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Polis is failing to deliver on campaign promises on renewables and climate change

Joe Salazar

Gov. Jared Polis last week told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he would veto Senate Bill 200 — a major bill to fight climate change and help Colorado’s Indigenous, Black, and communities of color fight environmental racism — if it passes in the Colorado legislature.

The bill, which is still early in the legislative process, would strengthens current law and hold the state accountable to achieving our greenhouse gas reduction goals. The goals were established in 2019 – ironically, a bill signed by Gov. Polis.

Sadly, the 2019 goals didn’t hold the Polis administration or any future administration accountable for achieving said goals. As a result, Colorado is not on track to meet the 2019 goals, and Gov. Polis knows it.

In fact, his administration is being sued for its failure to protect Colorado by meeting our 2019 greenhouse gas reduction goals.

It’s a fair question to ask why any Colorado governor would put Colorado, her environment, and people in harm’s way. And it’s fair for everyone who voted for him to ask: Why does a leading Democratic governor who ran on 100% renewables and environmental protection seemingly not understand the fundamental role of the government in regulating pollution?

Despite holding himself out as a climate champion during his campaign for governor, his current actions to threaten veto of an environmental protection bill proves otherwise. Gov. Polis also is the supposed leader of the Colorado Democratic Party, and he certainly knows that the Colorado Democratic Party platform calls for a massive reduction of greenhouse gases.

What’s worse is that he’s threatening to veto a much-needed environmental protection bill at a time when Colorado has suffered the worst wildfire season in Colorado history, we remain in the worst drought ever, and people of color across this state have been impacted by the triple crises of COVID-19, systemic racism, and climate degradation.

A veto threat flies in the face of science, and he’s the governor who geeks out on science. We have every reason to scratch our collective heads about his threat to veto SB 200.

In a beleaguered defense of his defenseless position, Gov. Polis claims that SB 200 will give “near-dictatorial control” to an unelected board – the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC). That’s utter nonsense. But, let’s chew on that dramatic language for just a bit.

The Legislative Branch has the power to hold the Executive Branch accountable for implementing legislation. To protect Colorado, SB 200 ensures that the 2019 greenhouse gas reduction goals will be met by the governor’s administration.

If that means the legislature mandates that the AQCC meets those goals, that’s how government works. It’s called checks and balances of government. I’m a Gen X’er and I know “Schoolhouse Rock” taught us about the checks and balances of government.

Additionally, what’s particularly troubling about Gov. Polis’ attack on SB 200 is he’s using oil and gas industry talking points to further justify his opposition to the bill.

Imagine inferring that greenhouse gas reductions would hurt the economy? Coloradans aren’t so simple-minded. We know our greatest economic champions are manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. Each are being dramatically devastated by climate change, spurred by an oil and gas industry that doesn’t even come close to driving Colorado’s economic train.

Yet, all is not lost. SB 200 is still before the legislature. Gov. Polis must keep his campaign promises and step into being a climate leader. He must support a climate bill – one that ensures we meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

There can be a win here for everyone, including the governor, legislature, and an exceptional win for Colorado’s environment and people.

Joe Salazar, a former Colorado state representative for six years, is the executive director of Colorado Rising, a nonprofit organization that works to protect Colorado’s health, safety, wildlife, environment, and the future of our climate from the impacts of oil and gas development.

This column is from The Colorado Sun, a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.