Energy Office Renovation Clears First Hurdle

DENVER — A measure that reauthorizes and reinvents Colorado’s underutilized and adrift Energy Office, by broadening its mission to focus on the full array of energy options available to this resource-blessed state, passed the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee Wednesday on a 6-5 party-line vote.

Senator Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), who partnered on the bill with Representative Jon Becker (R-District 65), believes the office's original focus, on promoting “renewables” like wind and solar, no longer is needed given the wider acceptance these technologies now enjoy. Scott, who also chairs the Senate Select Committee and Energy and Environment, doesn’t believe the office should be playing favorites, by picking market “winners” and “losers,” but working in an even-handed way to keep all options on the table moving forward, which will benefit energy consumers and keep the state’s economy strong.

“The new and improved Colorado Energy Office, under the provisions of this bill, will be more focused on what’s attainable and achievable in Colorado, to meet our shared energy needs, whether that’s renewables, hydropower, nuclear, natural gas, clean coal or something not even on our radar screen right now,” Scott said. “Colorado energy consumers will benefit and the state’s economy will remain strong if we keep all our energy options open, stop putting too much faith in energy fads, and focus on what works.”

In addition to redefining the office's mission, Senate Bill 301 eliminates programs and responsibilities that are obsolete, redundant or were languishing due to a lack of interest or funding. It kick-starts the process of addressing funding issues related to abandoned oil and gas wells and facilities, and increases registration fees for electric vehicles, ensuring that those who choose such vehicles are paying their fair share for upkeep of the roads from which they continue to benefit.

It also ends a prohibition on investor-owned utilities owning natural gas reserves, which drives-up costs to consumers and benefits out of state energy producers to the detriment of Colorado producers. An amendment to the bill offered by Senator John Cooke (R-Greeley) requires that company shareholders shoulder any costs related to the development of such reserves, rather than consumers.

SB-301 next moves to the Senate Finance Committee for debate.

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