Policy: HB22-1020

On the afternoon of February 3rd, I had the opportunity to once again testify against a bill brought forth by Representative Dan Woog attempting to restrict municipal powers to control building codes under their 1041-granted authority. Here is the testimony I gave, as the Town’s representative to Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA):

Thank you once again for the opportunity to testify. My name is Christiaan van Woudenberg. I am a father to two teenage daughters and a Trustee for the Town of Erie. I have an undergraduate degree in molecular biology from CU Boulder, and have been working for the last four years on my constituents’ behalf toward a just and equitable transition to renewables economy.

I first want to address a comment made by Representative Woog regarding an Erie ban on natural gas to homes. As a Trustee for the Town of Erie, I feel uniquely qualified to respond. No such ordinance exists. The developer in question has elected to go all-electric in their development primarily due to cost savings as they won’t have to install additional infrastructure or acquire additional rights of way for legacy fossil fuel delivery.

As presented, HB22-1020 has very similar language regarding the use of natural gas, but obfuscates the bill’s true intent by adding provisions for solar photovoltaics, micro wind turbines, and small hydroelectric power.  Colorado Revised Statute 38-30-168 already prohibits restrictions on “renewable energy generation devices,” which includes each of the aforementioned sources of electricity generation. What we see here today is a rehash of HB21-1034 and an attempt to prop up the fossil fuel industry that Weld County relies upon for so much of its tax revenue.

I also testified to this committee a year ago to testify against HB21-1034 and spoke to the dangers of gas stoves in homes, not only for the increased risk of fire and explosions, but for their emissions that adversely effect indoor air quality.

Last week, researchers at Stanford University released an alarming report as mentioned earlier by Mr. Bhatt; they found the 40 million gas stoves in used across the country are constantly emitting methane, and that those leaks have a climate impact comparable to half a million gas-powered cars. Poorly maintained gas stoves introduce health-damaging nitrogen oxides into the home, where they may surpass the one hour national standard for nitrous dioxide concentrations within a few minutes of use.

As municipalities, we have a duty to protect our residents’ health and safety. In the 1970s and 1980s, we came to understand the health impacts of asbestos exposure, and we moved legislatively to eliminate its use in home construction and in other industries. We are at the same crossroads with the use of natural gas inside the home; we understand its health impacts and its cumulative contribution to the climate crisis. As elected officials, we must be allowed to enact protective legislation, including the distribution and consumption of fossil fuels in the home.

I also want to speak to the sponsors of this bill regarding the economic well-being of Weld County. We are on the brink of a financial crisis brought on by an over-reliance on extractive industries for tax revenues, compounded by the effects of Covid-19. While Weld County is the still number one producer of oil and gas in the state, it saw a 2.7 billion dollar hit to its assessed property valuations in 2020, and while the industry has seen some recovery, the general consensus is that we have passed peak oil & gas production in the country.

In the past, we could expect revenues from legacy vertical and directional wells to continue for 15 to 30 years or more after drilling. Today’s horizontal wells that have been hydraulically fractured exhaust 90 percent of their potential after only 3 years. Weld County commissioners and elected officials must take heed of previous recessions and diversify their revenue base to ensure the economic sustainability of the County. This bill is yet another attempt to prop up a dying industry.

As I said last year, the candle stick maker must make way for the electric light bulb. It’s time to stop building out infrastructure to support the fossil fuel industry, whether it’s gas hookups in kitchens, natural gas pipelines across our state, or liquid natural gas export terminals on our coasts. Please continue to allow municipalities like Denver and Erie to have local control and to be at the forefront of the transition to a 100% renewable energy market and vote no on House Bill 1020.