DENVER (AP) — Gov. John Hickenlooper warned Thursday that withholding funds for state air quality regulators could prompt the federal government to step in with a heavier hand.
The Democratic governor’s comments came amid a dispute with Republican lawmakers over whether Colorado should continue developing rules to comply with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the administration from beginning implementation of the plan until legal challenges are resolved. Hickenlooper wants the Legislature to approve about $200,000 for the state Air Quality Control Commission to work on the state’s rules to comply with the plan anyway.
“It is still in the state’s best interest,” Hickenlooper said at a forum with oil and gas industry representatives.
“A lot of other industries need clean air,” he said, including breweries — a joking reference to his own history as a part-owner of brewpubs.
Republicans want to prohibit work on state rules to comply with the Clean Power Plan until the courts decide whether the plan is legal. The Republican-controlled state Senate narrowly passed a bill this week to bar such work until the Supreme Court’s stay is lifted.
Hickenlooper raised the possibility of federal Environmental Protection Agency stepping in if the state didn’t act.
“The alternative is the EPA is going to come in and regulate with a much heavier hand,” he said.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, who appeared at the forum with Hickenlooper, called the Clean Air Plan unnecessary. He said it unfairly attempts to pick favorites among competing energy sources.
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