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Gov. Hickenlooper calls for action on climate at Colorado symposium

January 31, 2018 Updated: February 1, 2018 at 7:59 am
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Gov. John Hickenlooper rolled out the latest update of his climate blueprint for the state Wednesday at the first Colorado Communities Symposium, calling on nearly 400 local and state officials, businesses and nonprofit leaders in attendance to act to build an attractive brand for Colorado.

"The more towns and communities that we have behind clean air, clean water and public lands, the more we can attract tourists, recreationists and entrepreneurs to the state of Colorado," Hickenlooper said.

The plan highlights eight main areas - water, public health, greenhouse gas emissions, energy, transportation, agriculture, tourism and recreation, and ecosystems - as focal points for bolstering climate resilience and adaptivity.

Hickenlooper demanded leaders act with urgency, not only for the health of the environment but for the strength of Colorado's economy. "The faster we move, the more it is to our benefit," he said.

He mentioned the proposal to shut down two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo owned by Xcel Energy. The move would reduce air pollutants without a cost increase to Xcel customers in Pueblo, he and David Eves, the president of Xcel Energy Colorado, said.

And although it initially would displace 85 jobs at the plants, Xcel is exploring opportunities to open a solar project at the county's steel mill facility to provide jobs and clean energy to the Pueblo County community, Eves said.

The symposium was born out of the governor's executive order on climate change issued in July, which set emission reduction goals for the state, among other steps. Participants echoed Hickenlooper's call for swift action, saying the state needs to move at the pace of technological development and in the direction of economic trends.

"New industries evolve whether we want them them to or not," Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates, said of renewable energy resources. "How are we looking to capture these new industries that are evolving instead of responding to them late and having a dead community?"

"In terms allowing the future of Colorado to evolve, we need to create space to let the private sector and technology come in and bring solutions," said James Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water. "If there is some segment of the state not facilitating that, they get stuck in the past while the rest of the state is moving forward."

A hot topic at the symposium and across the state is transportation. With talk of electric vehicle expansion, autonomous public transit and a Hyperloop train between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Pueblo, Colorado policymakers and business owners are building partnerships to ensure that every pocket of the state benefits from such innovations.

"We are on the cusp of great technology. How can we formulate a direction rather than just reacting to the technology itself?" said Deborah Perkins-Smith, director of transportation development with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The next two days of the symposium will be spent formulating concrete methods to tackle these challenges and propel Colorado forward as a leader in business, tourism and sustainability.

Although Colorado Springs City Council members, Mayor John Suthers and El Paso County commissioners are not in attendance, Colorado Springs Utilities and members of the Manitou Springs government are representing the county's interests at the symposium.

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