DENVER – A bill that won preliminary approval in the Senate Thursday, which creates a new authority for financing construction of transmission lines to carry renewable energy, is very different from the one Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma introduced and passed through the House early in February.
Even the title changed.
House Bill 1150 now creates the Colorado Clean Energy Development Authority instead of a renewable energy and infrastructure authority. At the insistence of Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, it was expanded in the Senate to include transmission and storage of all kinds of clean energy, which is just about anything that doesn’t use fossil fuels.
Gardner and the Senate sponsor, Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, have been working with Romer for weeks to find a compromise everyone could live with. The initial goal was to find a way to transmit wind-generated electricity from eastern Colorado to Denver and other Front Range cities.
“Sen. Romer held it up and we had to find a bill that he would be happy with,” Gardner said. “It builds on our idea for an authority to finance renewable energy projects and adds a very important part from Sen. Romer that goes beyond renewable energy.”
District 1 Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said under the expanded authority, a way could be found to build a pipeline to transport ethanol from the eastern plains to the Front Range.
Romer’s amendment “improved on it by expanding it to all forms of clean energy infrastructure,” Brophy said. “There were some games being played with it early on but the guy (Romer) really has some good vision.”
Gardner said he resisted Romer’s involvement early in the negotiations because the Denver Democrat was going too far in his vision of what the bill should look like.
“At the beginning, I was very concerned about it because he wanted a full-on state-owned, state-driven authority that would construct facilities, use eminent domain and all that,” Gardner said. “Now it builds on the initial idea from the House and expands to new opportunities.”
Under the re-written bill, called a “strike-below” in legislative parlance, the new 9-member authority would be a political subdivision of the state, not a new state agency. One of its first duties would be to convene task forces to develop recommendation for financing clean energy projects.
The measure also sets parameters for the new authority to issue bonds, most of which would require voter approval.
Gardner said barring any late-arriving problems, he would recommend the House approve the Senate version of his bill and send it on to the governor.
Gardner and Brophy also said today that they welcome the spotlight Gov. Bill Ritter is shining on the crisis that South Platte River well users are having with access to water.
“We believe the governor’s leadership is needed to resolve the well shut down,” said Brophy in a press release he issued jointly with Gardner. “We have been fighting for a solution by ourselves; it is a welcome relief that others are finally joining the discussion.”
Gardner said an agreement reached last spring to let irrigators continue pumping was “shut down by lawyers and big cities.”
“We need to work as a team under the leadership of Governor Ritter.” Gardner said. “This is no time for partisan politics.”
Gardner said he was disappointed he and Brophy were not invited to the Ritter’s announcement Thursday of his decision to form a task force to “examine the water-supply crisis facing many farmers, ranchers and agriculture interests in northeast Colorado.”
Instead, Ritter was joined by Democrat Sen. Brandon Shaffer of Longmont and Democrat Reps. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison and Mary Hodge of Brighton. All are members of the interim Water Resources Review Committee, which Ritter said would study the issue.
Brophy and Gardner also are members of the interim committee.
Ritter visited Wiggins on March 22 with Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Harris Sherman and state Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp to hear first-hand about the water-augmentation challenges in the region.
About 450 wells along the South Platte River were shut down in May 2006 pending review of water-augmentation plans by the Colorado Water Court.
“This is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive review,” Ritter said. “I heard the sense of frustration loud and clear when I was in Wiggins. This task force will bring together all stakeholders so we can explore all options.”
By K.C. Mason
Journal-Advocate capitol correspondent
13 April 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding