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The architect of Colorado’s “new energy economy” will offer some pointers this week on how Nebraska can lessen its reliance on coal-fired electricity while creating new jobs.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will give a $20-per-person presentation Monday night in Omaha, discussing how Colorado has added more than 6,000 jobs while substantially increasing development of wind, solar and natural gas resources. He also will meet with elected officials Tuesday in Lincoln.
“I really try to make the business case for making the transition to clean energy,” Ritter said in a phone interview last week.
Ritter’s message, however, might hit a head wind of skepticism from Nebraska power generators.
Pat Pope, CEO of the Nebraska Public Power District, said some of the steps Colorado took would likely inflate consumer energy prices in Nebraska. Specifically, he said he would oppose a government mandate that sets minimum standards for the amount of renewable energy utilities must provide in their portfolios.
“It’s a clash with reality,” Pope said. “We just can’t run our economy on just renewables.”
Ritter, a Democrat, was Colorado’s governor from 2007 to 2011. He now directs the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.
The center works directly with governors, legislators and other policymakers at the state level to promote the development of domestic energy in ways that provide environmental and economic benefits. Ritter said that with gridlock in Congress, states are in a position to move more quickly on new energy initiatives.
While in office Ritter signed 57 energy bills, which he said helped attract 1,500 companies to the state. He also adopted a climate action plan that mapped out how the state could reduce 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Key legislation prompted the conversion of some coal-fired electrical plants to natural gas, while other laws contributed to a tenfold increase in the state’s wind power development.
A more controversial law allowed expanded drilling for oil and natural gas while imposing new regulations that required drillers to better protect air, land and water. The measures generated resistance from those industries.
Ritter said the single most important initiative was to increase the state’s renewable energy standard. In 2004 voters approved a requirement that utilities generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources. By the time Ritter left office, the percentage had been increased to 30 percent for investor-owned utilities.
The requirement often is cited as the reason wind, solar and other renewable energy companies locate or expand in the state, according to a report published by the center.
Nebraska does not have a renewable standard on the books, but the state’s three largest electrical utilities — NPPD, Omaha Public Power District and Lincoln Electric System — have all set voluntary goals to increase their renewable energy portfolios. Mandating such standards would be a mistake, said Pope, NPPD’s chief executive.
Part of the problem, he said, is that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, so the sources can’t provide a constant supply to meet load demand around the clock.
Natural gas, which releases fewer carbon emissions than coal, can provide a base load, but Pope said much of the state lacks the pipeline infrastructure necessary to supply existing generating plants.
The state also needs more miles of transmission lines so it can export the excess electricity generated by wind. Pipelines and transmission lines are expensive, must clear regulatory hurdles and can meet stiff resistance from landowners.
“I’m just sure (Ritter) will advocate that we have one of the best wind potential resources in the nation,” Pope said. “I don’t have a problem with it, but let me do it when it makes sense for my customers. Right now I don’t have a need for it.”
State Sen. Ken Haar of Lincoln, an advocate for the expansion of renewable energy in Nebraska, said he has no intention of introducing a bill setting a renewable mandate. Frankly, he said, it wouldn’t stand a chance at passage.
But Haar is considering other energy-related bills. He argued that Nebraska needs to move faster in developing renewables and the economic benefits they can provide. He said he plans to attend Ritter’s presentations.
“We know at some point there’s going to be a cost for carbon pollution,” he said. “We have to move forward. We seem to move slower than all states around us.”
Ritter’s presentation at the Nebraska Conservation Summit on Monday will take place at the Scott Conference Center, 6450 Pine St. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation starts at 6 p.m.
The Nebraska League of Conservation Voters and the Nebraska Conservation Education Fund are sponsors. Go to conservationsummit.com for more information or to purchase tickets.
Exactly what Jeannie Ritter did to bring a voice to mental disease by simply because the psychologically sick in Colorado get the level of care and compassion as do individuals with an actual disease, is nothing in short supply of remarkable, as well as for that she was handed the 2014 Hildegard Messenbaugh Award at Third Method Center’s trademark fundraiser, True Grit.
Messenbaugh, a psychiatrist, founded Third Method Center in 1970 as a protection for runaway teenagers. These days it offers a continuum of attention to boys and girls age 14 to 19 who possess experienced real, mental and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment.
