On the morning of Friday, February 4th, 2022, I had the privilege of participating in a virtual press conference featuring Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann, former Colorado House Majority Leader & CU Law adjunct faculty Alice Madden, and Mom’s Clean Air Force field organizer Laurie Anderson to urge Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper to pass the Build Back Better Act. Here is my statement:
My name is Christiaan van Woudenberg. I am a father of two teenage daughters and a Trustee for the Town of Erie. Our town straddles both Boulder and Weld counties. We are the largest statutory Town in Colorado, representing thirty thousand people over 17.2 square miles. Our population has doubled in the last ten years. The town was built on the coal industry; we are surrounded by dozens of abandoned coal mines.
We are 6 miles east from where the Marshall fire destroyed over a thousand homes and caused 500 million dollars in damages. We too are at risk of coal seam fires, though none currently burn here. We suffer from the impacts of poor air quality from the 18 thousand active oil and gas wells in Weld County.
Colorado just experienced one of the worst summers for air quality. In August of last year, Denver’s air quality was rated the worst of any major city in the world. In 2021, we violated EPA air quality standards on more than 60 days. 20 of 20 of the largest wildfires in Colorado have occurred in the last 20 years.
As municipal elected officials, we often feel powerless to address the issues that matter most to our constituents. The reach of our control stops at our municipal boundaries, but we all suffer the impacts of wildfires, poor air quality, degrading infrastructure, and a rapidly warming climate. It all sounds pretty dismal, but I have hope. I believe we can come together as communities and elected officials at all levels to address the climate crisis head-on. The Build Back Better Act is a crucial step to achieve that goal.
I believe in a just and equitable transition to a renewables future. It is so incredibly important that we ensure the well-being of communities affected by coal plant closures and the shrinking demand for fossil fuels. We need the Build Back Better Act to support these workers and families that have given so much to bring the United States to energy independence. Help us establish the domestic supply chains for solar, wind, and other renewable right here in Weld County so that we can proudly assume our place on the frontlines of the energy transition.
We thank you for your leadership on climate change, Senator Bennet, and we need you, Senator Hickenlooper, and your peers in the Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act as soon a possible. Don’t delay. Don’t let wildfires eviscerate another community in Colorado. Don’t let the climate crisis continue to disproportionately affect communities of color. Don’t let us exceed any more climate tipping points. Don’t wait until it’s too late.