Colorado Governor-Elect Has Most Ambitious Renewables Goal in U.S.
Jared Polis, who won Colorado's gubernatorial race to become the nation's first openly gay governor-elect, is charting the state's bold path towards clean energy.
The Democrat, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2009, ran on a platform of transitioning Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040—the most ambitious renewable goal in the entire country, Climate Home News reported. That's even faster than California and Hawaii, which both aim to phase out of fossil fuel generation by 2045.
On his campaign website, Polis said the green energy transition would create tens of thousands of jobs and save consumers 10 percent on energy costs. Pointing to a government study, he said that utility-scale wind is now cheaper than natural gas and that new energy storage technology would further improve these cost benefits. That's not to mention the public health benefits of cleaner air and water.
Aside from a strong environmental platform, Polis campaigned on other progressive issues such as Medicare-for-all, paid family medical leave and stronger gun laws.
"At the end of the day we all believe in our children's future, we all believe in protecting our amazing parks and open space, we all believe in saving people money in health care," Polis said in his victory speech Tuesday night. "And together we are going to get back to work because we have work to do to turn a bold vision into reality here in our amazing state of Colorado."
Jared Polis speaks after defeating Walker Stapleton in Colorado's gubernatorial race www.youtube.com
The fossil fuel industry has a major presence in the Centennial State—the sixth largest and one of the fastest-growing U.S. oil producing states. Oil and gas companies and their supporters poured about $40 million into a campaign to help successfully defeat Proposition 112, according to the Colorado Sun.
The ballot initiative, which Polis did not support, would have banned oil and gas drilling on 85 percent of the state's land, but was voted down 57 percent to 43 percent on Tuesday.
But with a Democrat in the governor's seat, a Democratic-controlled legislature and the 825,000 Coloradan voters who supported 112, the fight against polluting energy companies is not over yet.
Polis had the endorsement of the Colorado Sierra Club, which praised his plans to make Colorado energy independent and his efforts to protect the state's outdoor spaces.
"The Colorado Sierra Club—with 100,000 members and supports across the state—threw our wholehearted support behind Jared Polis from the early days of his candidacy because of his leadership on climate and protection of public lands," club director Jim Alexee said in a press release. "As the Trump Administration rolls back critical pollution protections and tries to stifle our nation's clean energy leadership, the state of Colorado is moving forward with our clean energy future with Jared Polis as our Governor."
The club also praised Polis for being a leader on environmental issues during his time in Congress. The press release noted that Polis is a founding member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, that he introduced legislation to designate 90,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado's high country, led the effort to cut fossil fuel subsidies, defended President Obama's rules on methane and partnered with environmentalists and ranchers to protect the sage grouse's habitat.
"The Sierra Club was proud to support Jared Polis throughout this race and we are thrilled to congratulate him on this victory," National Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in the press release. "Coloradans made a clear choice in this election to support Jared Polis because he will defend Colorado values from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope. Jared will lead Colorado to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2040, and work to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top."
Correction: A previous version of this post said Polis was in favor of Proposition 112. He supported 2,000-foot drilling setbacks four years ago but did not support the measure itself because the measure did not include surface use agreements.