Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's administration expects to have draft recommendations by this fall that may determine how the state will curb emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and cut its contribution to global warming.

Jim Martin, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said nothing is yet set in stone, but "everything is on the table." Martin provided an update on the state's plans at last week's Colorado Oil & Gas Association's Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Strategy Conference & Investment Forum.

The CDPHE and other stakeholders in the energy industry, including industrial end-users and oil and natural gas producers, are considering a slate of recommendations that include increasing the mandated amount of renewable energy used in the state above the current goal of 20% by 2020, changing vehicle fuel economy and emissions rules and restricting imports of electricity into the state to certain qualifying power plants.

"The vast majority of scientists in the field are convinced that human activity is leading to a slow and inexorable increase in temperatures around the world," Martin said. "I'm convinced climate change is real, it's happening and it's a dramatic threat to human activity."

Martin said it is too early to be too specific about what is being considered, but a range of possibilities will be presented to the governor within a few months. One of the suggestions is to increase Colorado's renewable portfolio standard. In March, the Democratic governor signed legislation that raised Colorado's renewable resources requirement to 20% by 2020. The legislation also capped the amount Colorado's businesses and residents have to pay to meet the goal to 2% of every electric bill.

"We're looking at the full range of renewable energy's potential," Martin said. "Looking at the positive economic benefit for the state, looking at the potential of raising the renewable portfolio standard beyond 20% by 2020...and asking does it make sense."

Martin admitted that the state is taking a close look at California to see if there are areas to duplicate. Included is the possibility that Colorado may restrict electricity imports from outside the state to power generated by plants that have either no or low CO2 emissions. In California, utilities have to get at least 20% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2010.

"California has been a trend setter, whether good or bad...they have an ambitious goal and they are working hard to achieve the goal," said Martin. "They are a tremendous lesson to the rest of us. We are taking a hard look at their goal."

As officials work toward draft recommendations, Martin said Colorado regulators also have to anticipate what policies likely will be adopted by Washington, DC, in the coming years.

"The bottom line is, we are passionately committed to the issue and looking at a range of policy options," Martin said. "The governor wants a completely open slate. He wants to discuss what makes sense for Colorado."

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