Jun 2, 2021 - News
The unlikely measure to address climate change in Colorado
Shanna Solla laughs as she learns how to use the electric charging station with her new Nissan Leaf.
Shanna Solla laughs as she learns how to use the electric charging station in 2018. Photo: Paul Aiken/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

As counterintuitive as it sounds, a major transportation bill may represent the most significant action on climate change this legislative session.

Driving the news: The legislation is best known for the $3.8 billion in new fees it imposes on Colorado drivers and deliveries in the next decade to build new roads.

But Senate Bill 260, backed by Gov. Jared Polis, distributes more than a quarter of the $5 billion package toward climate change efforts, a Denver Post analysis shows.

  • $734 million is earmarked to increase adoption of electric vehicles, buses and trucks, as well as install charging stations.
  • $453 million goes toward alternatives to driving, such as transit and bike paths.
  • $253 million is set aside to mitigate air pollution in the Denver metro area.

A late amendment on the fast-moving bill would also require state transportation officials to consider the state's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when deciding priority projects.

  • A leading environmental advocate, Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), is so excited about this piece that she carried a framed copy of the amendment around the Capitol, the Colorado Sun reported.

What they're saying: Elise Jones, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, touted the spending on EVs as one of the biggest investments by any state in the nation.

  • "We know we can't wait another year to meaningfully address the transportation emissions driving the climate crisis," she said in a statement.

Yes, but: Other environmental groups remain skeptical of the legislation because it builds more roads that will fill with more cars.

  • "There are not enough guardrails to ensure we do not waste any dollars on highway capacity projects that fail to move us in a better direction," wrote Danny Katz, the executive director of CoPIRG, an environmental organization.

Meanwhile, Republicans are criticizing the measure because it doesn't do enough to address traffic congestion and improve road quality. The nearly $3 billion for road construction in the bill covers about 75% of the state's 10-year, $5+ billion transportation plan.

  • "It's a dabble of money," Republican state Sen. Ray Scott told John. "This is basically an energy bill."

What's next: The legislation needs one more vote in the House, which could come as soon as today, before it goes to the Senate for a final consent.

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