Science Notes

Policy Brief: Senate Bill 21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Increase Environmental Justice)

By Kayla Zacharias

April 2021

Colorado has often been called a leader in climate policy in the United States, especially throughout the last several years. House Bill 19-1261 (Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution), which was hailed as a critical victory by many of the state’s environmental groups, set Colorado’s current greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and directed the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to develop regulations to reduce emissions.

It’s been nearly two years since the bill was passed, and some are beginning to worry that Colorado is not on track to meet the goals outlined in HB 1261. Most of the state’s planned reductions in emissions come from voluntary action and historical trends, such as the closing of coal mines and the rise of hybrid and electrical vehicles. Among those concerned are several Colorado Democrats who recently proposed new legislation to push the AQCC to work faster and set tougher restrictions on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Senate Bill 21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gasses Increase Environmental Justice) was introduced March 29 and is under consideration by state legislators. If it becomes law, the bill will require the AQCC to consider the social cost of carbon in its rule makings, give the AQCC the power to set annual greenhouse gas emission fees, and require the commission to finalize its rules by March 1, 2022.

In January 2021, Colorado released its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which laid out what the state’s Energy Office calls “an achievable pathway” to meet the goals outlined in HB 1261. The roadmap defines industry-specific goals and actions, but unlike SB 200, it does not set hard emission caps for each sector. Many of the directives laid out in SB 200 would be the responsibility of the AQCC to realize, including setting emissions caps and fees.

SB 200 would also set new rules for local energy cooperatives. Under the bill, energy cooperatives would need to file a responsible energy plan to achieve 80% emission reductions by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. All electric utilities and cooperatives would also be required to reduce emissions by 95% between 2035 and 2040, and by 100% by 2040.

Finally, the bill hones in on social components of climate change, creating an environmental justice ombudsperson position and an environmental justice advisory board in the Department of Public Health and Environment. The bill also directs revenue raised from greenhouse gas emissions fees to be used for outreach and engagement in disproportionately impacted communities.

Whether the bill is likely too become law, it’s hard to say. Democrats are adamant that we need to work faster and harder if we are to meet out climate targets, but SB 200 has no Republican sponsors. Governor Polis isn’t totally onboard as it stands, but the bill could be revised in the coming weeks.

“While we are open to provisions in the bill, like the expanded focus on the environmental justice and additional resources for the Air Quality Control Commission, we cannot support hard sector-specific emissions caps as the bill outlines,” Shelby Wieman, a Polis spokeswoman, said in a statement.

To follow the bill’s path through the senate visit:


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