The clock is winding down. In the last days of the 73rd General Assembly, mayhem has arisen.
If you have watched a feeding frenzy of sharks with blood in the water, you can understand what is going on in Denver. With state revenue better than expected and CARES Act federal stimulus funds, legislators are running bills and spending money like drunken sailors. (My apologies to drunken sailors for casting you in the same light.)
With the promise of $3.8 billion in pending federal funds, it has been shocking to hear what, all of a sudden, is a priority. Rather than concentrate on paying off certificates of participation (financial obligations) and building infrastructure, roads, bridges and schools, we are instituting newfound policies and programs that are unsustainable after this windfall is over.
It was humorous to watch members’ frustrations when we learned that more bills are pending than we have money to fund. Naturally, their pet projects are more important than ones that have already been through the process.
I also have some bills that are still waiting. One such bill that is in limbo will create more biomass from our forests. It is scheduled for the Appropriations Committee. It may survive – because it does not require funding until 2023. If not, we’ll try again next year, as the need will still be there.
In the 1980s, I owned trucks. As you know, equipment breaks down, with sometimes minor and other times major problems. My fellow truckers referred to me as “MacGyver,” a television character who could somehow always find a temporary fix to a bad situation. In my 11 years in the General Assembly, I have used the same tactic, taking a bad bill and making it workable. In general, I have been pretty successful, but not always.
I was recently a co-primary sponsor of Senate Bill 21-264. This is a greenhouse gas bill that will implement the use of renewable natural gas. I was hoping to expand methane capture from coal mines. Several years ago, Sen. Gail Swartz and I introduced a bill allowing a partnership between the Oxbow Elk Creek Mine, Holy Cross Energy and Aspen Ski Corp. This has been very successful and worthy of expansion.
Sadly, the night before this bill was to be in committee, environmental organizations got drafting privileges and completely rewrote the bill. What started out as a bill created after months of stakeholder meetings and agreements with utilities and energy producers was completely changed. When it did go to committee, the opposition was overwhelming. I know of a couple of Democrats that had intended to vote “No” on the bill, assuming that I would vote “Yes.” Upon learning I no longer supported the bill, voting was delayed; the chief of staff and director of the Energy Office were on the scene. Long story short, it passed committee on a party line vote. The next day, another stakeholder meeting was held and utilities and producers stated how it was impossible to meet the new guidelines. My question to a member of the environmental community was: Is it the intention of this bill to stop natural gas production? The answer was yes.
I don’t think they plan to fail, but rather have failed to plan. The California all-electric model has been a failure with electric rates in California near 20 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to Colorado at less than 14 cents per KWH. Considering Colorado’s cold winters, increased costs will be devastating to those who can least afford it. I am an “all of the above” energy advocate and have no problem with more renewables, but was never an advocate of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
On third reading and presumed final passage, I will vote no and remove my sponsorship. You can put lipstick on a pig – but it’s still a pig.
Sen. Don Coram is a Republican representing District 6 in the Colorado Legislature.