Climate Fix Blog

Climate change is always, well, changing. Stay updated on how you can protect the West.

Colorado Lawmakers Pass Landmark Legislation for Land, Air, and Water

While it may not have always been headline news in Colorado, the environment came out as a major winner this session thanks in part to WRA’s staff who testified, drafted bill language, and engaged legislators and allies; the collective advocacy of our experts; and strategic collaboration through partnerships across the political spectrum.

Jessica Gelay

Jessica Gelay

Government Affairs Manager


While it may not have always been headline news in Colorado, the environment came out as a major winner this session thanks in part to WRA’s staff who testified, drafted bill language, and engaged legislators and allies; the collective advocacy of our experts; and strategic collaboration through partnerships across the political spectrum.  

WRA navigated choppy political waters to ensure that Colorado is accelerating the clean energy transition in a way that protects natural areas and wildlife habitat and addresses some of the harm caused by oil and gas production, while also acting to protect the state against drought and to reduce municipal water demand.  

Combined investments made by the Colorado General Assembly will add nearly $100 million to fight climate change in a way that benefits Colorado’s communities, economies, and ecosystems. From funding land and water conservation to emissions reductions from building decarbonization and transportation, Colorado made real strides in setting up reliable and recurring funding for the environment. And WRA was there each step of the way in supporting more than two dozen pieces of legislation to achieve our climate goals. 

Cleaning Up Colorado’s Air and Incentivizing Clean Energy 

Colorado made progress in the clean energy sector this year by focusing on legislation aimed at modernizing the distribution grid to better enable electrification, supporting existing transportation electrification laws, promoting building electrification, and reducing emissions across sectors. We also successfully blocked the introduction of legislation that could have disrupted well-established electric resource planning with methods that didn’t include guardrails to protect everyday ratepayers.  

Senate Bill 24-214, Implement State Climate Goals  

WRA helped advance SB 24-214, when it was amended to include provisions from HB24-1352. The bill will make heat pump tax credits easier to access and help to expand access to cooling for the 40% of Coloradans that currently lack central air conditioning. This legislation requires the state to study the best way to make affordable, efficient cooling and heating available to all by the end of the decade, which will reduce emissions and help communities cope with heat waves.  

A recent report by WRA, NRDC, and SWEEP showed that the rapid adoption of efficient electric appliances like heat pumps and building energy efficiency measures is the most cost-effective way for Xcel Energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its gas utility. Replacing air conditioners with heat pumps was the single largest driver of emissions reductions in the analysis. In fact, we found that beneficial electrification – switching from conventional gas-fueled appliances to efficient electric counterparts – would achieve most of Xcel’s emissions reductions goals over the next seven years. 

House Bill 24-1370, Reduce the Cost of Natural Gas

WRA also testified in support of HB 24-1370, which requires the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to work with local governments to assist neighborhood-level alternative energy projects. These projects, like targeted decommissioning of portions of the gas system, can save Colorado households and businesses money on energy by providing opportunities for utilities to partner with local governments on pilot projects to invest in more cost-effective alternatives and energy efficiency.  

Senate Bill 24-218, Modernize Energy Distribution Systems 

WRA supported SB 24-218, which establishes an appropriate framework for electric distribution infrastructure investments that effectively balances expediency, regulatory oversight, and cost. This measure directs Xcel Energy to develop more comprehensive plans to upgrade their distribution grid that’s under pressure from increased use and is essential to bringing electricity to Colorado homes and businesses. Increased distribution grid infrastructure and electricity generation is critical for the state to meet its building, transportation, and general decarbonization goals.  

WRA's Severiano DeSoto testifying for Colorado's House Transportation Committee on SB24-212.

Protecting and Funding Public Lands and Wildlife Habitat

One of the most cost-effective strategies for mitigating climate change and protecting wildlife and biodiversity is adopting policies that safeguard land from development. And it is also very popular Coloradans overwhelmingly approve of land conservation goals. Polling shows that 89% of Colorado voters support requiring oil and gas companies to pay for cleanup and land restoration. Thankfully, this legislative session, Colorado decision makers established oil and gas production fees, increased conservation easement tax credits, and explored clean energy siting.  

