“I think in the next 5 to 10 years, people will think about burning fossil fuels in their homes the way they now think about lead paint.”
– Colorado State Rep. Tracy Bernett, a Democrat from Longmont, speaking at a Sept. 19 webinar organized by the Colorado Renewable Energy Society about HB22-1362, a bill she co-sponsored that seeks to gently use state authority to tamp down emissions from buildings. She called the bill “one heck of a heavy lift.”
The bill establishes three building codes, two of them required and one voluntary, in an effort to nudge new and remodeled buildings in Colorado constructed in the next few years to be ready for air source heat pumps, electric cars, and other elements of what will be needed for Colorado to meet its 2030 and then 2050 decarbonization goals.
“On these codes, Colorado is a choice kind of state. We are not banning natural gas, but if people want to have gas, then they need to compensate for the carbon dioxide they are generating with solar panels or something else,” she explained.
“Most car manufacturers are not going to be producing internal combustion engines within the next decade or so. We need to be able to provide a path for EV charging. It is cheaper to build an all-electric home from the start. It’s cheaper to operate because you’re not putting the gas from the street into the home,” she added.
Bernett, who suffers from asthma, also cited the health benefits. One analysis found that children who live in homes that use natural gas have a 42% increased risk of developing asthma.
An engineer by training who has a master’s in business administration from Harvard, Bernett became a legislator in 2021 and quickly distinguished herself in the realm of the energy transition.
In her career, Bernett worked as a construction engineer.
“I used to design nuclear power plants, of all things, and then I switched to consulting. My career was all over the place, but the one thing I was always passionate about was the environment,” she explained.
“Why am I doing this?” she asked of the legislative career at an age when many people are heading off in their RVs. “It’s a little Pollyana-ish. I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Helping respond to climate change has become a theme. In 2012, she was running a marathon in New York City when Hurricane Katrina hit. Half of Manhattan was flooded. Scientists concluded the hurricane’s force was greater because of the effects of the warming climate. She put her running shoes aside and pitched in to help. She hasn’t stopped since.
“My plan is to bring back that bill back, bigger and better.”
– Colorado State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver, on his intention to submit a bill in the next legislative session similar to what was in SB22-138. That bill failed in the last session for what he described as “small political reasons.”
The bill was a suitcase of ideas, but prominent among them were elements that sought to bring agriculture into the decarbonization effort. One idea is to use the state extension service agents to evaluate potential for agrivoltaics, the placement of solar in agricultural areas.
A candidate for Denver mayor, Hansen grew up in a Kansas farm town.
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