Video produced by Robert Tann
Various politicians, advocacy groups and community members came together on Sunday to discuss new bills aimed at addressing various environmental issues facing Colorado. The event, entitled, “Stand Indivisible on Environment and Climate” was organized by a coalition of climate organizations and was held at the Elks Lodge in Boulder.
Steve Fenberg, Colorado Senate majority leader, assured community members that changes were in place to counter the effects of climate change and improve sustainability in Colorado. He highlighted Senate Bill 181, which drastically reduces the power of oil and gas companies in Colorado, as an example of how change is being attempted.
“Will it solve every problem with oil and gas? Absolutely not,” Fenberg said. “But I think it is going to be absolutely the most sweeping, most comprehensive changes we have ever seen on oil and gas.”
The bill would allow cities and counties to inspect oil and gas facilities, issue fines over spills as well as require at least one member of the industry’s commission to to be trained in fields such as wildlife and environmental protection. By giving local control over lands, the bill hopes to incentive cooperation between governments and businesses.
Mike Foote, former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and now a member of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, believes the bill will bring power back to communities.
“The system right now is the industry always wins,” Foote said. “This bill’s going to change that so that neighborhoods and people have a fighting chance to have their voices heard…and make sure that you all are on an equal playing field as the industry.”
Jill Grano, director of community affairs for Congressman Joe Neguse, spoke on Neguse’s efforts in Washington D.C. to promote environmental legislation. Neguse was elected to serve as the U.S. Representative for Colorado’s second congressional district during the 2018 midterm elections. Grano referenced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which extends protection for Colorado’s public lands, as well as the Green New Deal, of which Neguse was the third original co-sponsor and one of the earliest politicians to sign on to the act.
“Our congressman is absolutely crushing it in Washington,” Grano said as audience members applauded. “[Neguse] has had an incredible chance to talk about what an existential threat climate crisis is for all of us.”
Later, audience members asked questions regarding legislation discussed by the speakers. One attendee took to the microphone to call bills such as 181 “first steps” to creating a more sustainable climate.
“As long as we are producing oil and gas in Colorado we are contributing to catastrophic climate change,” she said.
The audience member said 80 percent reductions by 2050 are “not in line” with recent scientific evidence when it comes to avoiding a “catastrophe” for the planet. She asked how legislators will ensure that people do not lose momentum when it comes to this issue.
KC Becker, speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, assured attendees that people have to “act quickly” on the issue. She said that if a bill had been put forward in 2004 to get to 55 percent renewable energy by 2020, it “never would have passed.” Becker stated that her plan is to reduce on-renewable energy emissions by 90 percent and that more people are becoming supportive of the movement.
After the discussion, attendees were encouraged to speak with partnered groups such as New Era Colorado, Earth Rights International and Tech for Climate Action on ways to promote progressive environmental legislation.
“I want my son to have his whole life to appreciate earth,” said Chris Hoffman, representative for grassroots organization Citizens Climate Lobby. “The climate is in crisis.”
Also in attendance was Trish Zornio, a lecturer at the University of Colorado Denver and 2020 candidate for the Colorado Senate. She hopes to bring federal representation of the scientific community and to push climate change to the forefront of discussion.
“This is personal for us,” Zornio said. “When we talk about 50 year projections, that is within my lifetime, when we talk about 100 year projections, that is not too far off from my children or their children.”
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