DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday that Colorado has joined the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group committed to following the guidelines of the Paris climate agreement.
At the scenic Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Hickenlooper signed an executive order to join 12 states and Puerto Rico that will work toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, even as the federal government withdraws from the agreement.
Hickenlooper said in a statement that the order represents Colorado’s commitment to being a leader on climate issues and preserving the outdoor resources that contribute billions of dollars to its economy.
“The vast majority of our residents, and indeed the country, expect us to help lead the way towards a clean and affordable energy future,” Hickenlooper said in the statement.
The alliance Colorado joins was formed in June after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change.
Steve Hogan, Republican mayor of Aurora, said the governor’s announcement represents a step toward Colorado controlling its energy future while Washington, D.C., moves backward from the desire of Coloradans.
“We can no longer rely on what happens or doesn’t happen in Washington, D.C.,” Hogan said.
But so far, Hogan is the only Republican to publicly support the order.
Hickenlooper said his office has had discussions with the Republican lawmakers about clean energy and clean air but has yet to get widespread support for the goals outlined in his order.
“It’s not there yet,” he said.
Republican leadership in the Colorado Senate refutes having involvement in drafting the order.
“I think if we’re all honest with ourself, we are all kinda surprised, because there was no communication, there was no discussion,” Senate Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said.
Senate Republicans issued a statement after the announcement.
“This is not Washington, D.C, and here in Colorado we do not govern by executive order,” Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, said in a statement.
Republicans also question if the governor can legally change the state’s renewable standards since there already is a statutory goal for 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. They vowed to challenge Hickenlooper’s actions in court if they bypassed the legislative process.
Hickenlooper said he hopes the order will tap into the shift in the Colorado energy market and the growth of wind energy jobs, which Forbes listed as the fastest growing field in 2016.
“These are market forces, again this is not government imposing a regime,” Hickenlooper said.
Scott, who is the chairman of the Legislature Select Committee on Energy and Environment, disagreed that the shift is driven by the market.
He said the order is a slap in the face of rural Colorado, which is already hurting from reduction in coal mining jobs, and a departure from the “all the above” portfolio that defines Colorado energy sector.
“It’s very clear from the order and from his statements that this is definitely a one way street. There’s nothing in here that tells me he has any interest whatsoever in working on anything new. It’s all about the same renewable Tom Steyer (a California billionaire environmentalist) type approach to energy, certainly not an ‘all the above’ that we’ve all learned to live with,” Scott said.
Democrats and some environmental agencies hailed the order as a step forward.
“This is a real leadership moment for Governor Hickenlooper who has positioned Colorado as a leader among all the states, certainly among states in our region, to take steps that ensure that climate change is held to 2 degrees Celsius or less,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates.
Gary Wockner, executive director of Save the Colorado River, a Front Range-based environmental group focused on protecting the Colorado River and combating climate change, said the order doesn’t go far enough and actually undercuts one signed in 2008 by former Gov. Bill Ritter.
The 2008 order called for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 2005 levels, by 2020 and a 80 percent reduction by 2050.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, supports Hickenlooper’s order.
“This is great news for our economy and environment,” Bennet said in a statement.
The offices of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, both Republicans from Colorado, did not respond to calls seeking comment.