Colorado governor: State will push forward with clean energy

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Colorado will push ahead to develop more affordable renewable energy despite President Donald Trump's order eliminating many restrictions on fossil fuels production, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper discusses the state's efforts to clean up air pollution during a news conference at the state Capitol Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Denver. Hickenlooper said the state will continue to push for affordable clean energy despite President Donald Trump's order eliminating many restrictions on fossil fuels production. (AP Photo/Dan Elliott)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado will push ahead to develop more affordable renewable energy despite President Donald Trump's order eliminating many restrictions on fossil fuels production, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

Hickenlooper said Colorado has already met carbon pollution goals under the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which is under challenge in the courts and could be weakened or rescinded under the executive order that Trump signed Tuesday.

His spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery, said later Colorado has not yet met the goals but is on track to do so by 2030 — the deadline in the Clean Power Plan for U.S. states to cut carbon emissions 30 percent.

The environment is vital for Colorado residents and the state's tourism industry, Hickenlooper told reporters.

"Clean air, clean water continues to be an important part of Colorado's brand," he said.

Hickenlooper said it's important to keep clean energy costs low to avoid burdening residential consumers with higher electric bills. He said market forces are already driving down renewable energy costs.

Colorado has been pushing to reduce carbon pollution since at least 2004, when voters approved a measure requiring utilities to get at least 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015. The target was later increased to 30 percent by 2020.

In 2010, the state enacted a law requiring utilities to replace some coal-fired electrical generating plants with natural gas facilities. The administration of former President Barack Obama held up Colorado as an example of how states should promote cleaner energy.

Even if Colorado is successful in cleaning up its own air, pollution from coal-fired plants in neighboring states spills over into the state, Hickenlooper said.

Some states have stopped drawing up new pollution control plans while the Clean Power Plan is in court, but others are moving ahead on their own initiatives to cut carbon emissions or encourage renewable energy, said Noah Long, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Falling prices for wind and solar energy are a factor, he said.

"Coal is increasingly uneconomic across the country," Long said. "Nothing in the executive order changes that."

The governors of California, New York, Oregon and Washington have criticized Trump's order. Some said they'll aggressively pursue policies to counter climate change. The governors of Nebraska and Wyoming said they support the president's order.

Environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of native Americans asked a federal court in Montana to block Trump's action to lift restrictions on coal sales from federal lands.

The U.S. Interior Department last year placed a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands to review the climate change impacts of burning the fuel and whether taxpayers were getting a fair return from the leases mining companies paid the federal government to extract coal.

Trump's order lifted that moratorium.

Hickenlooper said he doubted that Congress or Trump's administration would attempt to overturn state air pollution rules that are stricter than federal standards.

Colorado, the seventh-largest energy producing state in the U.S., has tougher rules than the federal government for finding and fixing methane leaks from oil and gas wells, tanks and pipelines. Methane is a form of natural gas.

"I'd be pretty shocked if they suddenly said, 'Sure, you're saving your air, it's too clean,'" he said.

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