The “Clean Air, Clean Jobs” bill
The so-called “Clean Air, Clean Jobs” bill, HB-1365, was introduced Monday, following many months of creation. The bill essentially seeks to reduce the coal-powered generation of electricity by investor-owned utilities along the Front Range by using natural gas or other forms of power on a strategic basis instead of following a fragmented approach.
The effort is an attempt by the bill’s proponents to get ahead of the curve of federal regulations cracking down on various pollutants that might have the Federal Environmental Protection Agency creating a solution to Colorado’s air pollution and then mandating state compliance.
On Tuesday, a rally of the bill’s supporters was held on the West Steps of the Capitol followed by Gov. Bill Ritter testifying before the House Committee on Transportation and Energy in the Old Supreme Court Chamber. The bill’s prime sponsors are Reps. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) and Judy Solano (D-Brighton) and Sens. Bruce Whitehead (D-Hesperus) and Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction).
The Committee amended the bill and sent it along to the Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill this morning. Later in the morning, the House approved the bill on Second Reading, which places it on the House Calendar for final, Third Reading Monday. According to the analysis contained in the bill’s fiscal note, HB-1365 anticipates stricter emission requirements from the EPA under the Federal Clear Air Act.
By August 15th of this year, all investor-owned utilities that own and operate coal-fired plants generating electricity must provide an emissions-reduction plan for these plants to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The plan must cover 900 megawatts or 50 percent of the utility’s generating capacity, whichever is less. And the plan must emphasize conversion of the plants to natural gas or other “low-emission resources.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will then be allowed to review the utility’s plan, which must be implemented by December 31, 2017. The CDPE review will include how the plan complies with both Federal and State clean air laws. A new or “repowered” plant could not emit more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per generated megawatt of electricity.
By Dec. 15, the PUC must have completed its evaluation and either approve, modify or deny the plans by taking into account these factors:
· Emissions reductions achieved,
· Use of existing natural gas generation capacity;
· Promotion of economic development;
· Potential rate effects,
· Preservation of reliable electric service for consumers, and
· Compliance with Federal and State renewable energy requirements.