Climate, transportation and housing all dominated the presentation at the 14th Legislative Breakfast on Jan. 5 in Broomfield.
The event included seven speakers ranging from Governor Jared Polis to State Senator Faith Winter. The event, hosted at Broomfields Aloft Hotel, was sponsored by the local transit advocacy group Community Solutions. The group focuses on transportation issues in the northern Metro Denver suburbs.
XcelEnergy President Robert Kennedy laid out the road map for his company to reduce its fossil fuel emissions.
By 2050, the company plans to have zero carbon emissions through renewable energy sources and net-zero gas services. By that time, Kennedy said hopes are high for all cars to run on clean energy. That’s because their plan hopes one out of five cars will be electric by 2030, and all cars will be electric by 2050.
Making that affordable is key.
“Charging electric vehicles during our offering will cost the equivalent of $1 per gallon of gas,” he said.
The plan will result in a reduction of five million tons of carbon emissions by 2030 per year.
Connecting through transit
J.J. Ament, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the importance of transportation for the region, as well as the state. Public transit plays a huge role in connecting the state, and also in keeping it competitive: public transit reduces air pollution, and low air pollution means better economic opportunities.
Denver International Airport also plays a huge role, he said.
“It’s really, really important that we have the ability to connect,” Ament said.
According to Ament, DIA stands as the third busiest airport in the country and is the second largest domestic network of airlines that flies nonstop to other airports.
That’s important to attract workers. Ament explained with increases in remote working, those workers will want to come to Colorado for various reasons, one of them being outdoor recreation. To cater to those workers, they need frequent flights to their companies’ headquarters in the event they need to attend in-person meetings every so often.
“If you can live anywhere because of remote work, wouldn’t you want to live in the best place ever, which is here?” Ament said.
Additionally, Colorado’s low taxes help keep the state competitive. However, Colorado’s law that requires companies to include salary information in job advertisements is keeping companies from placing those ads in the state.
The state’s nine industries that have a competitive advantage over other states are aerospace, aviation, bioscience, broadband, energy and natural resources, financial services, food and beverage, healthcare and wellness and IT software.
A key issue for the 2023 legislative session, according to Polis, will be housing and how to reduce housing costs for families.
He said that the state needs to remove barriers to the creation of housing, and developments need to be “thoughtful, smart and sustainable.”
As well, he said higher housing costs are leading Coloradans to live further from their jobs, which leads to more traffic, more liability to maintain roads, more commuting and more air pollution.
“That just doesn’t work as a development formula for a state,” he said.
Building more transit and more housing closer to transit, he said, can deliver even better transit with more riders.
He touted SB21-260, which sent more funding to transportation. It was a way to counter less money from gas taxes coming in to fix roads.
“Vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient, more people are using EVs, and yet we relied on gas taxes for roads. That combination of more people traveling more miles and using less gas is great for air quality and the environment wasn’t good for how we funded our roads,” he said.
Winter gave an anecdote of how air pollution affects everyday people, from her daughter’s cross-country race getting canceled to how air pollution impacts her dad who is on oxygen.
She pointed to the importance of public transit, but how it isn’t accessible to everyone. She pointed to SB21-260 as well, voicing how the multimodal option funding within the bill can help local governments and transportation agencies expand transit services.
“The future of transit really depends on us all working together in partnership,” she said.
Even with the electrification of vehicles, she says it’s imperative to keep up efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled to help clean the air.
“We can’t electrify our way out of the climate crisis,” she said.
She linked transportation and housing, saying those issues go hand in hand. With more development, the question is how to connect residents from where they live to where they work and recreate.
Touching on her experience as a Westminster City Councilor, she championed local governments with have that power.
“Our local governments actually know how to do this and know how to do this really well,” Winter said.