May 25, 2012 12:20 AM GMTUpdated: 05/24/2012 06:20:29 PM MDT
By IVAN MORENO Associated PressAssociated Press
DENVER—The scope of Colorado’s energy office will expand beyond renewables, with funding for all types of energy development projects in the mix under legislation that Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Thursday.The office will now include two funds—one for clean and renewable energy development and another for all other sources of energy, including traditional sources such as oil and gas and coal. The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon Becker and Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman also changes the name of the office from the Governor’s Energy Office to the Colorado Energy Office.
First created in 1977 to promote energy conservation, the office took on new significance under former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, whose focus on renewable energy development was a legacy of his term from 2007 to 2011. The legislation went through several changes before passing, and environmental groups that were critical saw it as a Republican attempt to dismantle a hallmark of Ritter’s time in office.
Becker, of Fort Morgan, called the re-organization a “next step” in the progression of energy development for Colorado.
“It opens up what this office is doing and how they can do it,” he said.
The bill gained wide bipartisan support. However, environmental groups initially opposed the idea because they worried it took attention from renewable energy projects like wind and solar.
“We wanted very much to keep those doors open,” said Pete Maysmith, the executive director of the Colorado Conservation Voters. “As introduced, the bill didn’t do that.”
Maysmith said his group is now “happy to support the bill because it does allow that focus.”
Money for a clean and renewable energy fund will come from the state’s general fund, while other energy sources will get support from severance tax dollars. Next year, each fund will get about $1.5 million. After that, each will get annual support until 2017—the clean and renewable energy fund will get $1.6 million, and other energy sources $1.5 million.
“I think it fits nicely with how we have now expanded and balanced the mission to look at all of the above,” said Steadman, of Denver.
The change comes amid growing interest from oil and gas companies in the oil-rich Niobrara formation that underlies northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming.