In Colorado Springs we have already experienced our fair share of climate-change-driven natural disasters, from the devastating Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and took four lives, to the historic 2013 flooding that followed shortly after.
The average temperatures in our community have been rising over the years and Colorado Springs Utilities is now predicting that 70 percent of all the city’s residences will have air conditioning installed over the next few years. Colorado Springs is growing hotter faster than the rest of the state, and Colorado is often in the top 10 states showing the greatest temperature increases. Last summer, record-burning wildfires translated to terrible air quality, putting our health and well-being at risk.
There is a better path forward and state legislators have an opportunity in the final week of the 2021 legislative session to put us on that path. House Bill 21-1266, titled “Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community,” is that path. We know it will take all hands on deck to swiftly reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from our state.
HB21-1266 is an important combination of environmental justice and climate accountability measures for Colorado communities. While this bill doesn’t completely solve environmental injustices, it takes important steps to advance equity by defining “disproportionately impacted communities,” codifying outreach practices for those communities from the Air Quality Control Commission, establishing an environmental justice action task force, and codifying greenhouse gas pollution limits for key sectors of Colorado’s economy that are critical for achieving clean air and healthy communities. We believe that the government has a responsibility to avoid harming communities and build public trust in systems and institutions, and that’s why we support the pollution accountability mechanisms in HB21-1266.
Colorado Springs Utility Board members [who are also city councilors] and staff are proud of the important steps we have taken to help prevent climate change. By retiring the Drake Power Plant by 2023 and investing heavily in renewable and distributed energy, we are already on the path to significantly reducing climate pollution over the next decade while still providing reliable and affordable energy. Just last summer, our board committed to reducing carbon pollution 80 percent by 2030 by going coal-free. This is a big deal and puts our community in a position of leadership when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas pollution and saving customers money on electricity. If we continue to do our part to reduce air and climate pollution in Colorado Springs, the passage of HB21-1266 should not affect us in any negative way.
But we want to encourage everyone else to meet Colorado’s climate goals too. At this point, Colorado has a long way to go in a short amount of time. According to a recent Environmental Defense Fund analysis, Colorado is set to miss its 2025 climate goal by 13 to 24 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and its 2030 goal by 31 to 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Not only do we support HB21-1266, and its regulation of the oil and gas, electric and industrial sectors of our economy, we appreciate that it gives extra protections for the most vulnerable in our state who are the most affected by pollution. We urge our elected leaders at the state level to support this critical legislation as it goes through the legislative process.
Richard Skorman, City Council District 3 and Council President Pro-Tem
Yolanda Avila, City Council District 4
Nancy Henjum, City Council District 5