A press release from the "mainstream" environmental advocate group Conservation Colorado yesterday caught our attention:
Former Representative Glen Vaad’s appointment by Governor Hickenlooper to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) stalls Colorado’s progress on our path toward transitioning to clean renewable energy. At a time when Colorado is dealing with the unprecedented impacts of climate change, the Governor missed an opportunity to appoint a leader who will work to tackle climate change and aggressively pursue cleaner energy sources like solar and wind power.
When given the opportunity to lead on addressing climate change and moving to a clean energy future, Representative Vaad largely took a pass. He opposed a landmark bill that made Colorado a national leader on clean energy, the successful effort to increase Colorado’s renewable energy standard from 20% to 30%. On another notable climate change vote, Rep. Vaad opposed an effort to allow the PUC to consider carbon costs in resource planning decisions. As a PUC commissioner Vaad would be directly involved in resource planning decisions so his opposition to including the costs of carbon in such decisions is deeply troubling.
Vaad’s involvement with the anti-renewables legislative group ALEC further clouds his record on energy issues and raises questions about his willingness to tackle important issues at the PUC such as net-metering for rooftop solar.
Colorado has been a national leader in moving toward a 21st Century clean energy future. Coloradans have time and again supported the state leading on solar and wind energy. This nomination threatens to make Colorado less competitive and risk falling behind as other states pursue more forward-thinking energy agendas.
While we are heartened by former Representative Vaad’s vote to shutter old, dirty coal-fired power plants in the state, we are deeply troubled by this nomination to the PUC and believe that this pick should be a person ready to tackle the pressing climate and energy issues facing Colorado.
The appointment of former GOP Rep. Glenn Vaad to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper presents a unique and complicated set of circumstances for Democrats and conservationists. By law, the PUC is required to be balanced equally between Republicans and Democrats, which obliges Hickenlooper to in this case appoint a Republican. The reason former Rep. Vaad no longer serves in the Colorado General Assembly is his lopsided defeat in 2012 in the Senate District 23 GOP primary by now-Sen. Vicki Marble. Politically, as we've discussed in this space, Marble's subsequent antics in the Senate have resulted in a fair amount bipartisan nostalgia for Vaad.
With that said, Vaad's record certainly does run counter to a clean energy agenda that even controversially pro-energy Gov. Hickenlooper has demonstrated support for (see: Senate Bill 13-252). The issue of Vaad's ties to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that has been scandalized in many states but whose pervasive role in Colorado lawmaking is consistently underreported, seems to be taking hold as a trouble spot.
Conservation Colorado is considered a more mainstream player than a some environmental groups more openly to their left, and as a result more stridently critical of the Hickenlooper administration on environmental policy. Conservation Colorado supports, for example, Hickenlooper's initiative with energy companies for tough new air quality regulations at drilling sites. Hickenlooper is arguably more inclined to listen to them. As we said at the beginning, there's a practical hurdle to opposition to Vaad that needs to be overcome: who is the alternative Republican that could be appointed to the PUC instead?
On this critical point, we have heard now about a few potential Republicans who might indeed be better choices. None of them are perfect by any stretch, but at various points they have expressed support for the renewable energy agenda. There's former Rep. Rob Witwer, considered an honest and experienced negotiator on energy issues. Or Lola Spradley, former Republican speaker of the house who campaigned across the state on behalf of the state's original landmark renewable energy standard Amendment 37 in 2004. Patty Stulp, whose brother John Stulp serves as the Special Policy Advisor to the Governor on Water. Patty Stulp is a business woman with record of supporting alternative fuels. We've even heard suggested one Claudine Schneider, a former moderate GOP member of Congress from New Hampshire who now lives in Colorado.
Mind you, we haven't looked into these potential candidates in any kind of real detail, and there could be disqualifiers in the records of any or all of them. We would expect our readers to have others as well. The point is that there are Republican alternatives to Glenn Vaad that may do, in the eyes of everyone who supports Colorado's clean energy agenda, a better job. And it may be time for Hickenlooper to consider one.