The House narrowly passed a bill Friday to empower Gov. John Hickenlooper to appoint a “climate change” czar – an unfunded position that could be under the Colorado Energy Office – to study and promote policy to counter global warming.
The bill passed on a 33 to 30 vote with three Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.
“It’s a little bit unnecessary and a little bit arrogant for Colorado to have a climate control czar,” said Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), who argued the state cannot control global climate changes.
The bill was scheduled for the third and final reading in the House on Thursday, but was rescheduled to Friday because of the onslaught of measures coming down the pike and amendments proposed by Republicans.
The House is so behind schedule that Speaker Mark Ferrandino declared that representatives will continue to meet Saturday and defined the dress code as “casual” attire — jeans without holes and blazers.
According to Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver), House Bill 1293 was crafted with the assistance and approval of the governor’s office and would create the position in the executive branch.
“The state needs to focus more on how we can prepare for a future where climate change will affect water sustainability, distressed forests beset by more voracious and hungry bark beetles, causes ski areas to struggle with snow pack in higher elevations and shorter seasons, earlier (snow) runoff and more thirsty farmers and cities,” said Rosenthal.
The specific duties of the climate change czar would be to “address climate change and reduce its greenhouse gas emission,” assess climate change preparedness studies and propose policies to reduce factors, such as carbon dioxide emissions, in Colorado.
HB 1293 claims the position is necessary “for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”
Rosenthal asserted that the average temperature in Colorado has increased by 2 degrees over the past 30 years, and that carbon dioxide emissions have caused a warming trend in the United States.
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) countered that carbon dioxides have dropped 10 percent in Colorado since 2000, and significantly more since 1994. The average temperature, he said, has risen by 2 degrees over the past 30 years, and asked that the correlation by explained by the bill’s sponsor.
“I think everybody can agree that climate change is happening…Look outside right now,” said Sonnenberg of snow falling on Thursday evening during the bill’s second reading. “I can stand some global warming quite frankly.”
Rankin said the bill won’t combat climate change, but it will result in more green energy policies that will drive jobs out of Colorado because it will result in higher utility bills that make it too expensive to manufacture products the state.
The bill, if enacted, would not achieve its purpose to control carbon footprints and protect the atmosphere, he argued, because those lost jobs in Colorado will go to China which uses cheaper, coal-fired energy.
“To me, this is just nonsense,” said Rankin, who said the bill will be successful in forcing manufacturing jobs out of Colorado but won’t control global warming or climate control.
Poking fun at the bill, Republicans proposed a series of amendments from requiring the state’s climate change czar to have a doctorate degree in climatology or weather forecasting to requiring that the czar has no current or past ties to green energy profit and nonprofit entities.
Rep. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson) offered an amendment Thursday to require the climate change czar to develop policies to “initiate a new Ice Age” that would result in year-round snow skiing in Colorado, snowmobiling, ice fishing and foster a polar bear habitat.
“The hunting industry is no longer welcome here in Colorado,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) of the potential to hunt polar bears. Priola withdrew his amendment.
Because there is no fiscal note, the bill assumes position will be filled by an existing employee who needs more work to perform or a vacated position.
That drew criticism from Republican legislators who questioned the efficiency of the governor’s office and executive branch if taxpayers’ money is paying the salary and benefits of a worker who is under utilized.
Rep. Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs) questioned why a position would be created to assess “climate change matters.”
“Climate changes all the time,” said Joshi of waking up to cold mornings, warming in the afternoon and cooling in the evening as well as days of sun, rain or snow.
“Why do we need to create a position to track climate change?” asked Joshi. “We already have the Weather Channel.”