The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, spoke to a panel on Wednesday co-sponsored by the CU Law School’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources and the EPA. The panel was focusing on climate change among other issues.
Administrator McCarthy referred to President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University on climate change and underscored his message that time has run out on waiting for Congress to act on issues related to the warming of the planet. She said it’s time to champion solutions that can be effected through executive action, as well as solutions developed at the community or state level.
“I am working for a president who gets it and is going to force the issue by taking action that is common sense, that you people have taken, that has worked out very well for local communities across the U.S., that helps advance our clean energy agenda, that helps advance our national security agenda, that helps grow jobs,” McCarthy said.
“And he told us to pay attention to what is going on in states and cities, like Colorado and Boulder, and to start learning what you have already learned, and start getting the federal government to take the responsibility that it must take to face the challenge of climate change,” she said.
To assuage the fears of those involved in Colorado’s fracking industry, McCarthy said that natural gas is an essentially part of our nation’s future because it is a clean source of energy. However, she said, natural gas must be extracted in a way that is safe and protects the environment.
Two Colorado cities—Ft Collins and Boulder—are contemplating a ban on fracking. One of the panel’s participants, Tisha Schuller, the president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, made the case that even wind energy requires natural gas.
“Wind requires manufacturing, it requires mining, it requires transportation operations, and maintenance and transmission lines,” Schuller said. “Those things all require oil and gas resources to happen. It’s not free. There’s no energy source that’s a free lunch, and this energy bias that we’re bringing to the conversation is limiting our ability to see solutions.”
Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter who now heads up Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy said that there should not be a political divide in this country around energy and environmental issues.
“The hope is this, that this premise about congressional inaction is a temporary premise and that we can demonstrate, for the president, for executive agencies, that there are things that they can do to push a clean energy agenda to work on the presidential climate action plan, from the agency and executive-authority perspective.”
Ritter said that he hopes that “Congress can understand over time that you can take energy and environment, economic development, (energy rate-payer) equity, and pile those together and have a clean energy agenda for the United States of America that works.”
Many of the panel members including Colorado Senator Mark Udall said that climate change affects water in places like Colorado. The EPA released new data that shows that since 1901 Colorado and the West have experienced up to a 5% decline in precipitation wile areas like the North East experienced a 5% increase. The EPA calls this an indicator of climate change.
While precipitation in Colorado has been declining, its population has quadrupled increasing its demand for water. However, much of Colorado’s water actually belongs to states downstream that are also seeing their populations increase exponentially. Less water is available to quench the thirst of more and more people.
The conundrum is that fracking demands massive amounts of already scare water resources in Colorado and the West. Something has to give. Colorado is faced with a choice whether to provide water to its residents and the people in adjacent states, or supply natural gas. Sooner or later the water will be gone and we will not be able to do both. Hardly anyone is addressing that, however, finding comfort with their heads in the sand.
It is encouraging that the EPA Administrator is on board with the president’s efforts to confront climate change. By coming to Colorado, it shows she is aware of the role Colorado and the West plays in this nation’s energy and climate change policies.
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