2012 Legislative Wrap-up

Jobs, the economy helped focus agenda of conservation

The Colorado Statesman

Colorado Conservation Voters highlighted two major legislative successes this year around electronic waste and electric vehicles, noting that a focus on jobs and the economy helped to advance their agenda, despite a divisive political environment.

The advocacy group for the conservation community released its annual legislative scorecard on July 12, giving the legislature high marks for passing Senate Bill 133 with bipartisan support. The measure, which has been signed by the governor, bans many electronics from landfills.

Acknowledging that the focus of the legislative session this year was on jobs and the economy, the conservation group said it helped that SB 133 is expected to create as many as 2,500 new recycling jobs in Colorado.

“Not only is it keeping nasty toxins out of our landfills and out of our water, but it is also geared up to create over 2,500 jobs in Colorado, which right now in this economic time is no small feat,” Faith Winter, program director for Colorado Conservation Voters, said during a conference call on Thursday announcing the annual scorecard.

House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who also joined the conference call, agreed that by focusing on jobs and the economy, environmentally friendly legislation had a better chance of advancing this year.

“Everyone looked at their bills to see how their legislation helped jobs and the economy,” said the minority leader. “Maybe that helped to bridge parties.”

The other centerpiece legislation for the conservation community this year was also billed as a business-friendly measure. House Bill 1258, which had bipartisan support, clarified that third-party charging stations for electric vehicles, such as a coffee shop, are not regulated as an electric utility. Supporters hope the legislation will help businesses to establish charging stations for their customers, thereby expanding the electric vehicle market.

“This session was very successful for the conservation community,” said Winter. “Even with a divided legislature… we still passed our two priority bills with a great deal of bipartisan support.”

The 2012 legislative session also saw extensive debate around oil and gas development, specifically surrounding the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. Several attempts at expanding and reducing local control of oil and gas development failed this year, but the conservation community still saw significant progress in the areas of transparency and disclosures.

One of the most significant advancements actually took place just prior to the legislative session, when Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, announced the implementation of a fracking disclosure rule. Producers are required to list the chemical ingredients used in their fracking solutions.

The governor also this spring convened a task force to examine the role of local governments in regulating oil and gas development. The task force made several recommendations, including enhancing the role of local governments in relation to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Winners and losers

The scorecard also looked at individual lawmakers, noting several “notable leaders” from the 2012 session.

In the Senate, Democratic leadership was praised for their efforts, including outgoing Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, as well as Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora. They were lauded as “stalwart champions” for the environment. Morse and Carroll both earned scores of 100 percent, and Shaffer earned 86 percent.

Sens. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, and Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk, also received perfect scores from Colorado Conservation Voters.

The lowest scores in the Senate all went to Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, who received the lowest score with a 14 percent rating.

In the House, Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, was singled out for her dedication to environmental issues, earning a score this year of 100 percent.

Reps. Lois Court, D-Denver, Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, Matt Jones, D-Louisville, Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, Claire Levy, D-Boulder, Beth McCann, D-Denver, Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, Dan Pabon, D-Denver, Su Ryden, D-Aurora, Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, Judy Solano, D-Brighton, Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, Angela Williams, D-Denver, Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, and Ferrandino also all received perfect ratings.

As in the Senate, the lowest scores in the House also went to Republicans, including Reps. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, all who came in at 8 percent.

But it was actually Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who was singled out by Colorado Conservation Voters lobbyist Randy Moorman for being the biggest legislative loser this year on environmental issues. He earned a rating of 15 percent.

Moorman pointed to Sonnenberg’s House Bill 1356, which would have prohibited the distribution of severance tax dollars to local governments that restrict oil and gas development, and also his House Bill 1322, which would have ceded federal lands in Colorado to the state. Both bills died.

“Those are two examples that were blatant attacks that are against the environment and against public health that are counter to where most Coloradans are,” said Moorman.

Colorado Conservation Voters was also careful to point out retiring lawmakers who leave a “legacy” of environmental stewardship behind, including Bacon and Solano. Bacon is walking away with a lifetime score of 99 percent, and Solano with 98 percent.

“Rising stars” in the House include Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, who received a score of 92 percent, as well as Lee and Hamner. In the Senate, the “rising stars” include Giron and Nicholson.

And while Democrats received more attention than Republicans in the ratings, the conservation group did acknowledge Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, for co-sponsoring the electronic waste bill, and Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, for sponsoring the electric vehicle bill.