Energy and Environment
Coloradans know that it's time to start planning for our energy future. Nothing less than our national security and economic success depend on it. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil and curbing the effects of climate change have long been priorities of mine, and I'm working in the Senate to create a plan to tackle these important goals. To do so, we will need an all-of-the-above strategy that includes all of our energy sources, with a special emphasis on those that are clean and domestic. That means focusing on everything from renewable energy and energy efficiency to natural gas and safe nuclear power. This approach will help diversify the sources of energy we depend on, which will stabilize prices, create new jobs and make our country more secure.
Two of my top priorities remain promoting the development of renewable energy and increasing 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 — and throughout our great colleges and universities — Colorado has it all. I believe that Colorado is a model for how the nation and the world on can create a balanced energy portfolio using our abundant sources of clean energy.
And as we emphasize development of renewable sources of energy to achieve our nation's energy goals, we must also take full advantage of our traditional energy resources, like responsible natural gas development. As a cleaner burning fuel, natural gas is part of the solution to reducing our nation's air pollution, and has helped to bring our country's carbon emissions down to levels we haven't seen since the early 1990s. But I also understand the concerns that many Coloradans have voiced to me about hydraulic fracturing. As Coloradans, we want our country to be energy independent, but we don't want to sacrifice our land, water and air — the cornerstones of what makes our state such a great place to raise a family, start a business and retire — in order to achieve it. That's why I will continue to push the industry to be more transparent and proactive in its safety measures, to do everything possible to be forthcoming with the public, and to ensure that every step in the drilling process — from drilling to casing to wastewater disposal — is done safely for the good of Colorado's families.
Natural gas has a bright future in helping us reduce carbon pollution, but so do other fuel sources. Thanks to new technologies, we can continue exploring other innovations to traditional sources of energy development, such as the safe expansion of nuclear power with small modular reactors and modern waste disposal techniques, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from coal power with carbon capture and storage technology. All of these sources will be essential in order to achieve greater energy security.
National Comprehensive Energy Reform Legislation
I have long fought for national comprehensive energy legislation that will put our country on a path toward energy independence, strengthen our national security, grow our economy and ensure we pass down clean air and water to future generations. As a member of the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I work on these complex issues every day and remain dedicated to moving America towards this goal.
Since coming to the Senate, I have worked closely with senators on both sides of the aisle to develop and pass bipartisan energy legislation. Several years ago, I worked with my colleagues to produce a wide-ranging, bipartisan bill — the American Clean Energy Leadership Act — that would provide strong incentives for the production of renewable energy and encourage game-changing innovations in energy efficiency and nuclear power. The bill would help prepare workers to qualify for good-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry while advancing smart grid technology, which would more efficiently deliver electricity from suppliers to consumers, improving energy efficiency in our homes and businesses. I remain frustrated that Congress seems paralyzed by the rigid ideology of a few members of Congress, preventing meaningful and comprehensive energy reform like this from being signed into law. But that doesn't mean I will stop fighting. I will continue to work with my colleagues in both parties to push for legislation that secures our energy future, promotes economic growth, and protects environmental health and our national security.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Colorado is home to some of the top minds that are researching and developing new ways to produce clean energy, thanks in part to the 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 support it needs 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 ensuring the success of these programs.
Colorado is also a manufacturing base for the technologies that support breakthroughs in energy efficiency as well as the development of our abundant sources of renewable energy. Thousands of Coloradans are employed by the wind energy industry to build wind farms across the state and to manufacture the turbines used by farms across the country. Unfortunately, Congress is creating a great deal of uncertainty for the industry because of its inconsistency in extending a critical tax credit for wind energy, the production tax credit (PTC). The wind PTC has been enormously successful, spurring tens of billions of dollars in investment nationwide, helping to spur the creation of thousands of good-paying Colorado jobs, and planting the seeds for a cleaner energy future. Yet several times over the past decade, Congress has waited until the last minute to extend the wind PTC, most recently at the end of 2012.
Because of the importance of the wind PTC to Colorado and to our shared energy future, I led the fight for its extension, speaking on the Senate floor almost 30 times over the six months leading up to its scheduled expiration. Thanks to the thousands of Coloradans who lent me their support and the stories they shared 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. Now more than ever before, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that wind energy will have the regulatory certainty it needs to 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 the electricity we use to be produced from renewable energy sources. A national standard will help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil while increasing the demand for domestically produced renewable energy, boosting the economy and creating new, good-paying jobs. More than 20 other states have joined Colorado in establishing their own RES because they know it's a key policy tool that can diversify our domestic energy portfolio, create jobs and control pollution. That's why I was proud to play a central role in developing and implementing 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 been so successful in Colorado that the state legislature voted to increase the amount of energy derived from renewable sources to 30 percent by 2020.
