This section of the website contains information on Colorado State government programs useful to local climate programs, beginning with those of the state's governor.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper

Report to the General Assembly

HB 13-1293  passed in 2013 required the appointment by the executive branch of a climate change position to assess climate change issues in the state, and, among other things, the submission of an annual report to the House and Senate agriculture and natural resource committees about the state’s efforts on mitigating climate change in accord with the state climate action plan and on climate preparedness. Taryn Finnessey, the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) Climate Change Risk Management Specialist, now has been designated as the climate change staff person required by last year’s law. She delivered that report to a joint session of those committees on January 29, 2014.  The report consists entirely of the PowerPoint presentation she made at that meeting.

To summarize, the report includes:

  • Comparisons of the new future emissions scenarios being used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report with those used in previous IPCC assessments, as well as by climate researchers worldwide.

  • Emission-reduction efforts underway by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), including the updated state inventory of heat-trapping emissions now in draft form and the pending regulation of ozone precursor and methane emissions from oil and gas operations; and by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO).

  •  Preparedness efforts underway by the CWCB and CEO.  These include an update to the Climate Change in Colorado report prepared for the CWCB by Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado in 2008, with that update now expected to be completed in the fall of 2014; an initial qualitative statewide climate change vulnerability assessment being prepared for CEO  by Western Water Assessment  and the North Central Climate Science Center at Colorado State University, now expected to be completed in April of 2014; Phase 2 of the Colorado River Water Availability Study, being prepared for the CWCB and is being expanded to study possible climate effects on the state’s other major basins, also due for completion in 2014; the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Study completed in 2012; and the inclusion of climate change in the Colorado Water Plan now fully underway.

Regulation of Methane Leakage from Oil and Gas Operations

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is taking a landmark step towards making Colorado the first state to directly regulate emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas methane from oil and natural gas production facilities. The AQCC is currently in a formal rule-making process, with a hearing scheduled in  February 19-23, 2014.  

The regulation is actually primarily aimed at controlling the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that escape from oil and natural gas facilities in order to comply with federal regulations to control the ground-level ozone that is the principal component of smog. The proliferation of fracking operations the past several years means the industry has become the principal source of VOCs. Colorado must strengthen controls on VOCs to meet federal air quality standards for ozone, but there is no federal requirement that methane be controlled, nor does EPA regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Since methane leaks largely occur in the same points in the production process as VOCs, though, and methane is an especially potent climate-changing pollutant, it makes good sense to regulate them concurrently.

The Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment developed the proposed regulations through extensive  consultation with stakeholders from the industry, conservation organizations, and others.

Some of the most significant provisions in the regulations include:

  • Capture of 95 percent of VOC emissions “upstream” of oil refineries and natural gas processing plants.

  • Allowing combustion of emissions if  98 percent efficiency using auto-igniters can be attained.

  • Leak detection:  Specific technologies are called for and must be performed on a sliding frequency scale. The largest and medium sized producers would be required to do monthly leak inspections by January 2015; smaller producers would be required to do so quarterly, and the smallest annually, by January 2016.

  • Leak repair:  Once detected, first attempts to fix the leak would be within five days; if equipment needed to fix the leaks needs to be procured, the leak must be fixed within 15 days.

CDPHE performed cost-effectiveness analyses of the regulation and found that emissions of methane and ethane from well production facilities and compressor stations would be reduced by about 25,000 tons per year, at costs ranging from $321 to $1,101 per ton.

Colorado Water Plan

Under Executive Order D 2013-005, issued by Governor Hickenlooper last year, the CWCB is directed to create a first-ever Colorado Water Plan, with a draft to be completed by December 2014 and then finalized by December 2015. RMCO notes that the executive order did not mention climate change. The plan is intended to draw heavily on the work of the nine Basin Roundtables of the Interbasin Compact Committee that have been working for the last nine years to follow legislative direction on analyses of future water needs and solutions. It is also intended to integrate components of CWCB’s 2016 update of the State Water Supply Initiative report now also underway. CWCB has been ramping up work on the Colorado Water Plan, which has now its own website,  

At their January 2014 meeting, the CWCB members were briefed about progress on the plan. The staff briefing memo  lays out the framework of the plan and the first drafts of some report sections, which give a pretty good indication of how climate change will be addressed in the plan. RMCO describes the general approach as acknowledging in some places (but not others) that climate change may affect the state’s water resources, but without yet providing enough  information to enable a reader to assess the possible extent of the effects and how they will be addressed in the plan.  In particular:

  • The initial draft of the 11-page introduction and background statement does not mention climate change. Water challenges facing the state are listed, but climate change did not make the list.

  • The initial draft of section 5.1, on scenario planning, describes five different scenarios that are being considered; different assumptions about climate change are among the factors that separate the scenarios. But it remains unclear what actual analysis of climate change impacts, especially on future water demands, will be used along with these highly general, apparently entirely qualitative scenarios. RMCO has been told that new analysis is being done, but we do not yet know any details.  

Vulnerability Assessment

The Colorado Energy Office has commissioned Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado and the North Central Climate Science Center at Colorado State University to prepare an initial scientific assessment of climate change impacts and future vulnerabilities in Colorado. The assessment is expected to be completed later in 2014.  

Update of State Emissions Inventory and Forecast

Executive Order D 004-08, issued by Governor Bill Ritter in 2008, directed the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to update in 2012 the 2007 State Inventory of Greenhouse Gases. In December 2013, CDPHE released a draft of the updated inventory, and is now accepting public comments through March 15, 2014.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.

Colorado Climate Action Agenda

In November 2007, Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., announced the state government's Colorado Climate Action Plan. Described by the governor as a first installment and a living document, it outlines broad actions to be taken to achieve the climate-protection goals at its centerpiece: a 20% reduction in Colorado's emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050, both in comparison to 2005 levels.

Colorado Climate Implementation Scorecard

The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization maintains a Colorado Climate Scorecard which tracks the current implementation status of actions to carry out both Governor Ritter's Colorado Climate Action Plan and the recommendations of the RMCO's Climate Action Panel.

Implementing Executive Orders

On April 22, 2008, Governor Ritter issued an Executive Order, "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Colorado," which implements some of the items in the Colorado Climate Action Plan. Among other things, it:

  • Sets as official state policy the emission reduction goals the Governor announced in the Climate Action Plan.

  • Directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to propose by April 2010 regulations requiring the reporting of emissions of heat-trapping gases from major sources.

  • Requests the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to require from the state's two PUC-regulated, investor-owned utilities plans for 20% reductions in their emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2020.

  • Directs CDPHE and the Governor's Energy Office (GEO) to recommend to the Governor by April 2009 actions to address demand for new coal-fired power plants.

  • Directs CDPHE to propose to the state's Air Quality Control Commission by April 2010 a proposal to reduce emissons of heat-trapping gases from motor vehicles.

Also on April 22, 2008, Governor Ritter issued two other executive orders. One directs CDPHE and the Colorado Department of Agriculture to develop by April 2010 an agriculural offset program under which Colorado farmers and ranchers can sequester carbon and reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, to be included in market-based programs in which required emission reductions can be traded. The other authorizes a Governor's Climate Advisory Panel.