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Colorado Republicans Start Fight On Energy Bill

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republicans want to undo some left-leaning proposals adopted last year, and their campaign starts with electricity.

A GOP lawmaker has proposed a bill to strike a new law that dramatically raises renewable energy requirements for Colorado’s rural cooperative electric associations. Democrats are giving a frosty reception to the idea, expected to be the first Republican repeal effort defeated in the Democratic Legislature.

The energy law helped inspire last year’s failed secession movements in parts of rural Colorado.

The law requires Colorado’s rural cooperative electric associations to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from 10 percent. That’s a lower threshold than required of electricity providers serving most Coloradans, but Republicans vigorously argued that rural residents can’t afford the upgrade.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said he had “misgivings” about the energy bill, but decided it would contribute to cleaner air. He appointed a commission to examine implementation of the law, but the panel concluded without recommending any changes.

Republican state Sen. Ted Harvey said Hickenlooper’s panel failed to address fears in rural Colorado of rising energy prices.

“The committee did nothing,” Harvey said. “It was a waste of time and a waste of a press release by the governor to try to say he that was doing something productive to try to solve the problem.”

The energy bill was a prime sticking point for the 11 rural Colorado counties that considered secession last year, said Moffat County Commissioner John Kincaid.

“It’s detrimental to parts of Colorado that don’t include Denver and Boulder,” he said.

Democratic leaders in the Senate have signaled that the higher energy standard isn’t going away, though. Some Democrats toured rural areas over the last year on a “listening tour” and said this week that they didn’t get a sense folks wanted the energy bill repealed.

“Everyone’s really asking, whether they were for it or against it, that we basically leave it on status quo and folks feel like they can come into compliance with it,” Senate President Morgan Carroll told reporters Monday.

Carroll said Democrats, who control the House and Senate, will make sure energy providers comply with a 2 percent rate increase cap included in the law.

“Regardless of where you’re getting your energy mix from, that 2 percent rate cap on cost is going to be important,” Carroll said.

Harvey, who is prepared for defeat Wednesday in a committee known around the Capitol as the “Kill Committee,” said ruling Democrats are wrong not to take his proposal on electricity cooperatives more seriously.

“These are private entities that the state government has no legal authority by which to tell them their energy portfolio has to look like,” Harvey said.

Harvey’s energy bill is the first of several GOP proposals to repeal or modify laws adopted last year. Republicans are also planning to seek repeals on gun-control measures adopted last year, and change an elections law overhaul that Republicans warn compromises elections integrity.

Repeal tensions grew in the Senate on Tuesday, when Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman angrily accused ruling Democrats of trying to use legislative rules to delay a proposal to repeal a law expanding gun background checks. Democrats denied the charge, saying their goal is to allow scheduling flexibility to give everyone interested in the bill the opportunity to testify.

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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