Energy and Environment
It's time to think about the future. Our national security and our economy depend on it. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing the effects of climate change have been priorities of mine since I first entered Congress, and now I'm working in the Senate to see that these important values are reflected in public policy. We need an all-of-the-above strategy that includes all energy sources, with a special emphasis on those that are clean and domestic. That means everything from renewable energy and energy efficiency to natural gas and safe nuclear power. This approach will help diversify the sources on which we depend, stabilize prices, create new jobs, and make our country more secure.
Two of my key energy priorities remain renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is about much more than being good stewards of our natural resources; it's about protecting our nation's security and strengthening our economy. Renewable energy production and energy efficient technologies hold huge economic potential for Colorado. Between the wind on the Eastern Plains, the sun in the San Luis Valley, and the great minds at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden – as well as throughout our great colleges and universities – Colorado can lead the world in clean energy production.
While I believe renewable energy will be integral to achieving these goals in the future, in the near term we also must focus on taking full advantage of our domestic energy resources. For example, responsible natural gas development is poised to play a key role. Natural gas has been an economic boon for Colorado, creating good-paying jobs in our state, while reducing harmful air pollution since it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels. I also am proud that Colorado continues to be a national leader in stakeholder-developed regulations for hydraulic fracturing, which will help ensure that we protect public health and groundwater. Many power plants in Colorado have transitioned to using natural gas, but there is even greater potential for natural gas in the transportation sector, particularly for heavy-duty vehicles. Making this transition will have the added benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving our national security. Natural gas has a bright future, as do new technologies to reduce carbon pollution. I believe that we can continue to explore other, traditional sources of energy, such as the safe expansion of nuclear power and coal power with carbon capture and storage technology. All of these sources will be essential in order to achieve greater energy security.
Comprehensive Energy Reform Legislation
I have long fought for comprehensive energy legislation that will put our country on a path toward energy independence, stronger national security, economic growth, and cleaner air and water. As a member of the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, I have the opportunity to work on these complex issues every day. My work remains dedicated to moving America toward a balanced energy policy that will improve our economy, environment and national security.
Since coming to the Senate, I have worked closely with senators on both sides of the aisle to develop and pass a bipartisan energy bill through Congress. The Senate ENR Committee produced a wide-ranging, bipartisan bill – the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 – that included strong incentives for renewable energy as well as energy efficiency and nuclear power. The bill would have helped train workers so they can qualify for good-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry; advanced smart grid technology, so we can deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers using cheaper, cleaner digital technology; and improved energy efficiency in homes and businesses. I remain frustrated that Congress has been paralyzed since 2009 by the rigid ideology of a few legislators and that we have not managed to get comprehensive energy reform done. That said, I will continue to work with all my colleagues to find solutions that advance our economy, environment and national security.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Colorado is home to some of the top minds researching and developing new ways to produce clean energy, thanks in part to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden. NREL is one of Colorado's crown jewels, and I have fought for years to ensure that the lab has the funding and staff needed to carry out its important mission to develop viable clean energy solutions. As your senator, and as co-chair of the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus, I remain committed to these programs.
Colorado also is a manufacturing base for new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The wind industry is a perfect example of this: Thousands of Coloradans are employed in this growing industry, not only building wind farms in the state but also manufacturing turbines for farms across the country. However, Congress has created a great deal of uncertainty for the industry because of the inconsistency involved in extending a critical tax credit for wind, the production tax credit (PTC). The wind PTC has spurred tens of billions of dollars in investment nationwide and has helped plant the seeds of a cleaner energy future. Over the past decade, Congress has allowed the PTC to expire or be extended at the last minute several times, most recently at the end of 2012. I led the fight on this extension, speaking on the Senate floor almost 30 times over the six months leading up to the scheduled Dec. 31, 2012, expiration. Thanks to the thousands of Coloradans and Americans who lent me their support and stories about what wind energy means to their families, businesses and communities, we were able to come together to convince Congress to extend the PTC on New Year's Day 2013. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that wind energy will continue to be an essential, thriving part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy.
Renewable Electricity Standard
One of my top priorities for climate and energy legislation is the inclusion of a strong federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) – like the standard we have in Colorado – which requires a percentage of electricity we use to be produced from renewable energy sources. A national standard will help us reduce our addiction to foreign oil, while increasing the demand for renewable energy, boosting the economy and creating new, good-paying jobs. Colorado and more than 20 other states already have such a standard because they know it's a key tool in the effort to diversify our domestic energy sources, create jobs and control pollution. I was proud to play an instrumental role in helping to implement Colorado's RES. In 2004, I led - with former Republican state House Speaker Lola Spradley - a bipartisan campaign for Amendment 37, the ballot initiative to create the RES. The standard has proved so successful that the Colorado legislature increased it to 30 percent by 2020.
While in the U.S. House of Representatives, I worked with my colleagues to pass a federal RES similar to Colorado's, which would have required 15 percent of our nation's electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources by 2020. The measure was included as a part of the 2007 energy bill—the first time an RES had ever passed the House, and it was a great victory. Unfortunately, the RES amendment was removed from the bill during debate in the Senate.
