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Opinion: A “Green New Deal” For Colorado: Top 10 Goals for the environmental movement in 2019

Several environmental groups in Colorado are screaming “Historic Victory!” as the Democrats took over every level of state government in the recent election. With this victory in hand, as well as a pro-environment governor, it’s time to set priorities and goals.

Here’s the Top 10 goals to work toward in 2019:

One: Move The Frack Back. The legislature and the governor have a historic opportunity to increase the setbacks between fracking drill pads and buildings inhabited by people, a directive supported by over a million voters in the last election. This extreme controversy and long-simmering debate in Colorado can finally see some forward movement to protect Colorado’s people and the environment.

Gary Wockner

Two: Fight Climate Change. Gov.-elect Polis’ goal to get our state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 is a good starter, and the state legislature can jump in and help pass bills that give Colorado a clean energy economy that leads the U.S. in fighting climate change. We need to move Colorado away from burning fossil fuels and toward clean-energy electrification and jobs.

Three: Protect Colorado’s Rivers. Gov.-elect Polis has promised a “Colorado Water Plan 2.0.” This new version of the plan needs to focus on protecting and restoring Colorado’s already severely depleted rivers, not further damming, diverting and draining them.

Four: Reintroduce Wolves. Colorado’s wild landscapes are missing the key ingredient that makes wild landscapes wild. Reintroducing wolves gives us an opportunity to re-wild Colorado and right the historic wrong done to this native and endangered Colorado species.

Five: Stop Corporate Welfare. While Colorado citizens are repeatedly being asked to raise taxes, the state and most local governments “incentivize” corporations to move here and not pay their fair share of taxes. This corporate welfare causes negative impacts to our roads, air quality, water supplies and landscapes, as well as to the financial health of the state.

READ:Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Six: Reform The CDPHE. The “Colorado Department of Health and Environment” (CDPHE) controls how clean our air and water is, but too often, the CDPHE has made decisions based on politics instead of science. New leadership at CDPHE and in the position of “Chief Medical Officer” is desperately needed.

Seven: Reform The DNR. The “Colorado Department of Natural Resources” (DNR) controls almost everything having to do with protecting Colorado’s environment. Over the past eight years, politics directed by resource extraction, rather than resource protection, has ruled the DNR. We need a strong new environmental-minded director at DNR as well as the underlying three positions of directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.   

Eight: Stop The Olympics. Gov.-elect Polis has taken a strong approach to forcing a public vote on whether Colorado should host the winter Olympics, and the legislature should require the same approach. Coloradans need to know that the Olympics is a massive financial and environmental boondoggle that would likely force our state into deep debt and environmental degradation lasting decades.

Nine: Protect Public Lands. For way too long, our state and federal public lands in Colorado have been ruled by resource extraction — especially fossil fuel extraction — rather than to support the needs and desires of Colorado citizens. We own these landscapes, not the fossil fuel industry. The state legislature and the governor need to play a much stronger role in making sure our public lands are in our public hands.  

Ten: Stabilize the Human Population. The past eight years have seen some of the most rapid population growth rates in Colorado history, much of which is driven by government policies that lure and entice new people and businesses to move here. We need to stop luring growth, and instead focus on stabilizing Colorado’s population to support economic justice, quality of life and environmental protection for current Colorado residents.

At the federal level, there’s talk by new progressive members of Congress about a “Green New Deal” for America. A similar Green New Deal for Colorado with bold priorities and goals would launch us in a new direction to protect our environment, provide economic justice to our citizens and make Colorado a better place to live for human and non-human critters alike.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D., is an environmental activist in Colorado. Twitter: @GaryWockner