Dec 8, 2021 - News

Sen. Hickenlooper touts infrastructure bill's benefits to Colorado

Axios' Ben Geman, right, and U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper during an Axios event. Photo: Screenshot
Axios' Ben Geman, left, and U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper during an Axios event. Screenshot

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper says Colorado is uniquely poised to benefit from the just-signed infrastructure bill.

Details: The $1 trillion legislation includes billions set aside for the state, and the first-term Democratic senator said additional money for electric vehicle incentives and charging stations is "very, very impactful, especially for a state like Colorado where we have been an early adopter."

  • $10 billion is dedicated to Western water issues, he added, and that money will help address a variety of concerns from the drought to lead pipes.
  • Other money is earmarked to mitigate the risk of wildfire and help prevent landslides like those that closed Glenwood Canyon earlier this year after the Grizzly Creek Fire.

What he's saying: "This is the most consequential climate bill ever," Hickenlooper said during an Axios virtual event posted Tuesday.

Reality check: Hickenlooper, who said he traveled to Glasgow for the recent global climate summit, touted the infrastructure bill as "all paid for," but the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will lead to an additional $256 billion in deficit borrowing over 10 years.

  • The senator also highlighted that the spending package doesn't include new taxes, but he didn't mention that it extends existing taxes and fees.

The other side: In Colorado, environmental groups are celebrating the bill, but conservatives are lamenting the increase in spending.

  • The Water for Colorado Coalition issued a statement when the bill won approval that said it would "address increasingly dire drought conditions that threaten thriving rivers, healthy fish and wildlife habitat."
  • Americans for Prosperity, a conservative-leaning group backed by Charles Koch, protested the measure earlier this year, saying it "will only increase energy prices for families."

What's next: Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate energy committee, sounded optimistic about the chances for passage of President Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, saying "we're making real progress and we're having good substantive discussions about what this will look like."

The former governor also doubled down on his support for a carbon tax, part of a broader shift in his environmental approach.

  • He expects that a fee on methane emission is "unlikely to be included at this point," but putting a price on carbon pollution would be better in the bill.

The big picture: "Fifty years from now, we're going to be looking back, and this [moment] I think has the potential to be the point at which we say this was the beginning of the great transition," he said.

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