Governor Polis signs bills to tackle climate change, new energy sources and drought resilience programs – by Jan Wondra


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 promulgated 18 pieces of legislation during signing ceremonies in Denver and Boulder.

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

The Sangre de Cristo Electric Association teams are repairing a power line after the snowstorm of May 9, 2019, on CR 162. Photo by Jan Wondra

HB-1286 Energy performance of buildings – the rule requires owners of large buildings to improve energy efficiency and, as part of this effort, to collect and report benchmarking data on energy consumption and to comply with the rules regarding performance standards related to energy and greenhouse gas emissions and changes in regulatory requirements for energy performance contracts. Sponsored by Representatives C. Kipp, A. Valdez and Senators K. Priola, B. Pettersen.
HB21-1284 Limits the cost of installing an active solar energy system– The bill focuses on solar energy, setting moderate limits on the total amount of charges that can be assessed by government agencies 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 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – The bill defines a “gas distribution service” (GDU) as a public gas service with more than 90,000 retail customers. It requires each GDU to file a clean heat plan (plan) with the public services commission (PUC). A plan should demonstrate how the GDU will use the clean heat resources to meet the clean heat targets (targets) set out in the bill. The targets are a reduction of 4% below 2015 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels by 2025 and 22% below 2015 GHG emission levels by 2030. Sponsored by Representatives A. Valdez, T. Bernett and Senator C. Hansen.

SB21-072 Public Utilities Commission Modernizes Electricity 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 the markets of big organized. It allows other categories of transport services to earn revenues 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 Utilities Commission Modernizes Demand Management Standards for Gas Utilities – The bill updates the methods used to determine the profitability of demand management programs (DSM) of utilities retailing natural gas. It requires that the calculation of future benefits reflect the avoided costs to taxpayers resulting from the reduction in natural gas consumption. Representative T. Bernett, and Senator C. Hansen.

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

Later that afternoon at Confluence Park, Polis signed the law HB21-1260, a general fund transfer for the implementation of the state water body. The bill allocates $ 20 million from the general fund to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to spend on implementing the state water body as follows:

  • $ 15 million, which is transferred to the water body implementation cash fund for the expenses and grants administered by the CWCB to implement the state water body.
  • $ 5 million, which is transferred to the CWCB’s water supply reserve fund for distribution to 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 concern the state’s water challenges in the face of accelerating climate change:
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 and respond to hazardous events, trends or drought or climate disturbances. On July 1, 2021, the state treasurer will transfer all uncommitted money from the agricultural value-added treasury fund to the new agricultural treasury fund for drought and climate resilience. It was sponsored by Representative B. McLachlan and Senator Kerry Donovan.

Colorado Water Conservation Council Building Fund Project SB21-189 – Of the many water-related projects this bill funds, it allocates the following amounts from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) building fund to the CWCB or the water resources division of the Department of Natural Resources for the following projects:

  • Continuation of the satellite monitoring system, $ 100,000 (clause 1 of the bill);
  • Colorado Flood Plains Map Modernization Program Continued, $ 500,000
  • Continuation of the weather modification permit program, $ 350,000 (section 3)
  • Continued technical assistance for federal shared-cost programs, $ 300,000

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


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