While serving 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. In a tremendous victory, that bill became the first RES to ever pass the House, though it fell short in the Senate.
I remain dedicated to leading the fight to pass a national RES. As part of this effort, I am working on legislation to require a federal 25 percent RES by 2025. I will also 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 and swim in, and to supply our towns and irrigate our crops. Our clean air keeps us healthy and attracts tourists from all over the world to Colorado to experience our mountain vistas and wide open plains. Without these fundamental ingredients, Colorado's economic engines would grind to a halt and our high quality of life would be in peril. Despite being a headwaters state, Coloradans know we all live downstream from someone, and that we need appropriate rules in place to protect us from bad actors. Congress must remain vigilant in ensuring that federal rules work in conjunction with on-the-ground realities in order to preserve our Western heritage.
Environmental protection does not have to come at the expense of economic growth. Since the landmark environmental statutes of the early 1970s, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, the U.S. economy has more than doubled in size. And even though environmental pollution isn't as obvious now as it was in the 1970s, we still have a lot of work to do. That's why we must continue to reduce pollution from toxic substances, greenhouse gases and harmful wastes in a way that creates jobs and strengthens our national security.
Global warming is one of the defining challenges of our time, and how we handle the issue will have profound implications for the planet we leave our children. This is clear in Colorado, where rising temperatures, reduced snowpack and ongoing drought have exacerbated recent wildfires that threaten entire communities and our critical water supplies. We can meet this challenge head on, but it will take us working together in our communities, states, and around the world to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, adopt a comprehensive energy policy, develop cleaner-running vehicles and put a common-sense price on carbon.
While the threat of global warming is serious, I also believe that it presents opportunities. As we work to find new ways to fuel our economy and interact with our changing environment, we will create good-paying American jobs in the innovative, high-tech industries of the new energy economy.
We didn't inherit this planet from our parents. Rather, I believe that we are borrowing it from our children, and that means that we must preserve it for future generations. That's why I will continue to strive for common-sense solutions that tackle the challenge of global warming and lead to a healthier environment, stronger economy and a more secure world.
The clean energy we produce right here in Colorado creates jobs, spurs innovation, combats global warming and makes us more energy independent. That’s why Colorado’s renewable electricity standard has been such a success, bringing thousands of clean energy jobs to our state and boosting our local economies. It’s time to extend this common-sense policy to the nation. My renewable energy standard bill would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025. A federal renewable energy standard would create hundreds of thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs across the country while also reducing energy bills for homeowners, revitalizing rural communities and strengthening our national security.
Wildfires threaten entire Colorado communities and our water supplies. We need to take decisive new steps to proactively reduce wildfire risks and improve forest health. That's why I introduced bipartisan legislation to put wildfires on equal footing with other natural disasters like hurricanes, flood and tornadoes. My plan would open up more resources for communities to prepare for or recover from wildfires through mitigation, water supply protection and post-wildfire flood control. As conditions worsen due to persistent drought, strengthening our fire mitigation efforts is a common-sense way to protect life and property while saving taxpayer dollars.
Solar energy is a critical part of Colorado's balanced approach to energy development. The Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act, based on ideas from my 2010 Colorado Energy Summit, will expand eligibility for the solar energy tax credit to all homeowners. The SUN Act would make the credit available for households that participate in solar farms or community solar gardens because their own homes are unsuitable for solar panels. This proposal would make our tax laws fairer and encourage all homeowners to contribute to our nation's pursuit of true energy independence.
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 introduced a bipartisan proposal to streamline the permit process for renewable energy projects on public lands and reinvest in local communities. We in Colorado are blessed with abundant wind, solar and geothermal resources that can help power our nation, create jobs and grow our economy. That's why we should develop these resources in a responsible, sustainable way. By directing a portion of the revenues from these renewable energy leases to state and local governments - as well as to conservation - this bipartisan plan will cut red tape, support our schools and rebuild infrastructure while conserving the land and water on which our rural economies depend.
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.
During the debate on the FY13 NDAA, the Senate adopted my amendment (#2985) to protect the DOD's ability to research and develop alternative fuels by vote of 62-37. Republicans and Democrats alike agreed with my view that we can no longer afford to send billions of dollars on foreign oil when we have the capability to produce drop-in alternative fuels right here at home. The Department of Defense spent over $15 billion in 2012 for fuel, and global oil prices continue to rise. My amendment allows DOD to continue to spend a very small percentage of their budget to develop technologies that will save billions of dollars and provide enormous strategic benefits in the near future. Energy security is national security, and military fuels research will help us move closer to a stronger, safer country.
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.