Colorado lawmakers to consider new climate deal struck by unlikely partners

Gov. Polis says environmental groups and the oil and gas industry have reached an agreement on a legislative package lawmakers will consider in the coming days
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Posted at 6:04 PM, Apr 30, 2024

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers will spend the final days of this year’s legislative session considering a major climate deal reached between two groups that rarely agree.

Colorado's oil and gas industry and environmental groups are often worlds apart.

But Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says both groups were able to put their differences aside and work with his office and lawmakers to reach a major agreement.

“What we've done is bring people together and that's really the Colorado way,” Polis said. “People that don't always see eye to eye, in fact, seldom see eye to eye.”

Under the agreement, the state will get more permitting and enforcement authority to reduce emissions and improve air quality, and oil and gas producers will have to pay a new fee.

“The fee will result in about $138 million a year,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg.

Fenberg says money collected from the fee will help fund transit projects and restore public lands.

“Two areas that are very important to mitigate the impact of oil and gas production in our state,” Fenberg said. “This is something that we think is a reasonable approach.”

Funding will also be provided to plug abandoned and low-producing wells that emit harmful pollutants and community liaison positions will be created to help state officials stay in touch with community members.

“I really believe that these are, are monumental next steps in dealing with ozone and air quality in this state,” said House Speaker Julie McCluskie.

Another key part of the deal: legislation introduced earlier this year calling for tougher oil and gas regulations will not move forward and both sides have agreed to scrap their ballot initiatives.

Colorado lawmakers to consider new climate deal struck by unlikely partners

“We were really concerned about a series of ballot measures that were proposed by the oil and gas industry that we saw as rolling back nearly a decade of climate progress here in Colorado,” said Jessica Goad with Conservation Colorado, one of the environmental groups that supports the deal.

Environmental groups say there’s still a lot they want to be able to accomplish to hold oil and gas companies accountable for their actions.

But they say this deal is a step in the right direction.

“We believe that this is going to be the right thing to do for the environment and for Colorado,” Goad said.

The Colorado Chamber, which had strongly criticized environmental legislation that was introduced earlier this year by Democratic lawmakers, released a statement in support of the new deal.

“We applaud the Governor’s Office and our members in the energy sector for finding a balanced compromise to defeat a series of overreaching environmental proposals,” said Loren Furman, the president and CEO of the Colorado Chamber. “Together, these bills would have further threatened Colorado’s competitiveness and economic growth. The Colorado Chamber dubbed these proposals “job killers,” with impacts far beyond just the energy industry, and Chamber members sent over 3,000 messages to lawmakers this session opposing the measures.”

Polis said the agreement, which will be part of two bills lawmakers will consider in the coming days, shows what can be accomplished with different sides working together.

“By bringing people to the table, even those who did often disagree, we can find common ground and innovative solutions to even the most complex challenges that often seem intractable,” Polis said. “And of course, most residents of Colorado want to breathe clean air, want to have a strong economy and predictability and good jobs. And this accomplishes all of that.”

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