“Jeannie Ritter might be most well-known as our state’s former first lady,” noted singer William Matthews, president associated with Third Way Center board. “but we think the woman best influence is by her continuing attempts to carry a voice to psychological state and act as a champion for all those with psychological infection, including residents of Third Way Center.
“As first lady,” Matthews added, “in her present role as ambassador when it comes to psychological state Center of Denver, through her utilize severely emotionally disturbed kids within the Denver Public institutes so that as a family group recommend, Jeannie has seen firsthand the necessity for greater understanding and knowledge of psychological illness and better accessibility solutions for anyone in need.”
Pete and Marilyn Coors were the honorary chairmen for real Grit, which brought 400 people to the Seawell Ballroom on Saturday-night for a chuckwagon dinner, auction and party.
Matthews joined up with the next Way Center board in 2001 and has now been its president since 2004. “as soon as you’re in and committed, it’s hard not to be,” he said of their longstanding solution. Matthews also recalled he went to their first real Grit 24 years back when it happened “in a horse barn in Littleton with dust floors. Pete and Marilyn were the chairmen that year, too.”
Over the last decade, Colorado has emerged to boast one of the most aggressive clean energy standards in the United States — something that began under the administration of former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr. Now, as the director of theCenter for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, Governor Bill Ritter is advising the White House on how to achieve its clean energy goals.
Natalie Pace: Colorado has a goal of achieving 30 percent renewables by 2020 — one of the most aggressive clean energy standards in the nation. What role did your administration play in setting these standards?
Governor Bill Ritter Jr.: In my time as governor, I signed 57 different pieces of legislation, many of which we initiated. We had a 10 percent renewable energy standard when I started. I signed a bill that took us to a 20 percent standard in the 1st year in office. By the 4th year in office, I signed a bill that took us to a 30 percent renewable energy standard. That was the most aggressive energy standard [in the nation], first or second …
NP: Does that 30% renewable standard include natural gas?
BR: No. It doesn’t include large hydro either. If you think about Xcel Energy, which is the largest investor owned utility in Colorado, they will reduce their emissions from 2005 to 2020 by 35%. They provide power to about 65 percent of Coloradans. That came about as a result of a variety of policies that we put in place in that four-year period, [including] the renewable energy standard, energy efficiency, net metering and interconnection standards that make solar work better.
NP: Getting a policy initiative like this up and running during The Great Recession must have been difficult. Where did you secure the funding?
BR: We did it through the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard. The requirement was that Xcel would have to reduce their consumers’ energy usage by one and a half percent per year. The interesting thing about it, which made it not so difficult, is that they did it through lighting. The money that we had from the Recovery Act also helped in a significant way. We were doing about $4-$8 million in weatherization programs and we went to $80 million. There was a significant increase in spending on weatherization. It was largely homes that could have gotten LEAP money – the low-income energy assistance program money. We also did a variety of big weatherization projects. We worked with municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals. The acronym is MUSH.
NP: Did Xcel Energy increase efficiency through CFL or LED lighting?
BR: A mix. Xcel was able to see their 1.5 percent standard and raise it a little bit.
NP: Do you think that your office, the state of Colorado and the city of Denver are setting the example for buildings in energy efficiency?
BR: Not on the building side. I would say that we did a much better job on the electricity sector side, in finding a path forward. We actually had the support of the utility industry. On the building side, there are states that have done a little better job. We’d be in the top tier, but we didn’t set the example. We set the example on how to carve out policy that would change your energy mix and reduce your emissions portfolio in a very significant way.
NP: What is the Center for the New Energy Economy and what is the Center’s vision and mission?
BR: A year ago, I was part of a meeting at the White House. They asked us to provide recommendations back to the White House about how they can move this clean energy agenda. By far, the biggest potential in the Federal Government for acting on a Clean Energy agenda without federal help, has to do with energy efficiency – with energy conservation. We told them our recommendation was that the President should double the goal. They’ve now made an amendment that is a billion dollars a year over the next five years. There is so much potential on performance contacting particularly, but there are a lot of barriers.
NP: You were successful at promoting a very aggressive Clean Energy agenda in a swing state. Is part of your role finding win-win solutions for Republicans and Democrats?
