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This month has been bill-signing season for Colorado Governor Jared Polis, after a frantic and historically productive General Assembly session. On June 24 alone, Governor Jared Polis signed 18 pieces of legislation into law during signing ceremonies in Denver and Boulder.

Among them were several bills meant to boost Colorado’s economy, improve energy efficiency, protect clean air and address some of the water issues resulting from climate change.

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association crews execute power line repair after the May 9, 2019 snow storm, on CR 162. Photo by Jan Wondra

HB-1286 Energy Performance For Buildings –  the rule requires the owners of large buildings to improve energy efficiency, and, in connection with that effort, to collect and report on energy-use benchmarking data and comply with rules regarding performance standards related to energy and greenhouse gas emissions and modifying statutory requirements regarding energy performance contracts. Sponsored by Reps. C. Kipp, A. Valdez and Senators K. Priola, B. Pettersen.
HB21-1284 Limit Fee Install Active Solar Energy System– The bill focuses on solar energy, setting moderate limitations on the aggregate amount of fees that may be assessed by governmental bodies for the installation of active solar energy systems. Representatives A. Valdez. and K. Van Winkle, and Senators C. Hansen, and K. Priola.

SB21-264 Adoption of Programs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Utilities –  The bill defines a “gas distribution utility” (GDU) as a gas public utility with more than 90,000 retail customers. It requires each GDU to file a clean heat plan (plan) with the public utilities commission (PUC). A plan must demonstrate how the GDU will use clean heat resources to meet clean heat targets (targets) established in the bill. The targets are a four percent reduction below 2015 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels by 2025 and 22  percent below 2015 GHG emission levels by 2030. Sponsored by Representatives A. Valdez, T. Bernett, and Senator C. Hansen.

SB21-072 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure –  with the expansion of electric transmission facilities to meet Colorado’s clean energy goals and the creation of the Colorado electric transmission authority, this bill requires transmission utilities to join organized wholesale markets. It allows additional classes of transmission utilities to obtain revenue through the co-location of broadband facilities within their existing rights-of-way. Sponsored by Representatives A. Valdez, and  M. Catlin, and Senators C. Hansen, and D. Coram.

HB21-1238 Public Utilities Commission Modernize Gas Utility Demand-side Management Standards – The bill updates the methods used to determine the cost-effectiveness of demand-side management (DSM) programs of public utilities selling natural gas at retail. It requires that the calculation of future benefits reflects the avoided costs to ratepayers resulting from reduced consumption of natural gas.  Representative T. Bernett, and Senator C. Hansen.

Drought is one of the most serious problems facing western states. A February 2021 view toward Lake Powell, which is fed by the Colorado River, from the Glen Canyon Ranger Station at Hite, Utah. Photo/National Park Service

Later that afternoon in Confluence Park, Polis signed into law HB21-1260 , a General Fund Transfer Implement State Water Plan. The bill allocates $20 million from the general fund to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to be spent to implement the state water plan as follows:

  • $15 million, which is transferred to the water plan implementation cash fund for expenditures and grants administered by the CWCB to implement the state water plan.
  • $5 million, which is transferred to the water supply reserve fund for CWCB to disperse to the basin roundtables.

It was sponsored by Representatives A. Garnett and M. Catlin, and Senators Kerry Donovan, and C. Simpson

Governor Polis also signed two bills that directly relate to the state’s water challenges in the face of accelerating climate changes:
HB21-1242 , this bill creates the Colorado Agricultural Drought And Climate Resilience Office – The office will be empowered to provide voluntary technical assistance, non-regulatory programs, and incentives that increase the ability to anticipate, prepare for, mitigate, adapt to, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to drought or the climate. On July 1, 2021, the state treasurer shall transfer all unobligated money in the agriculture value-added cash fund to the newly created agriculture drought and climate resiliency cash fund. It was sponsored by Representative B. McLachlan, and Senator Kerry Donovan.

SB21-189 Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project – Among the many water-related projects this bill funds, it appropriates the following amounts from the Colorado water conservation board (CWCB) construction fund to the CWCB or the division of water resources in the department of natural resources for the following projects:

  • Continuation of the satellite monitoring system, $100,000 ( section 1 of the bill);
  • Continuation of the Colorado floodplain map modernization program, $500,000
  • Continuation of the weather modification permitting program, $350,000 ( section 3 )
  • Continuation of technical assistance for federal cost-share programs, $300,000

It was sponsored by Senator Kerry Donovan, and Representatives M. Catlin, and K. McCormick