Democrats Fend Off GOP Renewable Energy Bill

DENVER (AP) – A Republican effort to reduce renewable energy mandates on Colorado utilities failed its first test before a Democratic panel Monday.

The rejection of the renewable-energy reduction continued a string of misses for the GOP, which has tried to use its bigger piece of the Legislature to roll back laws passed in recent years. The Senate is in Republican hands for the first time in a decade, and the renewable-energy rollback passed in that chamber last month.

The bill would have cut in half the percentage of renewable energy required of large utilities by 2020, from 30 percent to 15 percent. It would have reduced the renewable-energy mandate on rural electricity co-ops from 20 percent to 15 percent by 2020.

Rollback sponsor Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, argued Monday that Colorado should rest on its laurels as the first state to mandate renewable-energy minimums through the ballot, which happened in 2004.

“We’ve done some really good things in the renewable energy world and in the world of pollution and keeping our state good with clear blue skies,” Thurlow said.

The standard was later raised, most recently in 2013, when the Legislature was in Democrats’ hands. The hike to 30 percent is simply too much, Thurlow said. He passed out graphs showing residential electricity prices since 2001.

“We’ve gone from being one of the lowest-cost states, to being higher than most of our neighbors in the mountain states,” Thurlow said.

There was little question the Democratic House committee would reject the bill. Still, environmental activists gathered at the Capitol to oppose it.

“We really want to have electricity from sources that don’t make pollution,” said Christy Cerrone, a Lakewood woman who attended the hearing and a rally with the group Moms Know Best.

LINK: Senate Bill 44

– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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