I'm still dedicated to passing a national RES, and I'm continuing to help lead this fight in the U.S. Senate. In January 2013, I joined with Sen. Tom Udall to introduce a bill to require a federal 25 percent RES by 2025. I will continue to fight for the inclusion of a strong national RES in energy legislation when it is debated in the Senate.
Clean Air and Water
Coloradans know that a clean, healthy environment goes hand-in-hand with a strong economy. We need clean water to fish in, swim in, supply to our towns and irrigate our crops. We need clean air to breathe, keep us healthy and productive, and attract tourists to our mountain vistas and open plains. Without these fundamental ingredients, Colorado’s economic engines won’t hum as loudly and our quality of life won’t be as high.
Fortunately, the history of environmental protection in America shows that we can be good stewards of the environment and grow the economy at the same time. The U.S. economy has grown by leaps and bounds since the landmark environmental statutes of the early 1970s, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Despite being in a headwaters state, Coloradans know we all live downstream from someone, and we need appropriate rules in place to protect us from bad actors. Congress must remain vigilant, however, that federal rules work in conjunction with on-the-ground realities and preserve our Western heritage.
Though environmental pollution isn’t as obvious now as it was in the 1970s, we still have work to do. I am confident that we can continue to reduce pollution from toxic substances, greenhouse gases, and harmful wastes in a way that creates jobs and strengthens our national security. In particular, climate change is one environmental challenge that our society must address with swift, but responsible, action. Climate change poses significant threats not only to our environment and way of life, but to our national security and economy as well. We can meet this challenge, but it will take us working together in our communities, states, country and around the world to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, adopt a comprehensive energy policy, develop cleaner-running vehicles, and put a price on carbon to ease our impact on the planet.
While the threat of global climate change is serious, I also believe that it presents opportunities. As we work to find new ways to interact with our surroundings, we will increase the demand for new products and technologies and create new jobs in cutting-edge, in-demand fields. Our response to climate change must strengthen our economy and our country. That’s the only way it will work.
We didn’t inherit this planet from our parents. Rather, we are borrowing it from our children, and we must leave it in better shape for future generations. I will continue to strive for common-sense solutions that result in a healthier environment, a stronger economy, and a more secure world.
I re-introduced the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act in order to organize and better facilitate efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our schools. There are currently several programs that help schools become more energy efficient, however these programs are littered throughout our government and have varying requirements that make it challenging for schools to take full advantage of them. My bill will provide a coordinated structure so schools can more easily navigate the existing federal programs and financing options. It will cut through red tape, while still leaving it up to the states, school boards and local officials to determine what is best for their school.
I secured a major victory for Colorado and the West when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined me in unveiling a new policy that unleashes the power of private groups and individuals, so-called Good Samaritans, to help clean up abandoned mines and protect our precious water. In addition to the physical hazards of dilapidated structures and open mine shafts at abandoned mines, the toxic soup of heavy metals, like arsenic, lead and mercury, coming from some of these sites flows into our watersheds, impairing drinking water and killing aquatic and plant life for miles downstream. This new policy, which EPA developed at my urging, gives Good Samaritans additional assurances they need to help us clean up these mine sites and protect our precious waterways from toxic mine runoff.
Extending the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, which expires at the end of 2012, has been one of my top priorities this year. The PTC supports thousands of good-paying middle class jobs in Colorado and across the country, while also improving our environment and energy security. But continued uncertainty over the PTC's future has caused a major downturn in the wind energy industry, forcing manufacturers to lay off thousands of workers across the country with more to come if Congress does not extend the PTC as soon as possible. Since last year, I have been a leader in the Senate urging my colleagues to take action. Since June, I have addressed the Senate 19 separate times to urge Congress to extend the PTC, and I won't stop until we get the job done. I was pleased that in early August the Senate's Finance Committee reported a tax bill to extend the PTC on a widely bipartisan vote. Now the full Senate and House must act on this critical issue.
Coloradans know that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand in hand. That is why I have fought for strong environmental protections to help preserve public health and Colorado’s natural resources that work in concert with on the ground economic realities. For example, on December 16, 2011, I and the rest of the Colorado delegation sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to promptly consider Colorado’s regional haze state implementation plan (SIP). The Colorado SIP will help combat regional haze pollution, protect air quality and preserve visibility in 12 of Colorado’s most pristine areas, such as our wilderness areas and national parks. It is one of the most aggressive SIPs in the nation and was developed with broad support among Colorado stakeholders. EPA issued its final approval of the Colorado SIP on September 10, 2012, meaning it will be implemented through 2018.
I led a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus expressing strong support for the Navy’s efforts to develop and employ alternative energy technologies. A total of 18 Senators, including myself, signed the letter. The letter states that research and development of new technologies has long been critical to maintaining America’s strategic advantage. We strongly believe that new energy development will save lives and money while creating new jobs and reducing American dependence on foreign oil.