July 21, 2021
WRA works at the state level because that’s where some of the most effective decisions to influence climate policy are made. State-level policies play a major role in reducing carbon emissions; ensuring air and water quality; protecting rivers, wildlife, and habitats; and investing in open space and parks.
State legislative sessions also provide major opportunities for our advocates and supporters to make their voices heard and let lawmakers know what is important to them.
In 2021, WRA worked to help ensure passage of critical legislation that supports our goals of tackling climate change, safeguarding healthy rivers, protecting and connecting lands and habitats, and ensuring clean air—while we also worked to stop any bills that would impede progress.
We made important progress on many fronts, and we also know the work doesn’t stop here. Now we continue our advocacy in front of state commissions and lay the groundwork for 2022 state legislative sessions. Legislative sessions wrapped up in states across the West in spring 2021, but many of these bills took months if not years of planning.
Check out WRA’s legislative timeline to see what happened in your state and around our region!
Colorado 2021 Legislation
Regional Transmission Bill Signed Into Law In Colorado
SIGNED: SB21-072 requires utility companies that own electricity generation assets to join an “organized wholesale market” by 2030.
The new law also contains provisions related to transmission facilities in Colorado that will help the state develop renewable energy and meet its climate targets. WRA was a technical advisor on this legislation and supported it as part of a coalition.
Colorado’s Office Of The Consumer Advocates Directed To Consider Greenhouse Gas Reduction
SIGNED: SB21-103 addresses the Office of the Consumer Advocates (OCA)’s work supporting Colorado energy consumers.
WRA helped draft this new law that requires the OCA to consider Colorado’s emission reductions goals in its work and giving OCA staff access to the modeling software used by utilities in ratemaking and resource planning.
New Resources Secured For The Colorado Public Utilities Commission
SIGNED: SB21-272 takes important steps to modernize the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
This new law includes measures to increase transparency and accountability at the PUC, including allowing PUC staff to access the modeling software used by utilities in ratemaking and resource planning. WRA contributed to drafting this legislation and provided testimony to support it during committee hearings.
New Funding Secured For Colorado State Parks
SIGNED: SB21-112 increases funding for Colorado parks.
This new law will invest $20 million in construction projects at 12 state parks across Colorado, including a faster buildout of Fishers Peak State Park. WRA joined coalition partners in advocating for this bill.
New Investments In Wildfire Mitigation Made In Colorado
SIGNED: SB21-258 invests in wildfire risk mitigation.
SB21-258 will create a $25 million fund for wildfire mitigation efforts, such as prescribed burns, taking out lower tree branches and removing deadfall in targeted locations. WRA submitted written testimony in support of this bill.
Air Quality Monitoring Bill Becomes Law In Colorado
SIGNED: HB21-1189 will require new air quality monitoring.
This new law is an important first step to improve air quality for Coloradans. It will require industrial facilities to collect and publicly report real-time air quality monitoring data and will allow communities to better understand the cumulative health impacts of air toxics emissions. WRA was part of a large coalition championing this bill.
Additional Funding For Colorado’s Water Future Secured
PASSED UNANIMOUSLY AND SIGNED: HB21-1260 provides a $20 million down payment on implementing the Colorado Water Plan, a blueprint for securing the state’s water future.
These funds will be used to support water projects across the state that will protect healthy rivers and help secure our water supply. WRA supported the legislation as part of a broad coalition of Colorado stakeholders.
New Colorado State Park Pass Created
SIGNED: SB21-249 creates a new pass to access Colorado state parks and other public lands.
The new pass will be available when Coloradans register passenger vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles, beginning in 2023. It will reduce fees for Colorado state parks and other public lands while providing critical funding for park maintenance, increasing the state’s conservation efforts through more habitat conservation, and expanding opportunities for Coloradans to enjoy the unique beauty of the state. WRA, along with coalition partners, supported this bill.
New Laws Make Colorado A National Leader In Addressing Emissions From The Building Sector
SIGNED: Four bills will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment between June 21 and June 24.
WRA advised on and supported the passage of these bills.
- SB21-264 will require gas distribution utilities to file “clean heat plans” to ensure they achieve new standards to reduce pollution. This change will decrease emissions from the buildings sector 26% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The new law is modeled on a concept developed by WRA.
- SB21-246 will require the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create programs that encourage adoption of energy-efficient technologies and to set energy savings targets.
- SB21-1286 sets an energy performance standard for buildings. Under the new law, buildings over 50,000 square feet must achieve a 7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2026 and a 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. The bill also directs the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to develop rules to achieve the state’s carbon reduction goals by 2050.
- HB21-1238 will expand gas demand-side management programs to gas utilities. These programs have been successful tools in reducing electricity consumption.
Outdoor Equity Grant Program Established In Colorado
SIGNED: HB21-1318 establishes an Outdoor Equity Grant Program in Colorado.
Creating the Outdoor Equity Grant Program is an important step toward breaking down barriers to outdoor access in Colorado. The program will provide meaningful and sustainable funding to entities that facilitate conservation, environmental, and outdoor experiences, as well as educational opportunities for underserved youths and families across Colorado. WRA aided in drafting the bill and testified in support.
