas producer after Texas and North Dakota.

“It was a crash course in fracking,” Nelson told me by phone. Colorado law, she learned, states that drilling operations have to be 1,000 feet away from school buildings, but that ordinance — known as a setback — doesn’t include surrounding school properties, like playgrounds or soccer fields. There, as McKenzie would explain, kids playing and running around breathe harder and heavier, increasing the amount of poisoned air that enters their lungs and bloodstream.

All of this hit too close to home: As she also learned, oil companies had just been approved to open 24 new drill sites near her then-4-year-old son Diego’s school, the kindergarten through third grade campus of Bella Romero Academy; the drilling would take place just behind the fourth through eighth grade campus, where her niece and nephew were students. The decision to drill near Bella Romero at all — where 87 percent of attendees are students of color, and 90 percent fall below the poverty line — was made after parents at an overwhelmingly white school refused to have the same rigs in their kids’ backyards.

Shocked by what she discovered, Nelson joined a coalition that would later become known as Colorado Rising and traveled around the state, telling people about the stakes at her son’s school. Colorado Rising’s work included a push for Proposition 112, a ballot measure to mandate a 2,500-foot setback zone between drill sites and homes, schools, and other vulnerable areas. That measure was defeated 57 to 43 on Tuesday night, in large part thanks to a full-fledged freakout by the fossil fuel industry, which, with $40 million, outspent Prop 112 proponents by at least 40 to 1.

“I guess the oil and gas industry is just another example of money buying elections.”

“This is much farther than we’ve gotten before, and we’re no longer going to accept this industry bullying us,” Nelson told me last night, celebrating the fact that Prop 112 even made it on the ballot. “We had a pretty good shot, but they definitely had way more resources than we did. I guess the oil and gas industry is just another example of money buying elections.”

Environmental initiatives on the ballot elsewhere in the country, vehemently opposed by industry groups, also flopped. A ballot initiative in Washington state to levy a $15 per ton carbon fee on polluters and invest the revenue in job creation, green infrastructure, and more was defeated 56 to 44 thanks to over $30 million from the oil and gas industry. In Arizona, electric utilities spent $31 million against Prop 127, which would have upped the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring the power sector to generate at least half its power from renewables by 2030. The proposition was largely bankrolled by liberal donor Tom Steyer via NextGen America, which poured $24 million in support, but it failed resoundingly, garnering just 30 percent of the vote.

(Photo: Ann Lee Foster, center, and Suzanne Spiegel, right, proponents of Proposition 112, hold back the tears as they concede defeat during the watch party for Proposition 112 at Big Trouble Restaurant on Nov. 6, 2018 in Denver, Colo.)

Tuesday wasn’t an unambiguous win for the industry, though — even in Colorado. Amendment 74 — polling high before the election and far better than Prop 112 — would have allowed property owners to sue local governments and the state for any infringement on their profits, but fell short of the 55 percent of votes needed to be grafted into Colorado’s constitution. The campaign for Amendment 74 was small compared to the fight against Prop 112 but still sizable, with $11.2 million raised by backers — about $10 million from oil and gas — and $6.3 by opponents under the banner Save Our Neighborhoods.

Still, one clear takeaway from the midterms ballot initiatives is that fossil fuel money can buy elections. Apparently, $100 million can buy four of them. “They’re putting up big numbers,” said Edgar Franks, a Bellingham-based labor organizer who helped draft and campaign for I-1631 with the environmental justice group Front and Centered. “You can tell that where this is actually a threat to the way that they do business, because they know it’s going to work.”

While Washington Gov. Jay Inslee backed I-1631 — having failed to get his own carbon fee through the legislature this spring — his Colorado counterpart was on the opposite side of the fight in his state. Prop 112 failed amid opposition not just from the oil and gas industry, but also from now-outgoing Colorado governor and former oil industry geologist John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, along with governor-elect Jared Polis and his Republican opponent. The Colorado Democratic Party, however, supported it. Polis’s opposition was ironic, given that he himself had spearheaded the push for a 2,000-foot setback rule several years ago before eventually withdrawing it from the ballot.

Despite Polis’s opposition to Prop 112, Colorado Rising is cautiously optimistic about working with his administration, a position bolstered by the fact that Democrats managed to flip the state legislature last night. “Polis clearly understands that fracking is dangerous near communities,” said Micah Parkin, a board member of Colorado Rising and executive director of 350 Colorado. “He may not agree with us on 2,500 feet, but he clearly gets that it doesn’t belong near our children’s schools and homes and water sources.”

The bar for improving Hickenlooper’s record on extraction has been set pretty low. The outgoing governor had threatened to call a special lame duck session of the state legislature in the event of Prop 112’s passage.“ It’s incredibly undemocratic,” said Parkin in advance of the vote. “The very idea that he would think it’s OK to turn around and ignore the will of the people, when thousands of his own constituents have worked so hard.”

The statement wasn’t unprecedented for Hickenlooper. In 2013, he openly threatened to sue any city that banned fracking within its borders and in fact, did sue Longmont and Fort Collins after they implemented restrictions on fracking. The state’s suit also undermined the legal standing of three other bans and moratoria. “Topics like these,” Nelson told me, “are the ones that enable the true colors of our representatives to come out. It just shows that he’s never been on the side of the people, he’s been on the side of industry.”


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