BR: We spent half of the year in 2013 providing recommendations to the White House on how to move a clean energy agenda without Congressional action. The premise was that Congress was not going to act in a meaningful way on energy while the President was serving in office (and a lot of other things as well). On the energy front, we provided recommendations in five discrete areas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative fuels for vehicles, how to change the business model for utilities and the federal government’s role in rulemaking for natural gas extraction. It’s really about putting in a strategy that involves Presidential action, executive agency action – all within his lawful authority.
NP: So how do you promote a New Energy Economy at the national level?
BR: So much of what we looked at had to do with how federal programs are siloed. There is a need to work together. There are all kinds of things that you can do with mortgages and with the mortgage lending industry where renewable energy and energy efficiency are concerned. However, the Department of Energy [needs to] work with Housing and Urban Development to make sure that the FHA, the mortgage lending industry that the Federal Government runs, is encouraging the build out of energy efficient homes.
NP: Sounds easy enough. So how do you get these agencies talking and working together?
BR: John Podesta is the guy that the President has tasked with coordinating that.
NP: Red tape is always an issue with the government. How can you make bureaucracy more efficient?
BR: Last year there were 300 pieces of state financing legislation. You can aggregate that and align it with something at the federal level, and do things that you can’t do state by state.
NP: Colorado had to dramatically increase wind and solar energy in order to meet its goals. How did you set that in motion as governor?
BR: Colorado is the 9th windiest state. We’re the 6th sunniest state. One of our things was to go after Vestas Wind Systems. While I was governor, they built four separate plants here. Those plants are operating at maximum capacity right now. There are 1500 workers in Vestas Wind plants in Colorado. We went from 200 and some megawatts in wind power when I became governor to having 2700 megwatts seven years later.
We’re building up a lot of rooftop solar. Those are real jobs – people going to work every day. It’s a transition.
NP: Meanwhile the coal industry is suffering…
BR: People kept saying, “You’ve got to pick winners and losers.” That’s actually not right. What we’re trying to pick is a 21st century economy that can employ people, but at the same time address emissions and try to hold rate payers harmless. We want to find a way to do this equitably so that you don’t build this New Energy Economy on the backs of poor people.
NP: So, what do you say to the coal industry, and to all of the people who rely on those jobs for their daily bread?
BR: We’re the tenth largest coal producing state. Everybody wants clean energy, but it is hard to imagine two or three years out when you are worried about putting food on the plate today. In the last year of my term, I signed a bill called Clean Air, Clean Jobs, where we took down a gigawatt of coal and transitioned that to natural gas. In the natural gas economy, the oil and gas economy employs over 110,000 workers. So, you don’t have to be dislocated. We’re not going to transition out of coal anytime soon. Even with our aggressive clean energy agenda, coal is still going to be 30 percent of our state portfolio by 2030.
NP: Are you concerned about the environmental hazards of fracking?
BR: The EPA deputy director is now looking for how you reward the best players in the natural gas industry for employing best practices in the oil fields. That’s one of our recommendations. We said, “Like the Baldridge Award. Let’s give a George P. Mitchell Award that says we want to acknowledge that there are good players, and recognize the good players out there.”
This year, millions of dollars are being funneled in Colorado where close midterm elections have the potential of making mostly blue Colorado a little more red.
A tight senate race against incumbent Mark Udall (D) and challenger U.S. Rep.Cory Gardner (R) is the focus for many prime donors because of Gardner’s potential to tip the majority currently held in the senate in the Republicans favor. According to their campaign records, Udall collected $13.7 million and Gardner received $5 million, both since June 30.
Gardner is speculated by many as a prime contender against Udall since heannounced he would be vacating his current House seat in Colorado’s 4th district to run for senate. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who was initially running for Senate against Udall, stepped down after Gardner’s announcement and is now the Republican Nominee for Gardner’s old seat in the 4th district where he has a substantial chance of winning.
According to a recent poll, the closely-watched senate race is, tied with 44 percent for Gardner and 42 percent for Udall with 10 percent undecided.
Besides the close race in the senate, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is up for re-election this year against former U.S. Rep Bob Beauprez (R) who previously ran for governor against Gov. Bill Ritter.