Crucial Climate Bill Signed Into Law In Colorado
SIGNED: HB21-1266, amended to include critical sections from SB21-200, will address environmental justice issues and reduce climate pollution from several large sources of carbon emissions.
The measure also creates a new source of funding for implementing climate rules by closing a loophole that had let some sources of climate pollution off the hook. WRA policy experts, advocates, and supporters played a crucial role in ensuring this bill’s passage.
Arizona 2021 Legislation
$5 Million For Conservation Secured In Arizona
PASSED: A budget adding $5 million to the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.
In 2019, WRA and partners successfully advocated to restore the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund, which was created by ballot initiative in 1990 but later lost funding.
This year, WRA followed up on that success by working to add dollars to the fund, and the budget passed by the Legislature ultimately included a $5 million one-time appropriation to the fund.
Two Bills Threatening Arizona’s Clean Energy Transition Stopped
STOPPED: HB21-2248 and SB21-175 would have attempted to strip the Arizona Corporation Commission of its power to make rules about Arizona’s energy mix.
The ACC has an important role in the state’s clean energy transition: Among other responsibilities, it can set carbon-free energy standards for the state. The proposed bills could have taken away that ability, potentially slowing Arizona’s transition to clean energy. WRA successfully worked to prevent these bills from moving forward before the legislative session ended on June 30, preserving the ACC’s role in advancing carbon-free energy in Arizona.
Arizona Water Conservation Bill Signed Into Law
SIGNED: HB21-2056 allows for more water conservation.
This water conservation bill will increase flexibility in Arizona’s water management and lead to more water flowing in the state’s rivers.
This new law will allow surface water users to work with the Arizona Department of Water Resources to create new voluntary conservation programs. Users who choose to conserve water under these programs no longer face the risk of losing their water right. WRA, along with coalition partners, helped shape this bill and spent several years participating in a strategic outreach and vetting process with stakeholders and legislators.
Montana 2021 Legislation
Anti-conservation Bill Stopped In Montana
STOPPED: HB21-320 would have prohibited the state from selling any land transferred from the federal government to the state.
This bill would have advanced anti-conservation, pro-land transfer efforts by giving political cover to legislators to support future land transfer efforts.
WRA used our policy expertise to analyze the costs to Montana of transferring federal lands to the state. WRA’s analysis was shared with Montana legislators who voted the bill down in a committee hearing.
Conservation Funding Protected In Montana
PROTECTED: Conservation funding promised by Ballot Initiative 190.
In November 2020, Montana voters approved Initiative 190—a ballot measure supported by WRA and coalition partners that legalized recreational marijuana, imposed a tax, and dedicated half the tax revenue to a variety of conservation purposes, including land acquisition for habitat protection. During the 2021 legislative session, advocates successfully opposed several bills that would have redirected this new revenue to other purposes.
New Mexico 2021 Legislation
Bills That Would Weaken New Mexico’s Eta Stopped
STOPPED: SB 155 and SB 156 would have weakened landmark Energy Transition Act.
WRA and coalition partners worked to successfully stop two bills that would have jeopardized the important climate and economic benefits of the Energy Transition Act, New Mexico’s landmark clean energy law passed in 2019.
Nevada 2021 Legislation
Nevada Strengthens Its Ability To Stop Water Pollution
SIGNED: Assembly Bill 146 strengthens the state’s ability to regulate water pollution from indirect sources, which is the leading type of water pollution in Nevada.
The provisions in Assembly Bill 146 will strengthen regulations on this kind of pollution and could provide a pathway to protect lands by limiting or preventing activities that would contribute to pollution. WRA worked with coalition partners in Nevada to advocate for the bill’s approval.
New Development Impacts Bill Becomes Law In Nevada
SIGNED: Assembly Bill 211 requires developers to consult with the Nevada Department of Wildlife on new subdivision proposals and their impacts on wildlife and their habitats.
This is an important step toward protecting wildlife habitat by better managing sprawl. WRA aided in developing this new law and testified in support of its passage.
Nevada Clean Energy Transition Bill Signed Into Law
SIGNED: Senate Bill 448 accelerates Nevada’s transition to clean energy.
This important new law will drive investment in clean energy technologies, help Nevada achieve its carbon reduction and clean energy goals, invest in the communities hardest hit by carbon pollution, and create new jobs across the state. WRA worked to advance this bill through Nevada’s legislature.
30×30 Resolution Approved By Nevada Legislature
PASSED: Assembly Joint Resolution 3 encourages Nevada to safeguard 30% of its lands and waters by 2030.
Nevada is the first state to pass legislation in support of the national and international 30×30 goal. Achieving 30×30, especially as part of a national effort, will help species survive and thrive; ensure the health of our rivers, lakes, and water supplies; and help combat the global climate crisis. WRA helped draft the resolution and advocated for its passage.
Utah 2021 Legislation
WRA-led Coalition Stops A Bill To Hike Utah’s EV Fees
STOPPED: HB21-209 would have more than doubled annual registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) in Utah.
This bill would have made Utah’s EV fees become the highest in the nation. But WRA, along with coalition partners and engaged Utahns, stepped in to stop it. WRA educated decision makers about the impacts of the bill and empowered Utahns across the state to take action to oppose the fee increase.