Our Pathway to a Cleaner and Healthier Colorado: 2024 Legislative Priorities

Our Pathway to a Cleaner and Healthier Colorado: 2024 Legislative Priorities
State of Colorado

The NRDC Action Fund is pursuing an ambitious agenda at the Colorado State Capitol this legislative session.

We are more than halfway through the Colorado legislative session, and the NRDC Action Fund is lobbying a robust agenda that promotes a cleaner and healthier Colorado for all. Our agenda seeks to protect future Coloradans from the worst climate disasters by reducing emissions from buildings, transportation, and the power sector. We also want to ensure Coloradans have access to clean air and healthy water. The policies we pursue touch on many topics, including protecting wetlands and other waters, climate-friendly communities, transit-oriented development, clean energy acceleration and expansion, smart land use policies, and more.

Following last year’s record-high global temperatures, devastating wildfires, and a significant number of ozone action days, we are calling on Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado General Assembly to pass these critical policies before the legislative session ends on May 8. 

Transit-oriented development

Transportation is one of the highest-polluting sectors of Colorado’s economy. In addition to expanding options for electric vehicles in the state, we can also help reduce people’s reliance on single-occupancy vehicles by increasing transit options and making our cities more transit friendly. The General Assembly is working to pass legislation that encourages transit-friendly development, efficient land use, and smart growth while removing parking mandates. Legislation this year will help us build more affordable housing options and reduce dangerous air pollution and ozone action days. If we pair these policies with significant increases in funding to improve transit service with more frequent service, greater connectivity, and reduced (or free) fares, we can incentivize people to take transit. 

Protecting critical wetlands

Colorado is considering legislation to address the devastating decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA that dramatically weakened the federal Clean Water Act. Wetlands and other waters store carbon, curb flood risks, recharge groundwater, and improve water quality. They are essential for addressing climate change and the biodiversity crisis. In the long term, we need to fix the federal Clean Water Act. In the near term, we must strengthen protections for Colorado’s wetlands and other waters. The NRDC Action Fund and our coalition partners are coordinating closely with House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Governor Polis’s office to draft strong “dredge and fill” legislation that regulates the process for excavating or filling in wetlands proposed for development. “Ephemeral” and intermittent waters play a large collective role in maintaining and defining the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of perennial waters. Impairment or loss of these systems through unregulated fill or pollution would have considerable and long-lived negative consequences for fisheries, ecosystem services, and the economies that are dependent on them. It is imperative that the Colorado General Assembly pass a law this session to establish protections for wetlands that are no longer covered after the Sackett decision. 

Healthier cooling for homes and buildings

An important part of reducing emissions from our buildings sector is increasing access to affordable and healthy electric appliances. That’s why we are advocating for a bill that accelerates our clean energy transition by requiring distributors to sell only the most energy-efficient air conditioners and heat pumps. These pumps both heat and cool, and they are a primary way to decarbonize our buildings and homes. So, when an outdated model breaks down, the most efficient models will already be stocked for homeowners to choose from. The legislation also utilizes a tax credit to incentivize installers to train their workforce on these new models. By requiring these updated models in the Colorado market, we can ensure that people can make the smartest choice when they need to replace their old HVAC systems. 

Expanding renewable energy

In order to meet our clean energy goals, it’s critical that we build more renewable energy resources quickly. However, large-scale renewable energy projects can be stalled by opposition tactics fueled by fossil fuel industry misinformation campaigns. Some counties have even passed prohibitions on permitting and siting of new renewables projects. To overcome these barriers, we must pass legislation that creates a statewide standard for developing renewable energy projects. This policy must also include important protections for local wildlife and ecosystems, and provide benefits for the workers and communities where projects are built. 

Improving our electrical grid

Our electrical grid is out of date and ill-equipped to handle increased clean energy infrastructure. We must pass legislation that modernizes our grid and prepares Colorado for the growing demand for clean energy, electric appliances, and electric vehicle charging. Improving our grid not only helps us meet this demand but can also help create hundreds of high-road jobs in the process. 

These priority bills represent just part of what the NRDC Action Fund is working on in Colorado in 2024. The NRDC Action Fund will proudly advocate and stand with our partners in calling on Governor Polis and the legislature to pass these safeguards and clean energy accelerators into law.