Senate Bill 24-230, Oil and Gas Production Fees

Oil and gas operations have numerous adverse and long-lasting impacts on Colorado’s communities, biodiversity, and the environment. These negative impacts include greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, pollutants that cause poor air quality in local communities, and the destruction and disturbance of natural areas and wildlife. The state of Colorado incurs significant costs addressing harm from oil and gas production.  

WRA was a driving force behind the drafting and advocacy that led to the passage of SB 24-230, Oil and Gas Production Fees. This legislation creates a new fee on oil and gas production, and the fee revenue will allow the state to partially remediate the environmental  

harm caused by oil and gas production by making landmark investments in conservation. The fee will be quarterly, starting with oil and gas produced in the state after July 1, 2025, and the revenue generated for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), estimated to be as much as $50 million annually, will go toward significant investments in things like: 

  • Creating new state parks and state wildlife areas 
  • Slowing biodiversity loss and improving ecosystem resilience 
  • Improving wildlife connectivity and migration corridors 
  • Restoring lands to compensate for those lost to oil and gas development 

SB24-230 also included a fee that will be directed to local transit agencies across the state through the existing Clean Transit Enterprise to increase ridership and frequency of mass transit and to develop passenger rail; revenue is expected to be more than $120 million annually. 

Senate Bill 24-212, Local Governments Renewable Energy Projects  

WRA led advocacy on SB 24-212, a bill promoting renewable energy siting and development in a way that protects wildlife and habitat.  

This legislation directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop High Priority Habitat maps specific to the impacts of utility scale wind and solar development, and to update best management practices to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts from these projects in those habitats. In addition, local governments are required to consult with Tribal Nations for projects proposed in the Brunot Treaty area where the Tribes have hunting, fishing, and gathering treaty rights.  

The bill also directs the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to develop a repository for model regulations that can serve as a template for local governments to adopt pro-renewable, pro-wildlife codes and provides voluntary technical assistance from the Energy and Carbon Management Commission to local governments when updating local codes and assessing individual projects. Finally, CEO and the Department of Natural Resources will conduct a study to assess local government permitting processes to determine if counties have the infrastructure and resources needed to site and permit renewable energy at the pace and scale necessary to meet Colorado’s renewable energy goals while also protecting wildlife and providing community benefits.  

SB 24-212 was the product of a year-and-a-half long stakeholder process directed by WRA and the Colorado Renewable Energy Siting Coalition to develop a siting policy that centers conservation and community values while helping to accelerate the build out of utility scale wind and solar projects. This legislation is an important step to reaching the state’s clean energy targets and protecting Colorado’s rich biodiversity. 

Senate Bill 24-126, Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit

WRA helped pass SB 24-126 to increase the state’s limit on the Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit by $5 million annually to $50 million dollars. For over 20 years, the Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit has enabled the protection of millions of acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, wetlands, open space, and other valuable lands. However, the previous cap was drastically less than the current demand. This new funding allows the state to expand the reach of this pivotal conservation program and to take an important step toward meeting the current demand .  

The Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit already has a successful track record and provides significant benefits statewide. A 2023 Colorado State University Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics report estimates that for every $1 Colorado invests in conservation, the public receives between $31 and $49 in economic return. According to Keep It Colorado, the total cumulative impact of conservation easement tax credits to Colorado taxpayers is estimated to be between $35 billion and $57 billion, about $20,000 per acre conserved. 


WRA celebrating with legislators the signing of House Bill 24-1379 that restores protections lost from the Supreme Court decision.

Saving Water and Protecting Rivers   

This session, the legislature made big investments to protect Colorado’s water future. Despite a very tight budget, the state invested heavily in water, thanks to advocates like WRA. Colorado is rethinking how we use and save water by adopting legislation that bans nonfunctional thirsty turfgrass, protects river health, safeguards endangered wetlands, and funds water projects. This year Colorado led the nation as the first state in the country to reinstate wetland protections lost from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Sackett vs. EPA decision.  

