WASHINGTON – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis highlighted successes at the state level for renewable energy, biodiversity protection and early childhood education at the National Governors Association’s annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Polis also touched on pending legislation in Colorado that would boost vaccination levels for children and ban the death penalty in the state, two bills that Polis supports.
“My job is to do the best for Colorado regardless of what is happening in the federal government at a given time,” Polis said in an interview with The Durango Herald. He said, however, it is important to partner with the federal government when possible.
Polis is working with President Donald Trump’s administration on prescription drug importation, and said he is hopeful for a new infrastructure package from the federal government.
“In other areas like climate, it’s really up to local communities and states to lead,” Polis said.
Tri-State Generation, which supplies power to La Plata Electric Association in Durango, announced last month it is going to close coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico by 2030. Polis said this is largely because of the work of the La Plata Election Association, along with the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and United Power, “three significant members of Tri-State that really pushed for these reforms.”
“We are moving to embrace the future, and the future is low-cost, renewable energy,” Polis said.
When it comes to Southwest Colorado, Polis emphasized that the federal government should include state input on federally managed lands.
“The Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management have vast holdings in western Colorado, and we want to make sure they consider community and state input in decisions that affect our quality of life,” Polis said.
The BLM moved to offices in Grand Junction and Lakewood earlier this year, and Polis said his administration is excited to have the BLM manage the land closer to where Colorado’s natural resources are.
“We look forward to continuing to build a strong relationship between the federal government and our state in managing and supporting wildlife diversity and corridor crossings, and making sure that we are able to protect our natural resources for the next generation,” Polis said.
Polis issued an executive order in August to protect migrating wildlife like elk from traffic on highways and main roads. It integrates coordination between the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife so that infrastructure plans will take migrating species into account.
Polis also touted the free, full-day kindergarten opportunity for Colorado’s children, and said he was honored that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer mentioned it in the Democratic response to the State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
“It is exciting to highlight on the national stage the benefit that Colorado kids get because of free, full-day kindergarten,” Polis said.
Emily Hayes is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.