Western Slope lawmakers spearhead conservation reform


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Western Slope lawmakers helped spearhead “the most pro-conservation legislative session in our state’s history,” according to a Colorado Conservation Voters report released Wednesday.

The “2007 Conservation Scorecard,” which tracks House and Senate votes on environmental, energy, water and wildlife reforms, shows that more than half of the region’s 11 lawmakers were strong supporters of conservation values throughout the legislative session.

“I think Western Slope lawmakers have showed real leadership on conservation issues,” said Carrie Doyle, executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. “That leadership happened for a reason: Western Slope districts were on the front lines of many of the conservation issues being debated this year.”

The report card highlights the roles Western Slope lawmakers played in pushing conservation measures, including Reps. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, Al White, R-Winter Park, and Sens. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, and Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. Each lawmaker, according to the report, had conservation scores of 70 or more on a 100-point scale. Buescher, Curry, Gibbs and Schwartz recorded perfect scores.

The report says they played crucial roles in pushing surface-rights legislation, open-space protections, oil and gas drilling reforms, and water-quality protections this year.

“In 2007 we saw … what happens when strong policy is aligned with bold political leadership,” the report said. “We believe that 2007 marks the beginning of a new conversation about how we work together to protect what is most precious about Colorado.”

Duke Cox, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, attributed the session’s conservation credentials to the leadership of Gov. Bill Ritter in pushing energy reform as a priority and the Legislature’s willingness to work with him.

“The big difference is Bill Ritter,” Cox said. “And the Democratic Legislature weas not afraid to take on the oil and gas lobby because they knew they had the people behind them.”

Cox said the session was a victory for Colorado “grass-roots” who pushed, particularly on the Western Slope, for more energy-industry oversight.

“The government, oddly enough, listened to the will of the voters and changed things,” he said.

The report is not so glowing for every Western Slope lawmaker.

The report singles out an amendment Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, offered during an April 23 debate on House Bill 1037, which directs the Public Utilities Commission to develop rules for a program promoting energy efficiency for natural gas distributors.

Penry’s amendment, which failed in a 17-18 vote, would have capped the amount of energy efficiency that the bill could achieve, according to the report.

Based on this and other floor votes, the report ranks Reps. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Ray Rose, R-Montrose, with scores of 50.

Penry and Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, received scores of 60, according to the report.

Penry, however, discounted the report.

“Colorado Conservation Voters are very nice people, but they are a blatantly partisan organization focused on electing Democrats, so I don’t put a lot of stock in their report,” Penry said. “I think my values on the environment are probably a lot more in line with Western Slope voters than the Colorado Conservation Voters.”