State’s Regulatory Addiction Prompts GOP Intervention

Denver -- Colorado ratepayers won a preliminary but significant victory against overreaching federal regulators Thursday, when a Senate committee approved a measure, SB-157, that halts all work on President Obama's "Clean Power Plan" by state agencies pending the lifting of a "stay" imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republicans are responding to mixed signals from Governor Hickenlooper on whether the state will continue complying with Obama's plan, which was shelved in February by the Supreme Court, citing the risk of "irreparable harm" states could suffer if they move forward before the legal challenge is settled. Republicans believe any further work on the plan puts taxpayers and ratepayers at risk.

SB-157, co-authored by Senators John Cooke (R-Greeley) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), would prohibit state agencies from using manpower or resources in support of the plan. It would also require an annual report to lawmakers on any state activities or expenditures related to the plan.

"This bill is about more than just preventing wasteful spending on implementation of President Obama's probably-doomed power plan," Cooke said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy. "It's also about respecting the rule of law, as laid-down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and about using this court-ordered pause to fully study what these overreaching rules could mean for Colorado's utility users and economy."

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) told senators the agency opposed the bill because it could interfere with other regulatory work. He said it was prudent for the state to keep planning, in case the plan survives in court and compliance is required. In response to questions, CDPHE"s witness could cite no specific statutory authority empowering the agency to move forward on implementation.

Republicans and other witnesses debunked such arguments, saying the bill is narrowly worded and compliance deadlines are most likely two or three years away, even if EPA wins.

"The Supreme Court stay was a reprieve for Coloradans, given how little is still known about the serious harm these rules could do the state’s economy and energy users," Sonnenberg said. "It's astounding that the governor, instead of using this pause to study future impacts and reevaluate his support for the plan, would be using precious state resources on implementation, at a time when he and other Democrats are complaining about a supposed budget crisis. Republicans felt this intervention was necessary, given the other side's obvious regulation addiction."

SB-157 passed the committee on a party-line vote, as Democrats sided with regulators over ratepayers. It now moves to the full Senate for debate.

Please contact Sean Paige at 719-337-0355 with media inquiries.

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