By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – Tensions over President Obama’s Clean Power Plan are so high Republicans at the state capitol are taking drastic measures to stop implementation of the plan, after the Supreme Court issued a stay on it.
During a budget debate on the House floor in Denver on Thursday, Republican representatives moved to strip money from the state’s air quality division that would be used to carry out the plan.
“We’re not stopping the work of the department, we’re only asking them to stop work on the Clean Power Plan,” said State Rep. Jon Becker, a Republican who represents Northeast Colorado.
But Democrats said other functions of the department, including permitting and air monitoring, would be impacted too.
“We’re risking the health of citizens; we’re risking clean air,” said State Rep. Faith Winter, a Democrat who represents Westminster.
Gov. John Hickenlooper also defended the new air quality rules at an event hosted by the Colorado Petroleum Institute.
“Clean air is too important to Colorado to become a partisan issue,” he said. “I am convinced as much as I ever have been that this is in the self-interest of the state.”
Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, disagreed with Hickenlooper’s assessment.
“We look at the Clean Power Plan as it’s unnecessary to regulate as trying to pick favorite energy forums,” Gerard said.
While Hickenlooper supports the Clean Power Plan, both he and Gerard called on the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend its new standards for ground level ozone. Colorado doesn’t even meet current standards.
“You’re leaving the risk, the possibility that there will be penalties eventually that will come from lack of compliance,” Hickenlooper said.
Gerard agreed, saying “some have estimated this is the most expensive regulation ever proposed.”
“This is a big potential cost to job creation and to economic activity,” he said.
The governor also came out against legislation that would make it easier to sue oil and gas companies for damage caused by earthquakes.
“A bill like this when there’s not a real risk, it makes us appear like we’re anti-business,” he said.
But, he saved his strongest condemnation for a ballot proposal that would require wells be located 2,500 feet from residential development.
“My opinion would be that would, in many cases, invalidate people’s opportunity to extract natural resources that they own. If that passed, I think the state would be taken to court. It would probably go to the Supreme Court. I’m not a lawyer, but trust me I’ve talked to many, many lawyers about this. We would probably lose,” he said.
“That would be considered a taking, and I think the state would probably be judged responsible, and I think the cost could be in the many billions of dollars. I think that’s a risk that most Coloradans — if it was laid out for them in a sense they could clearly understand — would not support it.”