By Jerry Brown
Renewable-energy advocates don’t expect to get any new legislation through the Colorado Legislature in 2012, several Democratic legislators said Thursday at the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s second annual CRES Day at the Capitol.
“The speaker (Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch) has laid down his marker saying nothing new on renewables next year and the Republicans maintain tight control of their caucus,” Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, said in an interview following his appearance on a panel at the CRES event that also featured Democratic Reps. Claire Levy of Boulder and Rep. Randy Fischer of Fort Collins.
And the state’s power utilities, including Xcel, are to be in no mood to support any renewable-energy legislation during the upcoming session, Tyler added.
With Republicans holding a one-vote majority in the House and, according to Tyler, poised to kill all Democratic bills on renewable energy, there’s virtually no chance of any renewable-energy bills making it through the legislature, Tyler said. Other legislators at the CRES event agreed.
So, Tyler said, “we’ll be playing defense to keep the legislature from taking apart what we’ve already achieved.”
With Democrats in control of the Colorado Senate and a Democratic governor, there’s a pretty good chance the defensive posture will succeed.
“The Senate has been very stalwart,” Tyler said. “They’ve done a good job of blocking bills that go over from the House.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be any renewable energy bills introduced.
“There might be some bills to make a point and lay the groundwork for when we get the majority back again,” Tyler said. “I’ve got a couple things,” including a proposal to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard during Colorado Public Utilities Commission proceedings and one on water used by power plants.
CRES Executive Director Tony Frank agreed “we may not see any legislation passed next year, but you will see the stage being set to lay the groundwork for legislation that may pass later. And maybe we’ll be surprised. Maybe we’ll see some leadership to get something past the goal line. But it’s going to be tough if last year is any indication.”
There’s also likely to be a legislative fight over the Governor’s Energy Office, which enjoyed major success under former Gov. Bill Ritter.
The continuation of GEO will be one of CRES’s major focuses during the 2012 session, Frank said. He’s optimistic about the agency’s future. “Not by any means is it going away,” he said. “But we have work to do to see that it gets some funding.”
Tyler said GEO is “struggling to stay alive” but also seems optimistic it will survive.
“There’s talk about GEO putting some of its effort into clean-coal technology,” Tyler said. “A lot of people will have a problem with that. Clean coal is an oxymoron. But it may be the price we have to pay to keep GEO alive. It won’t look like what it looked like under Gov. Ritter.”
How involved will Gov. John Hickenlooper be in the fight over GEO’s future and renewable-energy legislation?
“Hickenlooper’s not an enemy,” Tyler said. “But he’s not an advocate for renewables and sustainability, either.”