Apr 20, 2022 - News

Colorado's climate preparedness poised for major upgrade

A home destroyed in the Marshall Fire sits in ruins as a new wildfire burns in the distance in March. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Colorado must prepare for the reality of year-round wildfire danger and other natural disasters fueled by climate change, a top state lawmaker says.

What to watch: A new bill introduced at the Capitol would create an office of climate preparedness under the governor to coordinate disaster recovery and implement a new roadmap for a hotter, drier and more dangerous future in Colorado.

  • It would set aside $20 million annually for loans and grants for homeowners, small businesses and local governments to cover the extra costs of hardening homes and building to stronger energy efficiency standards.
  • Another $15 million would help neighborhoods build to resist natural disasters and cover financial gaps in insurance and federal assistance programs.

The big picture: The legislation is part of a broader package in response to the devastating Marshall Fire in Boulder County and the East Troublesome blaze in Grand County.

Why it matters: A lack of coordination among federal, state and local government agencies, as well as community nonprofits, is making the rebuilding process from recent disasters more cumbersome and leading to delays in providing aid to those affected.

What they're saying: "This isn't just about helping individuals, but it's also about making sure our state can rebuild — and rebuild in a good way that is more resilient to disasters," Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) told Axios Denver.

  • "This is a climate-induced disaster, so we are rebuilding with that context in mind — and this state is willing to put in money to help with that," he added.

State of play: Colorado's current disaster mitigation efforts do not meet best practices outlined by experts who studied prior wildfires, a recent Axios Denver investigation found.

Details: In addition to the new legislation on climate preparedness, lawmakers are advancing a measure to make it easier for people to make claims on their homeowner's insurance for declared wildfire disasters.

  • The recently approved $36.4 billion state budget package also includes money for wildfire mitigation and firefighting.

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