DENVERPOST: Sen. Matt Jones: West’s legacy depends on clean power system

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Clean Energy, Clean State
By Sen. Matt Jones

A dark plume of smoke rose up from over the hill. I stood, Pulaski in hand, and watched. “House,” I thought. They burn darker. It was the second day of the 2010 Four Mile fire. I was with my friends on an open space firefighting crew, and I couldn’t help thinking that things have changed. Wildfires were becoming more frequent, large and extreme.

Though a small part of my job, I had been wildland firefighting qualified for 17 years, working mostly on prescribed burns. That day, watching someone’s home and life possessions climbing skyward in the plume, I was reminded of a 60 Minutes’ “Age of Megafires” episode. They interviewed the country’s fire-hardened lead firefighter. He was asked about people who don’t believe in climate change.

His reply: “You won’t find them on the fire line in the American West anymore, because we’ve had climate change beaten into us over the last 10 or 15 years. We know what we’re seeing and we’re dealing with a period of climate in terms of temperature and humidity and drought that’s different than anything people have seen in our lifetimes.”

We Coloradans love the outdoors. Who can blame us. We’re blessed with lots of beauty, and the freedom to recreate in this outdoor splendor. We have the moral responsibility to protect this land and our clean air and water. Our legacy depends on a clean power system.

We have a choice, clean energy with “free” fuel or traditional sources that pollute. Wind, solar and energy efficiency enables us to be not only be clean and productive – it has also become the right choice based on cost. Today wind, solar and energy efficiency are cost competitive or cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. And they don’t have the associated costs of air pollution like mercury, ozone and a brown cloud.

That is why Colorado should continue to forge ahead and keep our image of clean energy in a clean state. It provides good local jobs and small business opportunity.

Some legislators don’t have that clean-Colorado vision. They are running legislation, at the behest of corporate polluters and out-of-state billionaires, to make it impossible to clean up our energy supply or advance the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution.

This means not only dirtier air and more cost, but fewer small business and good-paying job opportunities that come from impossible to outsource solar and wind power and energy efficiency construction jobs.

We can fail to act, and have future generations rightfully criticize us for shortsightedness and the extreme consequences. But that would be a horrible thing to do to our kids and grandkids. We know things we can do right now to keep Colorado clean and beautiful for the ages, and all we need is the will to make them happen.