Colorado Emissions Rulemaking May Be Delayed, Officials Discuss Phasing Out Natural Gas Appliances

Colorado Emissions Rulemaking
New rules to curb oil and gas emissions across Colorado.

Colorado’s regulatory authorities face challenges in meeting the mandated timeline for rulemaking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, raising concerns about achieving the targeted cuts.

During a subcommittee meeting of Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission, officials discussed proposed rulemaking but have not yet determined a clear path forward. This delay has led to a lawsuit by a regional environmental group.

While concrete plans for emissions reduction are still under development, discussions about phasing out natural gas hook-ups in buildings and new construction are ongoing.

Colorado witnessed significant legislative activity in 2019, passing several bills related to climate change and reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the complex rulemaking processes mandated by multiple pieces of legislation spanning various state agencies have led to extended timelines.

WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, filed a lawsuit against Governor Jared Polis’ administration for not issuing draft rules by the July 1 deadline set by Senate Bill 96, passed during the 2019 legislative session.

A companion bill, House Bill 1261, also passed in 2019, established ambitious goals to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050.

A year after the legislation’s passage, the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) has not met its initial timeline for determining which rulemaking should move forward. The subcommittee meeting, primarily focused on emissions from the transportation sector and building efficiencies, indicated a delay in progressing with the proposed rules.

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In the context of building efficiencies, the AQCC received a brief presentation from a representative of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

The presentation outlined how other cities have implemented bans on natural gas hook-ups and emphasized that electrification would play a crucial role in reducing emissions in cities.

“A couple things to know about electrification, one, beyond that it’s needed, a lot of it is needed and these new technologies like heat pumps to keep us warm without fossil fuels do need to ramp up quite substantially,” Mike Henchen of RMI told the subcommittee. “Metro gas is the dominant heating source in homes and commercial buildings in Colorado today so we would envision a pretty dramatic shift from one fuel source to another.”

As previously reported by Western Wire, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is a key proponent of local initiatives aiming to phase out natural gas usage in buildings and residences. RMI published a report in May that outlined the negative impacts of using gas appliances. This report followed a closed-door strategy session with state officials, focusing on strategies to avoid additional ‘lock-in’ investments in natural gas infrastructure.

The discussion highlighted local bans in California, specifically mentioning cities like Berkeley that have amended building codes to largely prohibit the use of natural gas.

“More recently we’ve seen a trend, I would say it’s most prominently in California starting with city governments but being considered in the state level as well of standards and restrictions on the use of gas as a fuel in buildings,” Henchen said. “And so, there’s sort of a spectrum of what these policies look like, often through the building codes, that limit or disincentivize gas connections at all in new construction.”

During the meeting, there was a general consensus that the rulemaking would need to progress in tandem or coordination with the state legislature. Will Toor, the Executive Director of the Colorado Energy Office, indicated that the Polis Administration would probably support legislation related to electrification in the upcoming legislative session.

“There are no decisions that have been made yet out of the administration about our 2021 legislative agenda. But I think we’re certainly very interested in a constellation of potential bills on the buildings front,” Toor said. “And the three that I described, a bill targeting building electrification… potentially a bill looking at marking and building performance standards, that I think would likely have a strong role for the Air Commission, and a bill looking at RNG or carbon intensity requirements for the natural gas distribution utilities, are all things that I think we’re very interested in.”

Toor further mentioned that the AQCC could play a significant role in areas such as building performance standards.

In a previous AQCC meeting in November, Toor announced that his office had engaged San Francisco-based Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) and the Center for the New Energy Economy, led by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) at Colorado State University.

These entities were enlisted to assist the state in developing its emissions reduction roadmap, with electrification being a major focus of their work.

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Nishan Dahal is a versatile writer and skilled editor with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. At Western Wire, Nishan leverages his expertise to craft compelling narratives and provide insightful analysis across a range of topics, from breaking news to entertainment updates. His commitment to journalistic excellence and accuracy makes him an invaluable member of the Western Wire team.

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