Recent state legislative session productive for environmental measures

An elk herd crosses U.S. Highway 40 in December 2021 near Haymaker Golf Course on the edge of Steamboat Springs. More state funding for wildlife crossings will be available following the recent state legislative session.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy photo

The Colorado legislative session that ended in May passed a bevy of bills including many that promote environmental efforts in Colorado, ranging from funding for wildlife road crossings to wildfire mitigation and a bill to support recycling.

Nonprofit groups in Colorado such as Eco-Cycle and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) highlighted some new measures following the session.

“Colorado took significant steps forward on efficiency, climate and transit this legislative session,” said Elise Jones, SWEEP executive director. “These actions will help Coloradans save money on home heating, hot water, housing and transportation, while helping to clean up our air and protect our future.”

The Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources bill, or SB22-206, was crafted in the wake of the Marshall Fire in Boulder County. It will provide $20 million to the Colorado Energy Office to distribute as loans and grants to help Coloradans rebuild efficient, resilient and high-performance homes after wildfires and other climate disasters.

Another $15 million will go to the Department of Local Affairs to help fund resilient recovery efforts after disaster emergencies and establish the Office of Climate Preparedness to coordinate the state’s post-disaster recovery efforts.

The Transportation Options Tax Credit bill, or HB22-1026, will help employers support employees who commute to work using energy-efficient modes such as bicycle or vanpool. The credit is available for two years and covers 50% of the cost of clean transportation options.

Two bills, SB22-118 and HB22-1381, will help building owners and communities deploy energy-efficient geothermal heat pump systems to heat and cool buildings or provide hot water. Another bill, SB22-051, will create a 10% tax credit and a state sales tax exemption for the purchase of heat pump systems. The bill includes a state sales tax exemption for using building materials with a low potential to contribute to climate change.

Also, HB22-1151 will reduce water use for lawn irrigation and conserve electricity used for water processing and pumping.

Known as the Strong Communities and Affordable Housing bill, HB22-1304 will provide $40 million in a new grant program alongside $178 million for affordable housing. The program encourages local governments to adopt more efficient land use policies that support compact, infill development and increase the supply of affordable housing in walkable, transit-friendly communities.

At the same time, SB22-193 will invest $65 million in helping school districts replace diesel school buses with efficient electric buses, add $12 million for efficient electric bike rebates and bikeshare programs and provide $25 million in incentives for adopting efficiency measures or clean technologies that go beyond regulatory requirements.

The Fare-Free Transit, Bustang Expansion and Main Streets bill, or SB22-180, will invest $28 million in Colorado transit agencies to fund at least one month of fare-free service in each of the next two years. The bill expands access to commercial driver’s license testing to help address a shortage of bus drivers and invests $30 million in expanding regional Bustang service.

Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang Outrider coaches service passengers from Craig to Denver. Bustang was one of the sustainability measures that received a boost in funding via the recent state legislative session.
CDOT/Courtesy photo

HB22-1362 seeks to promote energy-efficient building codes by increasing the statewide minimum performance requirements for building energy codes, which will require cities and counties to increase efficiency and cut pollution from homes and commercial buildings when updating their local codes. The bill requires local governments to introduce electric- and solar-ready code language beginning in 2023, followed by low-energy and low-carbon code language beginning in 2026.

The EV-Ready Building Codes bill will require builders to future-proof new and renovated commercial and multifamily buildings for electric vehicle charging, noting that adding infrastructure during initial construction is less expensive that adding it later as a retrofit.

With the passing of the Producer Responsibility Policy for Recycling bill, or HB 22-1355, Colorado will become the first state in the country to create a producer-funded statewide recycling system for consumer-facing packaging and paper products.

The bill was championed by a coalition of businesses, local governments, environmental advocates, recyclers and residents to support easier, more accessible recycling.

Funding for wildfire preparedness, mitigation and volunteer firefighters received a large financial boost from 12 bills that originated in the state house or senate.

For example, HB22-1011 will invest $10 million in a matching grant program to help local governments develop and fund sustainable forest management and wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Mitigation for Homeowners bill will extend an income tax deduction and create a new state income tax credit for wildfire mitigation expenses up to $625 per year.

The Muddy Slide Fire burns in 2021 in south Routt County.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

The Insurance Coverage for Fire Disasters bill will ensure homeowners displaced by declared wildfire disasters receive a fair payout from insurance companies by increasing the minimum reimbursement from 30% to 65% of the value of damaged or destroyed property.

Also, SB22-198 will ensure oil and gas operators fund the plugging, reclamation and remediation of abandoned and orphaned wells to protect natural resources.

The Safe Crossings for Colorado Wildlife and Motorists bill, or SB22-151, also passed and will create the Colorado wildlife safe passages fund to assist projects that provide safe road crossings for connectivity of wildlife and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.