Boulder County news roundup: Climate protest, arrest bill pulled, and more

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Protesters demonstrate against threat of climate bill veto

A group of protesters are donning red robes and clock-face masks outside the state Capitol this week to protest a potential veto by Gov. Jared Polis of Senate Bill 21-200, dubbed Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice.

Environmentalists and community members gathered on the front steps in hopes of changing Polis’ stated position that he would veto the bill if it reaches his desk. The bill would streamline and strengthen greenhouse gas emissions targets, and put in benchmarks for specific industries to meet. The bill would require such standards to be put in place by March 2022.

SB 21-200 is (as of press time on May 19) being considered by the state Senate.

The bill follows up on 2019 legislation that outlines a roadmap for meeting greenhouse gas emissions, but oversight of the path toward fewer emissions, done by the governor-appointed Air Quality Control Commission, has left environmentalists wanting more stringent guidelines.

Colorado Energy Office Director Will Toor pushed back on the assertion that the roadmap doesn’t require enough action in a lengthy Twitter post outlining how it is not “just an aspirational document based on voluntary actions by the private sector.” Toor cited emission reduction benchmarks from energy providers Xcel and Black Hills Energy, as well as legislation and enacted vehicle standards to claim that progress is being made.

But for environmentalists (wearing clocks because the state is “out of time” to act on the climate), legislation like SB 21-200 would provide more accountability in meeting the state’s energy goals.

NOAA: The West is indeed hot and dry, despite the recent rain

The U.S. is one degree hotter than it was 20 years ago, and many parts of the West are significantly drier than in the past. That’s according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studying typical temperatures and precipitation across the country over the last 30 years.

Although Boulder County is out of drought, much of the Western Slope (as well as Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada) are still in severe drought.

The data is useful in the context of greater climate change data — tracking “normal” temperatures provides an indication of current trends that are best understood in in the context of a longer period of data (which NOAA does, in its tracking from 1900 on). Simply put, “normals” help us understand how climate change impacts everyday weather. It’s like the Census — a short-framed count that adds to a body of data to produce a better understanding of ongoing trends.

That all said, the recent NOAA data does indicate the impacts of climate change are being felt. In addition to the West being drier and hotter — as has been the trend over the years —the Southeast, prone to flooding from storms and hurricanes, is wetter than it was in the past.

For the full data set, go to ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/briefings/20210420.pdf.

Democrats pull SB-62, introduce new arrest standards bill

Senate Democrats have pulled SB-62, which would have changed arrest standards across the state by increasing the use of summons instead of arrest for low-level misdemeanor and felony offenses like traffic violations and drug offenses where public safety or ongoing criminal behavior aren’t a concern. The bill saw pushback from law enforcement agencies across the state, including those in Boulder (see News, “Boulder could play central role in shaping state pretrial reform legislation,” March 25). The bill sponsors said widespread misinformation after fierce public debate on social media and elsewhere contributed to their decision, as it wasn’t clear if they’d win a majority in the Senate.

Instead, on Friday, May 14, Democrats introduced replacement legislation that leaves out the least severe felonies mentioned in the previous bill, but still would require the use of summons for traffic, municipal and nonviolent misdemeanor crimes.

Bedrooms Are for People meet signature threshold

Last year, organizers for Bedrooms Are for People (BAFP), who were circulating a petition to increase housing occupancy limits to the amount of bedrooms in a home plus one, were given incorrect information by the City of Boulder and had to scrap their petition.

This year, things are different. Using the City’s digital signature-gathering platform, Boulder Direct Democracy Online, organizers announced this week they’ve collected the 3,336 signatures needed to get their measure on the ballot come November.

Once the City certifies the petition next month, organizers say it’ll be the first initiative in the nation to secure a spot on the ballot via an online petitioning system.

Because the signatures were collected digitally, voter identification and verification was partly done in the process of signing the ballot — though there were wrinkles to iron out, which BAFP organizers took the lead on resolving. Still, the City will review the signatures by June 15 and either legally certify the measure for the ballot or send it back to organizers with 10 days to collect enough signatures to meet the threshold.

The announcement that BAFP met the signature threshold marks a milestone for the online signature-gathering process, which City voters approved in 2018, and which was finally implemented for the 2021 election cycle.