Author: Joey Bunch – January 17, 2018 – Updated: 18 hours ago
energy officeSen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, talks to reporters about his bill to save but modify the Colorado Energy Office. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)
Senate Republicans say they want to make the Colorado Energy Office great again, and Senate Bill 3 this session is just the ticket for an all-of-the-above energy effort, said Sen. Ray Scott, the sponsor of the bill.
In a partisan standoff at the end of the last session about the office’s mission, it was left without funding. The scaled-back operation is currently running on state budget fumes and federal funding.
Under Scott’s bill, the office would get back to work with about $1 million less than it had before last session by cutting a raft of programs — such as a wind program at schools — that are either obsolete or unused, Scott said.
He told reporters that the office is essential, but it needs to represent Colorado’s broad portfolio, not just renewable energy. Besides fossil fuels, the bill would expand the office to consider the future of hydroelectric power and nuclear technologies in Colorado, Scott said.
“There’s some great technologies out there, and we’re being very non-inclusive if we don’t talk about those things,” Scott said.”As we go down the road into the future, who knows, I don’t know what the energy sector will look like, so we think it’s best to include all those things.”
The assistant majority leader from Grand Junction — a reliable defender of the state’s oil, gas and coal industries — said his bill is a starting point for Republican negotiations.
“It just tells the world we’re not focused on one thing,” Scott said.”We are focused on all of the above, as are other energy offices around the United States. There’s no reason to say, ‘We are one thing, and that’s all we do.”
Scott didn’t agree with Colorado Politics’ suggestion that his bill could be seen as a line in the sand with Democrats and the governor over control of the office.
Republicans have argued that the office promotes emerging renewable forms of energy over traditional Colorado mainstays that pump millions into the state economy: oil, gas and coal industries.
“The leaders of our business coalition have a history of promoting oil and natural gas and renewables too, so we certainly agree with the all-of-the-above approach to energy,” said Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Vital for Colorado, an organization of business leaders who support the oil and gas industry for its role in the state economy.
“We are reviewing the bill more closely, but in general, we welcome any proposal that reflects the reality of different energy sources working together to support a growing economy and pro-business climate in our state. Pitting energy sources against one another in an all-or-nothing contest isn’t helpful.”
Funding for the office dried up at the end of the last session, when Democrats and Republicans reached an impasse last May.
Scott’s bill is scheduled to get its first hearing before the 11-member Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which Scott serves on.
Republicans must walk a fine line, however. They hold a one-seat majority in the Senate, but if Senate Bill 3 is seen as an overreach by anti-drilling Democrats in the House, where the party holds a nine-seat majority.it faces a tough negotiation to keep the office going.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signaled, ever so slightly Tuesday, that Senate Bill 3 sets up a power struggle, no pun intended, OK, intended, with the governor’s office.
The bill would require Senate confirmation for the head of the office, a pick the governor has made.
“We haven’t read it all, but there are some things that don’t put the governor’s office at an advantage.” the governor told reporters Tuesday.”We’ll have to look at it and discuss it.”
Scott said the confirmation is”about transparency, that’s all that is. We do it with tons of other things in this building, and we thought, ‘Well, here’s an office we haven’t been doing it with,’ so it’s time we started to do that.”
So why is mixing in oil and gas with the office’s mission on renewables a bad idea?
“Because we’re moving to a clean energy economy,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, who is no fan of fracking and leads the Senate Democrats’ environmental agenda.”It’s cheaper and cleaner now, and we should be at the forefront.
“I was at a national conference for legislators this summer, and instead of complaining about the Clean Power Plan, which they were two years ago, it was about which state is going to be first to adopt wind, solar, battery storage, electric cars going into the future, because it’s going to be an economic benefit to those who do.”
Hickenlooper said Colorado would be the only state west of the Mississippi that doesn’t have an energy office that’s fully funded.
“I’m not sure that’s in the best interest of the wind energy, the solar industry or oil and gas, or coal,” Hickenlooper said.”Everybody needs an energy office.”