Date: October 18, 2022
To: Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246
Submitted via email: email@example.com
Re: Correcting Course on Colorado’s Climate Pollution Reduction Goals
Nearly two years ago, the Commission adopted a “Resolution to Ensure Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals Are Met,” committing to 1) assess in September 2022 whether Colorado is on track to achieve its mandatory near-term emission reduction targets of at least 26% by 2025 and at least 50% by 2030 (below 2005 levels); and 2) if the state is off track to achieve these targets, to take necessary action to get the state on track.1
The Commission and other state agencies have taken important steps in adopting regulations and policies to reduce emissions across sectors, such as those covering electricity generation, oil and gas methane, transportation planning, cement and steel plants, and zero emission vehicles sales requirements. However, the Division’s report demonstrates that these policies are not reducing emissions quickly enough to meet Colorado’s targets – leaving the state short of its mandated reductions, and without a backstop regulation to ensure the required pollution cuts are achieved. As the Commission continues its critical work, it must develop strategies that ensure total pollution levels decline in line with Colorado’s goals.
Last month, the Division’s report identified a glaring gap between the state’s projected emission reductions and its 2025 goal: statewide emissions are projected to be at least 11.4 million metric tons higher than state law allows in 20252 – even under optimistic estimates of what current policies and regulations will deliver. If hoped-for reductions do not fully materialize, Colorado will miss its 2025 target by 14.4 MMT CO2e based on the Division’s analysis.3 This finding by the Division is supported by similar conclusions from analysis conducted by EDF and RMI. In addition to the gap in 2025, EDF and RMI analyses find the state will miss its 2030 target under current policies and regulations.4
Colorado is not reducing climate pollution at the pace necessary to hit interim targets mentioned above and reduce cumulative emissions consistent with IPCC emissions pathways to limit global warming to 1.5℃, as required by state statute. According to the state’s own data, in 2021 the electric power and transportation sectors each polluted 8 MMT CO2e higher than the state had projected in the GHG Inventory, for a total of at least 16 million tons of excess climate pollution in 2021 alone.5 While Colorado is making progress on electrification of transportation and cleaning up utility portfolios, the emissions data make clear that the state remains behind the pace of emissions reductions needed. With every year that Colorado fails to keep pace, the state emits excess greenhouse gasses that drive up the cumulative amount of climate-warming pollution in the air – a key metric that governs long-term climate damages. The state’s analysis is buttressed by EDF’s findings that at the current pace, Colorado is projected to pollute as much as 235 MMT CO2e in excess of science-based goals over the decade – equivalent to emissions from over 50 million cars driven for a year.6 In addition to worsening climate damages, these excess emissions prolong localized pollution from particulates, smog-forming contaminants, and air toxics that are emitted alongside greenhouse gasses.
All analyses performed both by the state and third-parties come to the same conclusion: policies currently in place and regulations on-the-books are failing to drive down climate pollution at the pace and scale required by Colorado law.
In light of the findings presented to the Commission at the September hearing, we support the Commission reconvening its GHG Strategy Subcommittee with the purpose of evaluating and developing additional regulatory strategies that ensure climate pollution declines as required by state law. Our organizations were active participants in the GHG Strategy Subcommittee in mid- 2020, and we recognize that several Commissioners served on that Subcommittee. Recognizing that Commissioners have limited time and significant additional responsibilities, we propose a number of strategies to make the reconvened Subcommittee as efficient and productive as possible. Based on experience with the prior Subcommittee and similar decision-making bodies in Colorado and other states, we respectfully offer the following specific recommendations for your consideration:
- We recommend the Commission convene the GHG Strategy Subcommittee to develop a regulatory strategy capable of closing Colorado’s 2025 and 2030 emissions gaps. The Subcommittee should consider proposals put forth by stakeholders and the Division, evaluating each for their ability to achieve the state’s climate targets, reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce harmful air pollution affecting disproportionately impacted communities as required by the statute.
- We recommend Commissioners structure the Subcommittee in a way to solicit policy recommendations and data from Colorado’s experts – including communities directly impacted by pollution and organizations representing industry, conservation, public health, and labor – and encourage discussion. To enable Commissioners to hear from diverse stakeholders with issue expertise, we encourage the Commission to solicit written comments on specific issues in advance of meetings and engage in direct dialogue with parties during Subcommittee meetings. We recommend
participation that is representative of interested and affected parties; for example, ongoing Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearings to develop new gas planning rules allow for hearing participation by one or two representatives from each major stakeholder group.
- With Colorado’s 2025 climate goal less than two and a half years away, the Commission has limited time to enact regulations to close the emissions gap. Therefore, we recommend the Subcommittee set internal deadlines to develop policy recommendations or findings. Specifically, between now and January 31, 2023, we recommend the Subcommittee focus on regulations that can cut emissions before 2025. That allows three months for the Subcommittee to develop strategies for addressing near-term emissions gaps. We believe this timeframe appropriately balances allowing for detailed consideration of various options and their impacts on different stakeholders, with needing to enact policies by the end of 2023 that can curb GHG emissions in time for the state to meet its goal by 2025. The Subcommittee should then provide recommendations for full consideration by the AQCC at the February meeting.
The Subcommittee should continue its work between January 31 and April 30, 2023, focused on achieving the 2030 emission reduction goal. The Subcommittee should provide recommended regulatory strategies to achieve the 2030 target for full consideration by the AQCC at the May meeting.
Failure to meet our climate targets will allow for high pollution levels to persist in disproportionately impacted communities and for higher levels of cumulative planet-warming gasses to build up in the atmosphere. In contrast, this Commission’s work to address greenhouse gasses can have the twin benefits of limiting the magnitude of climate damages and mitigating the impacts of conventional pollution.
We urge the Commission to follow through on its commitment to correct course on our emission reduction goals, and we look forward to working with you to achieve our collective goals.
Stacy Tellinghuisen, Western Resource Advocates
Laurie Anderson, Moms Clean Air Force Colorado Chapter
Alexis Schwartz, Sierra Club of Colorado
Morgan Brown, Defend Our Future
Alana Miller, Natural Resources Defense Council
Heidi Leathwood, 350 Colorado
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians
Leslie Glustrom, Clean Energy Action
Steve Whitaker, Empower Our Future
Eric Frankowski, Western Clean Energy Campaign
Beatriz Soto, Protegete
Jessica Goad, Conservation Colorado
Katie Schneer & Alex DeGolia, Environmental Defense Fund
1 Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, Resolution to Ensure Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals Are Met, adopted October 23, 2020.
3 The Division’s report includes potential reductions (2.4 MMT CO2e) from the oil and gas methane intensity standard; without a robust verification program that includes the direct measurement of emissions, there is no way to ensure this standard will result in actual reductions. Moreover, reductions assumed in 2025 from CDOT’s transportation planning standard (0.43 MMT CO2e) and from AQCC regulations on energy intensive, trade-exposed industries (0.12 MMT CO2e) are highly uncertain because neither policy actually constrains total pollution levels. (See EDF analysis) In total, 2.95 MMT CO2e of reductions assumed by the Division in 2025 are highly uncertain.
5 The Division reports that electricity sector emissions were 31.40 MMT CO2e in 2021, exceeding the GHG Inventory projection of 23.43 MMT CO2e for that year. In addition, the Division reports that transportation sector emissions were 33.11 MMT CO2e in 2021, exceeding the GHG Inventory projection of 24.99 MMT CO2e. The state’s 2021 emissions data for other sectors is incomplete or pending.
6 Estimated using EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.