Sunday, December 30, 2007

Colorado Conservation Voters grade Ritter

Since 1997 the conservation community has issued a legislative scorecard that shows how lawmakers voted on the most important environmental issues of the year. In 2005, Colorado Conservation Voters began issuing a gubernatorial report card that looks at legislation, executive action, and overall leadership when it comes to protecting our environment. What we hope to achieve with these accountability reports is a fair assessment of how our
elected leaders do when it comes to protecting Colorado’s natural resources.
Our goal is to reward leadership taken, and to point out where more is needed.
It will come as a surprise to few that Governor Ritter received high marks from
the conservation community for his first year in office. In fact, the start of the
Ritter Administration marks a sea of change in how conservation issues are
addressed at the executive level in Colorado. Bill Ritter put the New Energy
Economy and wise stewardship of our natural resources front and center in his
campaign for governor. What was refreshing for those who have grown tired of
politicians making bold promises on the campaign trail but falling short when
it comes to governing, is that Gov. Ritter began delivering on these promises
within weeks of coming into office.
While Gov. Ritter starts his administration with a strong grade point average, he did not receive straight A’s this year. His recent comments on the Roan Plateau were an improvement from the plan developed by the Bureau of Land Management, but did not draw the clear line that conservationists, sportsmen, and local elected officials had hoped for regarding protection of this unique and treasured area.
And, while Gov. Ritter is off to a strong start, much work remains to be done.
Two challenges stand out as the most urgent. The first is global warming.
Nobel laureate scientists, many working here in Colorado, have declared that
“warming of the climate system is unequivocal” – fighting words for scientists.
Urgent action is needed at all levels of government, and Colorado should be at
the forefront of this effort. Gov. Ritter’s Climate Action Plan is a good start, but
much of the hard work remains to be done. The secondarea where urgent
action is needed is around the management of oil and gas development in
Colorado. Oil and gas drilling is already reshaping our landscape, and state
experts forecast that 150,000 wells will be drilled in Colorado over the coming three decades. Gov. Ritter has a critical role to play in our work for permanent protection of some truly unique areas. His administration will also set the direction for day-to-day decisions that will determine how we minimize the lasting impacts of drilling on our communities and wildlife.

New Energy Economy A+
Gov. Ritter is serious not only about his commitment to building the New Energy
Economy here at home, but also about the role Colorado can play in moving
our nation towards a more secure future. From small ranching communities on the
Western Slope, to the halls of Congress, Gov. Ritter has laid out his vision and
continues to make the case for economic prosperityand environmental stewardship
throughinvestment in a clean, renewable future. Gov. Ritter has also been
thoughtful about the team he has assembled, appointing several strong
cabinet members and policy advisors with a tremendous depth of knowledge
on clean energy policy.

As a candidate, Bill Ritter promised to create a New Energy Economy in
Colorado “through strong leadership, responsible investment and a clear
vision for the future.”
In his first year as governor, Bill Ritter swiftly delivered.
Gov. Ritter’s top 2007 legislative priority was a measure requiring that 20% of
Colorado’s electricity come from clean, renewable energy sources by 2020.
Governor Ritter’s success in bringing a diverse set of interests to the table, and
ultimately winning the support of long-time renewable opponents such as the
rural electric associations, was crucial to this landmark victory.
Gov. Ritter also stepped up where his predecessor had previously failed;
signing a proposal to widely expand energy efficiency programs for both
electricity and natural gas customers.
Experts estimate that this legislation will cut the growth in new demand
for electricity in half by 2020.
Gov. Ritter issued the Greening State Government Executive Order, ensuring
the state leads the way with strong efficiency improvements. Ritter set strong goals for the reduction of energy consumption in state buildings and vehicles, and called for a 75% reduction
of solid waste.

Balanced Oil and Gas Development A

The number of permits to drill for oil
and gas has increased by 280% over the
past five years. This increased drilling
has resulted in more fragmented wild-
life habitat and increased concerns about
water and air quality. Gov. Ritter lead a
call for more balanced oil and gas devel-
opment during his first year in office.
Gov. Ritter displayed bold leadership
when his administration introduced
landmark legislation to reform the
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation
Commission. This body is responsible
for determining how drilling operations
occur in Colorado, and, until this year,
had been stacked with oil and gas
industry representatives. Thanks to
Gov. Ritter’s desire to create greater
balance in how oil and gas drilling
occurs, the Commission now includes
experts on public health, wildlife and
the environment in addition to other
important stakeholders. The governor
also signed a measure to give property
owners more rights when drilling occurs
on their land and a measure to use best
management practices for protecting
wildlife habitat against the most harmful
impacts of oil and gas drilling.
The governor has made strong
appointments to the Oil and Gas
Commission. This new commission has
embarked on a critical process that will
create new rules to protect wildlife
habitat and public health. Gov. Ritter
has also appointed leaders to the state
Wildlife Commission with expertise
when it comes to minimizing impacts
of oil and gas development on critical
wildlife habitat. Finally, the Division
of Wildlife has also taken a stronger
stance on behalf of big game and
sage grouse protections in the face
of expanded oil and gas drilling.

The conservation community, landowners,
sportsmen, and local communities have
fought to bring balance to the Colorado
Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for
seventeen years. Gov. Ritter’s leadership
was the difference that made this a reality
in 2007. Enacting strong rules to imple-
ment the letter and the spirit of these
new laws will be a test for the governor’s
leadership in 2008.

Water A-
Ensuring adequate water supplies for
growing communities while protecting
our rivers and streams is one of the
biggest policy challenges in Colorado.
Acknowledging that changing a water
right from one use to another can
result in diminished water quality in
our rivers, Gov. Ritter signed a measure
allowing water courts to protect water
quality. This legislation, which had
failed during seven previous legislative
sessions, is especially valuable in light
of the increasing number of agricul-
tural water rights being converted to
municipal use.
Gov. Ritter signed another measure
to increase the fees industry pays to
the state for water quality programs,
for the state to fund water quality
The governor also supported an expan-
sion of the grants to communities to
create and implement water efficiency
plans. Gov. Ritter and the Department of
Natural Resources demonstrated their
commitment to local water conservation
efforts by making adjustments to free up
the necessary dollars for the program.
The governor has made several strong
appointments to state agencies, boards
and commissions with jurisdiction over
water issues. As additional vacancies on
water boards and commissions occur,
the conservation community encourages
Gov. Ritter to appoint individuals who
will make decisions with the health of
During the campaign, Bill Ritter
embraced the concepts in “Facing Our
Future,” the conservation community’s
blueprint for meeting the water demands
of Colorado’s growing population without
further damaging the state’s already
stressed rivers. Some Front Range
developers and water providers continue
to promote old ideas to divert additional
water from the West Slope to the Front
Range. The time is ripe for Gov. Ritter to
articulate a vision for meeting Colorado’s
growing water needs while protecting and
restoring the state’s rivers and streams.
Strengthening and promoting the state’s
instream flow program is another
important area in 2008.