A survey supports claims it was Colorado lawmakers' top pro-environment gathering ever, led by renewable energy.
“Environmental groups, including Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club, judged lawmakers' votes on nine bills - such as renewable energy, greener building codes and protecting wildlife habitat.”
Environmental groups are calling the past legislative session Colorado's greenest ever - and a survey released Wednesday offered some proof.
State lawmakers, on average, voted for pro-environment bills 77 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Colorado Conservation Voters. That was up 12 percentage points from 2006.
Environmental groups, including Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Sierra Club, judged lawmakers' votes on nine bills - such as renewable energy, greener building codes and protecting wildlife habitat.
Republicans, who often fared poorly in earlier conservation rankings, had their second-highest rating in the 11-year history of the scorecard. Among Republicans in the House, votes in favor of the environmental agenda increased by 14 percentage points compared with last year.
"The story that this scorecard tells is that conservation values are not Democrat or Republican; They are Colorado values," said Carrie Doyle, executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. "The voters spoke pretty clearly in the elections that they think Colorado should be a renewable energy leader," Doyle said. "Lawmakers got that message."
Most Democrats scored 100 percent, voting for all nine bills that made up the core of the environmental agenda. Republican legislators topped out with 80 percent or 90 percent, though a few scored the equivalent of D's and F's. Republicans' average score was 47 percent.
Rep. Rob Witwer, a Republican from Golden who scored a 90 percent, said improved Republican marks point to a return "to the principles that have always been there in our party."
"Democrats don't love the environment more than Republicans," he said. "It's a matter of what kinds of policies do you support to get there."
Republicans are more likely to favor tax incentives to encourage people to conserve - not mandates, especially ones that infringe on private property rights, Witwer said. GOP lawmakers are more cognizant of costs, said Luke Shilts, chairman of the Colorado Federation of Young Republicans, a statewide 40-and-younger group.
The hallmark of the legislative session, which ended a month ago, was renewable energy. One new law says investor-owned utilities must produce 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Lawmakers passed a water-quality measure that environmental groups pushed for seven years. The bill lets water courts consider water quality before deciding on large transfers. The state also has new laws to ensure more protection of wildlife habitat during oil and gas drilling and secure a spot for an environmentalist on the state oil and gas commission.