You want to get something done? Ask a busy mother. Two of Colorado’s top women officeholders – Speaker of the House Kathleen Collins (KC) Becker and Senator Faith Winter—are tackling nothing less than the biggest problem humanity faces. They are making climate legislation a top Colorado priority. Working with a governor who made cutting climate pollution a key part of his campaign—and with the women who now make up 45 percent of the entire state legislature, the highest percentage of any legislature in the country—Becker, Winter and their colleagues are beginning to rack up impressive wins, against huge odds
Just this week, with the leadership of Speaker Becker, 49—a mother of two kids aged 7 and 11— Colorado delivered a bill that includes major reforms for oil and gas regulation. The bill adopts landmark reforms to strengthen oversight of oil and gas operations, which would make Colorado’s air cleaner across the state.
The climate action plan legislation Becker has co-sponsored with Rep. Dominique Jackson, Sen. Angela Williams and Sen. Faith Winter, will put the IPCC climate goals into statutes and direct the state’s air quality control commission to implement them.
“Nationally, nothing is happening” Becker says, when it comes to reducing harmful emissions, “so it’s our responsibility to work at the state level” to make change.
Coloradans are now facing increasingly severe impacts of climate & extreme weather events on steroids – wildfires, flooding, drought, threats to agriculture/working lands, adverse impacts on biodiversity in the national and state parks that are the crown jewels of Colorado, smog pollution, death, and disease. The lives of Colorado citizens are being forever disrupted by climate change catastrophes.
“There’s a huge recognition that (climate change) is real, that it affects Colorado particularly because of its geography, that there’s a real cost to not acting on climate,” said Rep. Becker. That’s an enormous challenge. Colorado accounts for almost 4% of U.S. total crude oil production. Its petroleum refinery processes about 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day into gasoline, diesel fuel, and asphalt. Colorado is also among the top five natural gas-producing states. Eleven of the nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields are located entirely, or partially, in Colorado.
Rep. Becker says this climate legislation “Helps all families– including those who work in these industries.” It makes a difference when she and her pro-health colleagues have a chance to explain the climate consequences of releasing methane into the atmosphere, and the health impacts of burning coal and oil.
“Seeing the California wildfires and Alabama tornadoes has helped more people understand what’s really at risk,” notes Becker. “In Colorado, we’ve had protracted drought, which brings to the forefront what could happen here. In California, the fires started because a power line strung through the mountains sparked. We have lots of power lines here that go through forests that have died off because of pine beetle infestations. It’s a real hazard.”
Rep. Becker is proud of having been part of the effort fie years ago to secure what she calls “the best methane rule in the U.S,” one that became a model for the Obama Administration. “Most oil and gas companies fought it tooth and nail,” she remembers. But now, even the oil and gas companies acknowledge that the rule has made a difference for the better.
Her colleague, Senator Faith Winter, agrees. Sen. Winter was elected after serving seven years on the Westminster City Council, where she helped make Westminster the first platinum solar city in the state. She also served five years in the Colorado House of Representatives. Sen. Winter studied environmental management and biology at the University of Redlands in California.
But perhaps even more relevant is the experience she gained being the National Program Director for EnviroCitizen, National Field Director for the White House Project, executive director for Emerge Colorado, and program director for Colorado Conservation Voters. Her two children, 9-year-old Tobin and 7-year-old Sienna, and her husband Mark support her work.
As the Chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee, Sen. Winter is up for the challenge. She’s motivated by the legislation that addresses a lot of “small things that add up to something big” in combating climate change.
As for the opposition from the industry, she notes, “Every time we’ve changed the laws, the industry claims they’ll shut down, but they have more employees now than ever. As we transition our economy, we need to set policies that help create jobs and retrain people and help rural communities.” She also notes that having so many women legislators in the statehouse increases their chance of success. “They get it!”