DENVER — Citing backlash from Republicans, Colorado's Democratic governor said Tuesday he has abandoned the idea of issuing an executive order to seek a one-third cut in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
But Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted he hadn't given up on the proposal's goals — or his own commitment to maintaining Colorado's status as a national leader in fighting air pollution.
"I think the response — the pushback — from the executive order was so intense that the potential benefits were outweighed by the collateral damage," Hickenlooper told reporters on the eve of the 2017 state legislative session.
"That being said, I continue to hold it up as a vision" for reducing emissions, he said.
The draft order revealed by The Associated Press in August would have directed state agencies to work on ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power generators by 35 percent by 2030, compared with 2012 levels.
It said warming temperatures and violent weather related to global warming threaten Colorado's economy, including agriculture, skiing and summer recreation.
The proposal directed agencies to work with utilities to keep energy affordable to consumers. It did not disclose how the state would try to enforce the goals.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan set similar targets for Colorado and separate targets for other states. The Supreme Court suspended that plan pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging the EPA rules.
GOP lawmakers argued that federal courts had to settle those lawsuits before Hickenlooper could push ahead with any state plan.
Colorado was the first state in the nation to adopt regulations on methane pollution from oil and gas operations.
Hickenlooper said he saw the proposed order as a "vision" rather than a mandate.
"Why wouldn't we do that?" he said of outlining its goals. "I think it would be government malpractice not to do that."