Environmental groups are urging Gov. Jared Polis to support a major climate bill pending in the Colorado Legislature.
Senate Bill 200, which aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing environmental justice, would set caps on emissions for various business sectors and give an Air Quality Control Commission the power to enforce them.
Ean Tafoya, Colorado field advocate for the nonprofit GreenLatinos, said it also would establish an environmental justice ombudsperson and advisory board to listen to the perspectives of front-line communities feeling the effects of the climate crisis.
“Rural communities that are on the front line are facing wildfires, drought, crop loss and irregular crop seasons,” Tafoya explained. “If you live in an urban setting, the impacts are air pollution, and we’re seeing the connections to COVID.”
It also would classify greenhouse-gas emissions as regulated pollutants, thus requiring businesses to pay fees for emitting carbon dioxide like they do for other pollutants.
Last week, Gov. Polis indicated he would veto the bill, saying decisions about emissions caps shouldn’t be made by an unelected commission.
Renee Chacon, youth coordinator for Indigenous nonprofit Spirit of the Sun, said environmental policies that benefit the economy without regard to how they influence the community pose harm that can take years to undo.
She sees bringing together perspectives from front-line communities, especially those not in elected office, as a major benefit.
“It brings a form of equity, where you don’t have to run for politics in order to have influence in policymaking when it comes to community monitoring,” Chacon asserted.
Jen Clanahan, Colorado state director for the nonprofit Mountain Mamas, said the bill puts the governor’s own climate roadmap into action.
“One of the things that moms across Colorado would like to say to Gov. Polis is that we urgently need to take action on the climate crisis,” Clanahan remarked. “And so, we’re asking him not to veto our kids’ future.”
She encouraged all state leaders to address the climate crisis with urgency.
Clanahan noted last year, Colorado had three of its largest wildfires in history, and much of the state currently faces drought conditions.