Looking back on 2012
Click here to receive these regular updates via email.
Dear Fellow Coloradan,
At the start of last year, I wrote to Coloradans asking you for your top priorities for 2012. Thousands of you wrote back to tell me what matters most to you, your families and your businesses. I am pleased to say that, from reforming the way Washington works to improving our energy strategy, 2012 was a great year for making your ideas to create jobs, boost our economy and preserve our quality of life a reality.
As I look forward to the potential of the 2013 session of Congress, it is important to reflect on these victories - your victories - for Colorado:
I led the successful fight to extend the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) before it expired at the end of 2012. Six months ago, I pledged to deliver a speech on the Senate floor nearly every day we were in session about the benefits of supporting wind energy for our energy security, national security and economic security. It took 27 speeches and over 9,100 petition signers, but we did it. Let's continue the fight to make Colorado and the United States leaders in producing Made-in-America energy.
Colorado experienced one of the most destructive fire seasons on record in 2012 — with fires burning in the state as late as early December. That’s why I fought for a bill to allow the U.S. Forest Service to procure at least seven large air tankers for emergency wildfire suppression. And the effects of a fire outlive the last burning embers, which is why I worked to allow the FEMA Administrator to make it easier for Coloradans to get the flood insurance they need without the standard 30-day waiting period. I also successfully convinced my Senate colleagues to double the annual funding for bark beetle mitigation, which will go a long way toward helping reduce the fuel that feeds these fires. This is well-spent money that will save future emergency spending. Finally, Coloradans know that the best way to prepare for future fires is to study our responses to past blazes. That is why I led an after-action review following the Waldo Canyon Fire and asked the U.S. Forest Service to study the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.
Our military is on the cutting edge technologically, but much of our fighting capability relies on foreign fossil fuels and decades-old power systems -- both of which have very real human and economic costs. I have been a vocal advocate for an all-of-the-above national energy portfolio, and a huge part of that is being the leading proponent of allowing the Defense Department to develop and use alternative fuels. As the Congress debated the National Defense Authorization Act, I was able to convince my colleagues to remove harmful provisions from the bill that would have prevented the DOD from using alternative fuels. I believe energy security is national security, and we should support our military leaders as they work to bring down costs and improve mission capabilities.
I fought this year to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act to force the federal government to provide more information about the number of Americans' calls and emails collected without a judge's approval, as well as to close the current loophole that could permit unchecked searches of Americans’ communications. A smart but tough approach to our national security does not require the government to snoop around in Americans' emails and phone calls without a warrant. Although I did not succeed, I plan to continue to be a strong advocate for balancing national security and our constitutional liberties.
Water is the lifeblood of the West. That is why I have been working for more than a decade to give Good Samaritans the tools they need to clean up abandoned hardrock mines, whose runoff can poison our streams and rivers, threatening the health of our families. In December, my efforts paid off when the EPA announced a new policy to protect Good Samaritans, like Trout Unlimited, the Animas River Stakeholders Group, and the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee, from lawsuits under the Clean Water Act. This protection is crucial as these organizations help clean up the more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites in Colorado and tens of thousands more across the West.
I was proud to announce that my efforts, in concert with Colorado’s elected leaders, paid off when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to open a new field office in Denver. The move will help make Denver a Western hub for entrepreneurship, attracting start-up companies that produce high-quality innovation and bring thousands of new jobs to Colorado.
As the chairman for the National Parks Subcommittee, I worked with the National Park Service to streamline the process to make mountain biking possible in our national parks without compromising the values that make our parks the envy of the world. This move could help Coloradans further enjoy our parks and create new opportunities for Colorado's thriving outdoor recreation economy. The new plan gives park superintendents increased flexibility to create bicycle trails in national parks and allow bicycles on roads that are inaccessible to motorized vehicles, such as fire roads and roads dedicated for park maintenance vehicles.
For Coloradans and businesses on the Western Slope and in the Four Corners region, it can be a heavy burden to drive to the Front Range to hire an attorney or to simply have access to a federal court. That’s why I was proud to announce in September that my efforts to keep the endangered U.S. federal courthouses in Grand Junction and Durango open will ensure that all Coloradans have equal access to our judicial system.
When thieves see Coloradans walking around, talking on their smartphones, they see easy-to-steal targets worth hundreds of dollars. In an effort to fight cell phone thefts, I successfully called on the Federal Communications Commission to prevent cell phone service carriers from reactivating smartphones that have been reported stolen. This central database, announced in April 2012, will turn these stolen cell phones into "worthless bricks" and help protect Coloradans from sometimes-violent cell phone thefts.
Thank you again, Colorado, for your support. Every day I go to work in Congress and across our great state, I have your priorities in mind. Please share with me your priorities for this new Congress by contacting one of my seven offices in Colorado and one in Washington, D.C., or through Facebook or Twitter.