February 26, 2012

Colorado Governor's Energy Office changes are proposed

The Governor’s Energy Office, a cornerstone of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s New Energy Economy, would get a new name, expanded mission and termination date under a bill that Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, filed Wednesday.

The office would be renamed the “Colorado Office of Energy Development,” and its mission expanded to include promotion of all of Colorado’s energy resources — those based on fossil fuels as well as on renewable energy, Becker said in an interview.

It also would get a termination date: July 1, 2018, “unless extended through the sunset review process,” the proposal says.

HB 1315 is co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. It’s been assigned to the House Agriculture Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. Becker said he expects a hearing will be held in a few weeks.

“We wanted to bring renewable and traditional energy together so they could work together,” Becker said. “We think the office has failed in the last few years because they focused on only renewable energy, which relies on traditional energy and infrastructure to work.”

The office’s original mission was to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Becker said the bill proposes two funding sources for the office, with about $1.2 million from the general fund every year plus an additional $1.2 million a year from severance taxes, which the state collects on the value of oil, gas, coal and other minerals produced within Colorado.

It’s the second time Becker has proposed reorganizing the office. Last year his bill, HB 1312, passed the House but died in a Senate committee.

Becker said the bill has a better chance of passing the Senate this year because it adds a new source of money, severance taxes, that wasn’t included in last year’s proposal.

But HB 1315, the current proposal, keeps the funding sources separate, with severance tax money being used to promote energy sources that generate severance taxes.

“I think it will get out of the Senate this year,” Becker said. “We really took the time to make sure we spoke with both sides. We gave each side what they needed, and there are things for both sides to love and hate in this bill.”

Becker said his bill repeals programs that don’t have funding from the office, such as the wind-for-schools and “green truck” grant programs.

Since 2009, the office has received about $138 million in funding for the office, programs and pass-through grants used by other agencies, from the 2009 federal stimulus act. But that money must be spent by July 1.

Before the stimulus money, the office’s budget — from taxes on gambling — was about $4 million in 2008, down from $7 million in 2007, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.


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