Denver smog haze pollution brown cloud

Air pollution over Denver.

The Denver City Council will delay a vote on a controversial “pollution tax” on Denver businesses’ energy use under an agreement that the bill’s seven sponsors have reached with Mayor Michael Hancock.

The council was set on Monday night to have a public hearing on the bill, which would have put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve the tax on natural gas and electricity use by commercial and industrial property owners.

Instead, the city will “immediately” launch a “formal process” to reexamine Denver’s climate goals, assess what funding is needed to accomplish them, and seek input from community members and experts, according to a city news release from the offices of the mayor and the council.

That work will be done by the end of May, giving the council plenty of time to refer a measure to the 2020 ballot, says the release.

“This new plan positions us to take this issue head on and work with our communities and stakeholders to create a clear path and identify the needed funding to take urgent and unprecedented action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” City Council President Jolon Clark, a sponsor of the pollution tax, said in a statement.

He and other proponents of the pollution tax have said the city isn’t doing enough to combat the pressing consequences of climate change, and that the tax would be a good first step. The measure’s other sponsors were council members Candi CdeBaca, Stacie Gilmore, Chris Hinds, Paul Kashmann, Amanda Sandoval and Amanda Sawyer.

But Hancock and other critics of the measure have said the sponsors didn’t gather enough input from property owners and others who would be effected when they were drafting the measure.

There were also questions about exactly how much revenue the tax would generate, given that exemptions would be offered to government and non-profit entities.

Under the new agreement, the council will also delay a vote on a second bill that would have created a new city office to administer the revenue generated by the tax in the form of grants and other incentives encouraging Denver residents and businesses to curb their carbon footprint.

The council, however, is still slated to vote this fall to create an Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency, according to the news release. That office, which will report to the mayor, will be staffed by employees from the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment and the city’s existing sustainability office. It will be "fully functional" by July 1, the release states. 

Hancock also plans to propose an additional $8 million next year to fund more efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Denver, says the release.

“Thanks to Denver Public Health & Environment, Denver is a known and recognized leader in the fight against climate change. But the science tells us we must move even more aggressively,” Hancock said in a statement. “That’s why I stand united with Council President Clark and members of council to lead with even more urgency while engaging our residents and stakeholders in crafting a Denver response to this global crisis.”

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