According to recent poll numbers, the race is tied with 43 percent for Hickenlooper and 44 percent for Beauprez. One issue Hickenlooper faces moving forward is a job approval rating that has declined since early this year.
“Coloradans seem generally optimistic about the future and confidant in the state’s economy,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, told the North Denver News. “But, that is certainly not enough to open the way for a smooth ride to reelection for Gov. John Hickenlooper.”
A new study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a related field hearing in Nashville have put payday lending in the national spotlight, demonstrating most loans are made to borrowers who pay more in fees than they originally received in credit. As the federal regulator develops guidelines for this market, our experience in Colorado shows how the CFPB can address the problems with payday loans nationwide.
In 1992, Colorado became an early adopter of the payday loan, a new type of small loan sold as a quick fix for emergencies or unexpected expenses. While payday loans are marketed as two-week products due in full on the borrower’s next payday, the reality is most borrowers end up struggling for months to repay them. Research shows a majority of borrowers are already behind on bills, and most use the loans to cover regular expenses such as rent, credit card payments, and utilities. The lump-sum payment on the loan means that people cannot afford to repay and still meet basic expenses like rent, so three-quarters of loans are taken out soon after a previous one is paid off.
Policymakers in Colorado eventually acknowledged that the lump-sum payday loan was a failure, but they also wanted to maintain access to safer credit. So in 2010, they replaced the two-week payday loan with a six-month instalment loan. In addition to requiring more time to repay in affordable installments, the law ensures that costs are spread evenly over the life of the loan, protects borrowers’ checking accounts, and guards against excessive costs. Colorado’s new law is better for borrowers and viable for lenders, as described in a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Almost four years after the law took effect, access to payday credit remains widely available. Lenders still do not compete on price, but we lowered the maximum interest rate to half what it was before. Whereas the loans previously took up 38 per cent of an average borrower’s paycheque, now they take up 4 per cent. Borrowers are spending $42 million less each year, and bounced-cheque fees from lenders are down by more than half.
Scams and theft of personal information online are a danger for our residents and have led to numerous complaints here and in states with and without payday loan stores. Online lenders spend millions to lure new business, and some now offer instalment loans that are anything but consumer friendly. Lacking Colorado-type protections, they have payments that exceed borrowers’ ability to repay, carry new origination fees when loans are flipped, and lack safeguards to protect checking accounts from fraud and abuse.
States need more help combating abusive and illegal online lending, and everyone will benefit when the CFPB sets comprehensive, firm rules for payday and small installment loans alike. With clear guidelines in place, lenders and banks will compete to develop better ways to serve people in need, profitably. And any lender that violates the rules will face swift enforcement actions.
To make it happen, the CFPB should look to Colorado’s example and implement the changes needed to restore sanity to the small-loan market. Millions of people in our communities need relief from loans. In Colorado, we set strong, clear rules that have made payday loans far safer. The CFPB can and should do the same.
Since 2011, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has traveled the country advising about clean energy policy as director of Colorado State University’sCenter for the New Energy Economy.
Ritter regularly meets with policy makers, governors, planners and other decision makers. In the coming months he’s expecting to do a lot of work around new Clean Air Act proposed rules that will be released in June by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Section 111(d) will be hotly debated and deals with existing carbon emissions released by power plants.
“It would give each state a number that says ‘This is the amount of emissions you can emit by such-and-such a date.’” Ritter said. “States that have a lot of coal could well have to transition out of coal to things like more solar, more wind, more natural gas. I suspect that the rule is going to be viewed with some controversy when it’s announced.”
Briefly entering the spotlight in Dec. 2012, Ritter was on President Obama’s shortlist for U.S. Energy Secretary. While he didn’t make the final cut, Ritter did help the White House sketch out energy priorities that could be accomplished with executive powers.
The end product was the 207-page Powering Forward report compiling recommendations on five priorities like doubling energy productivity and alternative fuels. Included is a suggestion giving states latitude for rulemaking on natural gas.
“State legislators and governors are doing a variety of important things to establish the best practices in regulation,” he said. “I personally believe that strong regulations, a willingness to comply on industry — and where there’s not willingness then strong enforcement — is absolutely essential to getting this social license to operate for industry.”
Gaining the public trust in Colorado seems to be a rocky road.