Senate Bill 24-005, Prohibit Landscaping Practices for Water Conservation

WRA was a leader in crafting and passing SB 24-005 by a wide bipartisan margin. This bill will help Colorado conserve water by prohibiting the use of thirsty non-native turfgrass in seldom-used areas. The legislation promotes water-wise landscaping by prohibiting the installation of nonfunctional turf, invasive plant species, and artificial turf in any newly developed commercial, institutional, industrial, state properties, and common areas of Homeowner Association communities. It also applies to other little-used areas like parking lots, tree lawns and road medians. Beyond saving water, the bill helps reduce the reliance on pesticides and gas-powered lawn equipment and will make space for native plants and the pollinators that rely on them. 

This legislation was possible because of the foundation that WRA helped build over the past few years at the local and state levels for drought resilient landscapes. Across Colorado, support for water-wise landscaping practices is growing, making legislation like SB 24-005 possible. WRA will continue to work with local communities to implement the new law.  

Senate Bill 24-197, Water Conservation Measures 

The legislature passed SB 24-197, which includes recommendations from the Colorado River Drought Task Force that was convened in 2023 at the direction of the General Assembly and includes protections to electric utility water rights. WRA served as a member of the Task Force and led on two policies that made it into SB24-197. The first expands opportunities for water users to temporarily loan their stored water to maintain healthy river flows. The second expands access for farmers and ranchers to loan their water to other users while still keeping the water in agriculture. This can help benefit river health by allowing that water to be used to temporarily meet stream and local community needs. In addition, SB24-197 will allow Tribes better access to grant funding by removing a fund matching requirement. 

House Bill 24-1379, Regulate Dredge & Fill Activities in State Waters 

Although wetlands currently make up less than 3% of Colorado’s landscape, they still play an outsized role in sustaining our wildlife – providing homes for hundreds of species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The wetlands of Colorado support over 80% of wildlife at some point in their lives. Wetlands and small streams not only provide essential habitat for endemic species, they also protect our water by capturing and filtering sediments and heavy metals, stabilizing banks and shorelines, recharging groundwater, and promoting the health of the entire downstream river network 

More than half of this essential habitat has been lost since the 1800s to draining, filling, and excavating. The rest of these critical waters were left vulnerable after a U.S. Supreme Court decision gutted federal wetland protections last spring. Colorado became the first state in the nation to pass legislation that restores protections for our wetlands and streams from mining, construction, and other development activities. HB 24-1379 is a major victory for our communities and wildlife. By protecting wetlands and streams, Colorado is safeguarding water quality, building resilience to climate change, and preserving essential wildlife habitat. 

House Bill 24-1435, Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects

Through HB 24-1435, the state put an additional $2 million toward the popular Turf Replacement Program that WRA helped establish in 2022, which provides financial incentives to replace thirsty turfgrass with waterwise landscaping. After its passage the number of Colorado municipalities and utilities with turf replacement programs increased from 22 in 2022 to 40 in May 2024, nearly doubling the number of programs, with more expected this year. 

Colorado also dedicated $20 million toward the purchase of the water rights associated with the Shoshone Power Plant by the Colorado River Water Conservation District from Xcel Energy. The power plant has a senior water right that keeps a substantial amount of water in the mainstem of the Colorado River providing significant benefit to the environment, recreational economy, water quality, and water users. Importantly, water supports the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program’s 15-mile reach (east of Grand Junction down to the confluence with the Gunnison River), which is critical habitat for endangered fish. The Colorado River District is working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to protect flows and ensure that this important stretch of the Colorado River is managed to promote the health of the river and its ecosystem.  

Another bill that could send more money to water projects is a referred ballot measure to remove the fiscal cap on sports betting revenue. HB 24-1436, Sports Betting Revenue, passed the General Assembly and will be on the November ballot. The ballot measure would remove the current $29 million limit and allow more revenue to be kept by the state for water conservation and protection projects, instead of being returned to sport betting entities.  

We’re already preparing for 2025 and leveraging successes from this year into greater action for the next.

Join us today.

After successfully passing these bills, WRA will continue to be there every step of the way in guiding their successful implementation. These wins are only possible with the donors and advocates who support WRA through sharing information, taking action, and supporting our work with financial contributions. Make sure you follow along by joining our email list. You can also turn your love for the West into meaningful change by donating to WRA today. Your support means that we can lock in policy success now that will impact generations to come.  

Important updates from WRA’s experts – straight to your inbox.

Western Resource Advocates