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Agreement reached on Clean Power Plan funding at Colorado Capitol

Budget would cut about $112,000 for implementing the federal carbon rule
State budget writers on Wednesday agreed to cut air quality control funding by nearly $112,000, a compromise after Republicans sought to cut all funding in protest of implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan. Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, vowed to keep coal miners in business. The photo shows the Navajo Mine in Farmington, which provides coal for the Four Corners Power Plant.

DENVER – State budget writers on Wednesday reached what they framed as a compromise on funding for air quality regulations.

The Joint Budget Committee agreed to slash funding to the Air Pollution Control Division by nearly $112,000, though no staff would be cut.

The move stems from controversy over implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency rule requires carbon-dioxide emissions be reduced by 28 percent in Colorado and 32 percent nationally by 2030. The state is charged with developing its specific plan.

The compromise allows just under $8.4 million in funding for the division, which is part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Republicans had stripped more than $8.4 million in funding for the Air Pollution Control Division, which would have resulted in the layoff of 95 employees at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by June 30.

The move came after the U.S. Supreme Court in February temporarily delayed implementation of the federal carbon-pollution standards.

“We fired a shot across the bow and we’re going to be watching very carefully,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, a member of the JBC. “If they do anything to try and put my coal miners out of business, I’m going to be all over it.

“For me, this is just a small step, a small victory.”

The Republican-controlled Senate last week amended the budget to restore more than $8.1 million for the division. But it left out $328,000 for implementation of the Clean Power Plan. Two staff positions would have been cut.

Because the House and Senate versions of the $27 billion budget are different, the JBC met Wednesday to hash out discrepancies.

The agreement needs approval from both chambers of the Legislature, which could come as early as this week. Lawmakers usually default to decisions reached by the JBC when it comes to resolving amendments to the so-called “Long Bill.”

Budget writers from both sides of the aisle acknowledged that the $112,000 is arbitrary, pointing out that there is not an accurate figure as to how much it would cost to implement the Clean Power Plan in Colorado.

“It’s just impossible to really tell what they’re doing ...” Rankin said. “They never really gave us a good explanation on what exactly they are doing.”

Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said the agreement will allow the division to continue its work toward clean air.

“No one is losing a job as a result of this,” Young said. “The fact that we still have the number of people on staff that we had means that that division can go forward and do all the things we expect them to do.”

Environmental groups were fast to criticize Republicans for forcing any cut.

“It is disheartening that in a state that still has so far to go in addressing air pollution, our air agency will suffer cuts to its budget solely due to politics and messaging,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Our air quality should not be held hostage for a game of chicken over climate change.”


Apr 27, 2016
Two bills to stall Clean Power Plan killed in Colo. House committee

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