In February, industry officials had hoped that new methane emission ruleswould provide more of a ‘license to operate.’ Instead the industry faces a potential statewide ballot limiting hydraulic fracturing, indicating a weary public. Five communities along the Front Range have already placed restrictions on fracking.
Ritter thinks one mistake for oil and gas operators was not disclosing the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids earlier. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conversation Commission approved comprehensive rules in 2011.
“I think the industry now wishes they hadn’t done that,” Ritter said. “Because that lack of transparency about what they were putting in the ground created a sense on the part of the public that there was something wrong here. That there was a reason not to trust.”
The group of citizens that advises the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors about the FasTracks transit expansion program is welcoming three new members this week, including a construction industry manager, a retired health care worker and a financial adviser for a local startup.
The new members of the FasTracks Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) are Darcy Wilson, president of Stan-Mar Inc., a construction company, who will represent RTD District B; Vivian Stovall, a retired Denver Health Medical Center employee, who will represent RTD District C; and Tyler Kealy, a client service and fund accountant for Public Trust Advisors, who will represent District A. The RTD board approved their appointments Dec. 17.
“We are excited to welcome our new members, who bring a depth of experience that will enrich the work we do,” said CAC Co-Chair David Lewis. “As we prepare for the exciting milestones that lie ahead in 2014, we’re confident they will provide us with unique perspectives that will help guide the success of all of the FasTracks projects.”
Karen Stuart, former mayor of the City and County of Broomfield, and Bob Rizzuto, co-owner and a broker associate with KW Commercial Real Estate, have been reappointed to the committee. Departing the CAC because of term limitations are Tom Burns, Tom Ashburn and Don Moore, who all served from 2006 through the end of this year.
All of the committee’s new members have had considerable community service experience in the Denver metro region and around Colorado.
Among other nonprofit organizations, Wilson has volunteered with the Denver Scholarship Foundation and served on Stapleton’s workforce redevelopment committee. She holds a master’s degree in computer information science from the University of Denver.
For her part, Stovall was a member of Gov. Bill Ritter’s Transportation Finance and Implementation Blue Ribbon Panel, which issued recommendations on how to address Colorado’s transportation needs. She is a member of the Denver Election Division Advisory Committee, the Denver Regional Council of Government (DRCOG) Aging Advisory Committee, the Denver Commission on Aging and the Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans. She is also a recent graduate of the Denver Transit Alliance Academy, a coalition of businesses, government agencies and membership groups that promotes transit.
Kealy graduated magna cum laude from the University of Denver in 2011, earning two bachelor’s degrees in finance from the Daniels College of Business. He was a budget analyst intern at RTD, where he helped overhaul the District’s annual budget report. Kealy is a self-described “transit-dependent young adult” who commutes regularly by bus and light rail.
‘progressive’ group hits old Ritter foe
“Both Ways Bob” Beauprez announced his campaign for governor of Colorado. For weeks, Beauprez has been lurking on the sidelines, trying to decide whether to enter the gubernatorial or U.S. Senate race.
Beauprez is right about one thing: the field of Republicans in the Colorado gubernatorial race are hopelessly unqualified. What Beauprez doesn’t understand, of course, is that he is no better. Bob Beauprez was a joke in 2006, and as he proved by launching his campaign for governor of Colorado from Washington, D.C., he’s a joke today.
Bob Beauprez’s last political campaign resulted in a devastating 17-point loss to Democrat Bill Ritter in the 2006 gubernatorial election, in which Beauprez was plagued by scandals over abortion, immigration, and his past record in Congress. Beauprez falsely claimed on the campaign trail that 70% of African-American pregnancies “end in abortion,” for which he was later forced to apologize. Misleading attack ads about illegal immigration led to a criminal investigation of Beauprez’s campaign for accessing restricted law enforcement databases. We at ProgressNow Colorado were heavily involved in the campaign to hold Beauprez accountable.
Since his last defeat, Beauprez has continued to embarrass himself. Just yesterday, a video of Beauprez surfaced actually claiming that President Obama is “pushing” the nation toward civil war. Is that insanity the kind of leadership Colorado needs?
Beauprez is a shining example of everything Republicans in Colorado have gotten wrong in recent years, and to see him run again is more evidence that conservatives have learned nothing from their defeats. Thanks for standing up to hold Beauprez accountable–as many times as it takes.