Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper touts a balanced state energy agenda that he says should serve as a national model in politically divisive times. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo
DENVER, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Colorado will continue its legacy as a model for how to strike the right balance between fossil fuels production and a clean economy, its governor said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his State of the State address, describing state governments as a laboratory for leadership in politically divisive times. Highlighting a balanced economy, the governor said he'd continue to position his state as a national leader in inclusive growth.
"With the support of both Republicans and Democrats, we have quadrupled the amount of energy we get from wind and sun in recent years," he said. "Costs of these technologies are dropping like a rock, while the clean energy industry provides jobs to over 60,000 Coloradans."
More than a decade ago, Colorado became the first state in the nation to adopt a voter-led renewable energy standard and moved into the top 10 in solar-power capacity last year. Wind power, however, accounts for the largest percentage of renewable energy on the Colorado grid, accounting for more than 10 percent of its total electricity.
Hickenlooper faced little opposition on his energy agenda, instead taking the brunt of the criticism from Republican leaders on state healthcare measures under the now-endangered Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
On the jobs front, the Democratic governor said his administration was "bullish" on working with rural economies on advancing an energy economy that includes a focus on clean air and water.
"We've protected thousands of acres of open lands and rivers, while we've become one of the best states in the country for natural gas production," he said.
A petition to curb Colorado oil and gas activity failed to make it to the November ballot last year. Initiative No. 75 gave more control to local governments to regulate oil and gas activity, including a ban on the practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Initiative No. 78 called for a mandatory 2,500-foot setback around oil and gas activity. For No. 78, the state found several potentially forged signatures.
"We have put the energy needs and costs of hard working Coloradans before any special interest agenda or false promise," the governor said.
Oil from Colorado accounts for about one out of every 50 barrels produced in the United States. Spending in the oil and gas sector declined and put some pressure on tax revenue growth early last year, though Hickenlooper said the deep contraction that started last year may have bottomed out.