Growing spotlight on environmental justice focuses on Colorado's energy future
- May 4, 2021 9:39 am GMTMay 4, 2021 3:38 pm GMT
- 42 views
The prospect of testifying before the
"Huge for me and the (environmental justice) coalition," Tafoya wrote in a text to
The advocates will also weigh in on Xcel Energy-Colorado's new electric resource plan, focusing on the impacts they believe the utility's decisions will have on communities that have borne much of the brunt of pollution from power plants and other heavy industry.
Tafoya, 35, grew up in northeast
"The entire area is probably one of the worst air-pollution areas in the entire country," Tafoya said.
Activists and elected officials say it's time that low-income communities and people of color who have been disproportionately affected by industrial pollution have a say about how or whether the activity should continue in their backyards. At the federal and state levels, there is a push to make environmental justice a priority in decisions on transportation, energy projects and whether land should be developed or left open.
A handful of bills moving through the
"Climate change and pollution hurt all of us. It doesn't necessarily hurt all of us evenly," state Rep.
Jackson is sponsoring HB 21-1266, which would create a task force to make recommendations to the legislature on strategies, policies and programs for confronting environmental inequities statewide. The bill requires the
The opportunity to speak in a PUC hearing, a first for Tafoya, was an important step in providing a voice for people who face higher pollution levels, greater health risks and have less input into environmental laws and policies, he said.
"The PUC has not been the most friendly place for environmental justice advocates. It's not been a place in which we've engaged effectively in the past," Tafoya said. "It's been clear that our voice has been missing.
"But it seems to me they're turning that corner," he added.
Environmental and community activists want
While burning natural gas produces roughly half the carbon dioxide of coal, the methane that producing and using natural gas emits is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is about 84 times more powerful in the short term than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
"Gas isn't the solution that it's touted as. We want to see a transition to renewables to prevent further exacerbating the climate crisis," said
For years Xcel Energy-Colorado has been listening to and working with the communities it serves about interest in moving to more renewable energy, said
"It's just a huge step forward and it's well beyond what anybody thought we were go to be able to do in this time frame," Jackson said.
In 2018, Xcel announced a goal of being carbon-free by 2050, making it the first major utility to set such a goal.
At the same time, Jackson said, the company sees having a diverse set of power resources as key to delivering affordable and reliable electricity "all day, every day." Continuing to operate the
"Fuel diversity is important right now. Technology hasn't developed to the point yet where we can sit there and say we don't need these other types of resources in order to be able to provide reliable service for our customers," Jackson said.
The freezing weather in February that caused power outages from
"There is a need for firm capacity and reliability, resources that can turn on and off easily whenever needed for as long as they're needed, but gas isn't the only way to provide that," said Smith.
Renewable energy sources, battery storage, managed demand and connecting to a regional transmission network are other options, Smith said. Beyond the price of gas are concerns about the health effects, such as respiratory problems, from living around power plants or where the gas is drilled, he added.
"When we talk about plants like
Tafoya said there are multiple sources of pollution in the area that includes where he grew up, the Cole neighborhood, and the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. The
"You can see the
In an interview, Tafoya said he knows of many people in the neighborhood who have asthma, including his godson.
"When we saw COVID start to happen, we saw the connection between respiratory diseases and pre-existing conditions," Tafoya said. "COVID hit our community hard."
A 2014 report by
Sources of particulate matter pollution, which has been linked to lung and heart disease, include power plants and vehicles, according to the
"Xcel takes environmental justice seriously," Jackson said. "We're looking at it pretty holistically: the cost, the economic impact on the communities, the emissions, air quality, as well as jobs."
"The reduced emissions that we've realized at that plant are dramatic," Jackson said. "Nitrous oxide is down by more than 95%. SO2 (sulfur dioxide) is down over 99.9%, and mercury has been completely eliminated."
Jackson acknowledged the mechanical problems that idled
But a scathing report by the PUC released