May 17, 2021
Colorado Governor’s Office
c/o David Oppenheim
Attn: Governor Jared S. Polis
200 E. Colfax, Rm. 136
Denver, CO 80203
Re: SB 200
Please allow this letter to express our appreciation for your decision to come back to the negotiating table on SB 21-200. As a SB 21-200 coalition members, and community members of color who favor passage of SB 21-200, we are desperate to see that accountability and enforceability are married with the greenhouse gas (“GHG”) pollution reduction goals found in HB 19-1261 and promoted in your climate change Roadmap. Seeing the Executive and Legislative Branches of government working together on this issue is encouraging, and it serves as an example of how two co-equal branches of government are supposed to work for the people. With that said, we would like to address the recent proposal you made to the bill sponsors and shared with our coalition.
First, our nation’s history undeniably demonstrates that laws enacted to protect communities of color, which do not have measures for accountability and enforcement, are really no laws at all. SB 21-200, which centers on environmental justice and protecting disproportionately impacted communities, provides the accountability and enforcement sorely needed to ensure we meet our GHG pollution reduction goals. Volumes of scientific and academic data highlight the disgusting impacts of pollution in our communities. Sadly, your proposal, while saying words about environmental justice and disproportionately impacted communities, fails to provide any accountability or enforcement. Recent events at Bella Romero and events adversely affecting communities of color around Suncor show what happens when there is no real accountability and enforceability – our communities are harmed, and our children and elders suffer significant health impacts.
Additionally, our collective failure to reduce GHG pollution emissions has had a dramatic impact on industries where our communities work – industries that are the actual economic backbone of Colorado. Last summer highlighted the reality that our way of life is under siege from the wildfires fed by drought and standing beetle kill to the deplorable air quality conditions across our state. Drought and erratic seasons are compromising the ability of farmers and ranchers to raise the food we depend upon, and revenue from outdoor tourism was and will be severely decreased. When the tourism industry is adversely affected so, too, are the retail, restaurant, and hotel industries, particularly in our rural areas of the state. There is no doubt that these industries will, again, feel the horror of these impacts this coming summer. Enforcement of our GHG pollution reduction goals is precisely aimed at saving Colorado’s economic drivers.
That being said, our communities are confused why your proposal highlights environmental justice and disproportionately impacted communities, but wholly ignores accountability and enforcement. Without enforcement, there is no equity. Additionally, your proposal involving the social cost of greenhouse gases includes language such as “may,” instead of mandatory language such as “shall” or “must.” Far too often we have seen our communities relegated to second class status by addressing our concerns on a voluntary basis, rather than as a priority. We encourage you to view our communities as a priority by making the social cost of greenhouse gases a mandatory factor in any economic impact analysis, and that economic impact analysis must be a mandatory factor in any rulemaking and permitting.
Next, our communities are concerned that your proposal includes the Air Pollution Control Division (“APCD”) providing “certification” of various items. You are undoubtedly aware that whistleblowers have provided evidence showing that the APCD has forsaken our communities by asking its employees to turn a blind eye and cease monitoring for the accumulative air impacts that would have resulted in permit denials. Our communities have no faith in the APCD, and it is truly concerning for us to see that APEN funding be “spent on APCD’s climate work, including outreach and engagement of disproportionately impacted (DI) communities…” APCD is part of the problem, not the solution, particularly without strong statutory language providing clear direction for their activities. The Air Quality Control Commission (“AQCC”) – as the rulemaking body accountable to the public – should be in the driver’s seat. Changes are also needed beyond more monitoring – action must be taken to address the pollutants we know are present.
With respect to your sector-by-sector proposal, we are concerned that this misses the mark involving accountability and enforcement. Your Roadmap and HB 19-1261 involve the totality of sectors related to GHG pollution reductions. This proposal attempts to segregate only certain industries. Hence, the proposal is the functional equivalent of placing a one inch band-aid on a twelve inch cut. While you, again, place a leading role for APCD in your proposal regarding certification, we will reiterate that we do not trust the APCD and your proposal fails to provide any specificity regarding the process for certification or what the penalty is for failure to receive certification or what happens if an entity fails to reach its goals.
As a counter to your proposal, we propose that the enforcement and accountability for all industry sectors as identified in your Roadmap must be the crux of environmental justice. We agree with an “ombudsman” type environmental justice office, but it must stand alone from any state agency (possibly housed within the Office of the Governor), it must be properly funded with appropriate staff, and it must have enforcement and oversight power. In addition, our community members who sit on any environmental justice advisory board or commission must be properly compensated for their service (i.e. at a similar level to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission members). As a note, restorative justice is key to environmental justice, and we seek your support for reinvestment in disproportionately impacted communities, such as penalties collected from polluters should be reinvested into the communities harmed by said polluters. We will reiterate that the history of this country is one where lip service is paid to our communities without any accountability or enforcement mechanisms.
Second, we propose that the social cost of greenhouse gases must be considered in every economic impact analysis during any rule-making and permit proceedings, and all rule-making and permit proceedings must include an economic impact analysis (beyond the currently required
cost benefit). Third, we would propose that enforcement and accountability must include the totality of sectors as identified in your Roadmap. Lastly, we propose that the APCD be removed from any oversight, certification authority, or influence.
Gov. Polis, as you are aware, Colorado is woefully short of reaching our GHG pollution reduction goals. As detailed by Energy Innovation and RMI in their recent analysis, Colorado’s overall emissions will drop from 2005 levels by just 3.4% by 2030 and by 18 % by 2050. HB 19-1261 statutorily requires Colorado to achieve a reduction of at least 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Without enforcement or accountability, there simply is no way to reach these goals. Meanwhile, the failure to take bold climate action now dramatically increases the environmental, economic and social costs our society and future generations will ultimately pay. Each year of inaction makes it significantly harder to curb our present and future catastrophic weather events; in turn creating an earth no longer habitable for humankind. We respectfully request that you consider our proposal, and reconsider your position.
We appreciate your time and attention in this matter. Should you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at your earliest convenience.
cc: Sen. Faith Winter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sen. Dominick Moreno (email@example.com)
Rep. Dominique Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rep. Mike Weissman (email@example.com)
Sen. Stephen Fenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Speaker of the House Alec Garnett (email@example.com)
Will Toor, Executive Director, Colorado Energy Office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Zach Pierce, Office of the Governor (email@example.com)
David Oppenheim, Office of the Governor (firstname.lastname@example.org)