Former Gov. Bill Ritter often touted the “New Energy Economy,” but a House committee Wednesday passed a bill recasting the mission of a state agency Ritter used to promote renewable energy — even airbrushing his catch phrase from the law.

House Bill 1315, sponsored by Rep. John Becker, R-Fort Morgan, but backed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, would change the mission — and the name — of the Governor’s Energy Office. The agency, first created as the Office of Energy Management and Conservation in 1977, was reborn as the Governor’s Energy Office under Ritter, a Democrat, in 2007 as the administration’s spearpoint for promoting the “New Energy Economy.”
Under Ritter, the office focused heavily on renewable energy sources, primarily wind and solar, but also concentrated on weatherization. Ritter touted successes like expansions of wind turbine factories and solar panel manufacturing, though Republicans often complained the agency ignored the state’s substantial oil and gas industry.

Becker said that under the bill, the agency would be renamed the Colorado Energy Office and would be “a balanced energy office for the state of Colorado.”
“Colorado is a true hub for all sources of energy,” Becker said.

The bill specifically changes the agency’s mission from promoting renewable energy sources and energy conservation to encouraging all sources of energy development. The bill specifically scrubs the term “New Energy Economy” from the law governing the agency, replacing it with language that says the state will promote energy solutions “that include traditional, clean and renewable energy sources in order to encourage a balanced energy portfolio.”
A similar reorganization of the energy office backed by Hickenlooper failed last year.

Ritter, who now heads the recently created Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, declined comment on the bill.
The legislation also creates two separate pots of money in the office — one from severance tax on oil and gas production and for use to promote traditional energy sources, and the other from the state’s general fund and for promotion of renewable sources.

Environmental groups had concerns about the fact that funding for renewable energy promotion would now be subject to an annual appropriation by the legislature rather than having a stable funding source. But supporters said severance tax money shouldn’t subsidize renewable energy.
Rep. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, didn’t like the bill.

“I’m really concerned that we’re backing off of the thing that’s made this office successful,” Jones said, arguing the state would be “diminishing our brand” as a leader in the renewable energy industry.

Still, the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill on a 11-2 vote, with Jones and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, voting against. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, now goes to the House Appropriations Committee before it can proceed to the full House.

Tim Hoover: 303-954-1626 or [email protected]

If comments are closed.

Comments are closed.