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Legislature Adjourns, Misses Opportunity to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

May 16, 2012

The Colorado General Assembly adjourned today after completing an anti-climactic three-day special session called by Governor John Hickenlooper. Last Wednesday, the legislature concluded the regular 120-day session without passing H.B. 12-1160, a bill that would have included electricity from coal mine methane as an eligible resource under Colorado’s renewable portfolio standard.  The bill would have promoted Colorado jobs and energy production and also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by providing an incentive for the development of methane-to-electricity projects. Methane is about 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and H.B. 12-116o was intended to encourage the transformation of methane that is now escaping into the atmosphere into electricity.

Incredibly, folks who claim to be environmental advocates opposed the bill on the grounds that it would diminish the development of traditional renewable resources such as wind and solar. They took this position despite testimony from Randy Udall, a highly-regarded energy expert and environmental advocate, who argued that the mitigation of methane resulting from H.B. 12-1160 projects would be far more effective as a greenhouse reduction strategy than all of the solar generation installed in Colorado to date. To put this in perspective, the 10 – 25 MW of capacity of methane-electricity projects that might have been developed in the next ten years is a drop in the renewable energy bucket compared to the nearly 2,000 MW of wind and solar generation that exists in Colorado today.

Despite bipartisan, bicameral support (the prime sponsors of H.B. 12-1160 were Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey  and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village), leadership in the Colorado Senate was held hostage by the advocates of wind and solar energy and refused to hear the bill. We hope that if this bill is introduced again next year, cooler heads and common sense will prevail. Is that too much to ask?

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