2024 State Legislative Debrief: Colorado

Jun 20, 2024

By Rachael Hamby

Colorado’s state legislature meets annually for sessions not to exceed 120 days, during which any topics may be covered. Giving Utah legislators a run for their money, in the 2024 session Colorado’s legislators introduced a total of 705 bills; of those, 525 passed both chambers, and Governor Jared Polis vetoed only six bills. Unlike Utah, however, Colorado made significant progress on land conservation, advancing clean energy, addressing climate change, improving air quality, and more. Given the significant presence of oil and gas development in the state and its contributions to both climate change and air quality concerns, these issues are all closely connected and many bills addressed two or three of these issues simultaneously. Read on for a summary of the highlights from Colorado’s 2024 legislative session. Following the summary is a comprehensive list of conservation-related bills, grouped by category.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve via Flickr

Policy and funding wins for land conservation

In a significant victory for land conservation, energy transition, and climate, SB24–230 Oil and Gas Production Fees imposes new fees on oil and gas production and directs revenues to land, wildlife, and habitat conservation and restoration, as well as clean transit projects. Beginning in July 2025, every oil and gas producer in the state will pay two new quarterly production fees — one for clean transit, one for wildlife and land remediation — based on average oil and gas spot prices. This will result in an estimated annual revenue of $59 million by FY2026–27 for the wildlife and land remediation fund (about one-third of the total estimated revenue from the two fees).

Additional bills will provide both policy and funding support for land conservation and stewardship. SB24–126 Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit makes Colorado’s conservation easement program and tax credit permanent, and increases the cap on the total value of conservation easement tax credits that may be claimed from the current $45 million, gradually increasing to $75 million by 2026 and in subsequent years. The Colorado Natural Areas program, which identifies and helps protect unique and sensitive natural features such as geological sites or animal and plant communities, was also extended for ten years to September 2034 by HB24–1257 Sunset Natural Areas Council. For agricultural landowners, HB24–1249 Tax Credit Agricultural Stewardship Practices creates a new state income tax credit for engaging in certain stewardship practices on a farm or ranch. The more stewardship practices a farmer or rancher engages in, the greater the tax credit per acre.

Cedar Creek Wind Farm, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Advancing the energy transition

Acknowledging the importance of thoughtful planning for renewable energy projects, SB24–212 Local Govs Renewable Energy Projects puts a framework in place to ensure that wildlife habitats are being considered, and the impacts to wildlife are mitigated, during the process of siting renewable energy facilities. The bill directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to identify high-priority habitats and provide best management practices to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts of renewable energy projects on wildlife. The bill also requires the development of codes and ordinances for renewable energy projects that local governments can adopt.

To help communities transition to clean energy, HB24–1370 Reduce Cost of Use of Natural Gas establishes a pilot program for up to five communities that are interested in working with a utility to decommission some of their natural gas distribution systems and exploring alternative energy sources for new construction, with priority given to communities that want to pursue thermal energy network or geothermal energy projects as potential alternatives. SB24–207 Access to Distributed Generation increases the amount of community solar capacity that utilities must make available to customers, adds protections for community solar subscribers, and requires specific discounts to be offered to income-qualified subscribers. To support improvements to the electric grid, SB24–218 Modernize Energy Distribution Systems requires utilities to update their distribution systems to support achievement of federal, state, regional, and local decarbonization and air quality targets.

A pumpjack in northern Colorado, WildEarth Guardians via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Addressing oil and gas development impacts on air quality

In November 2022, the Denver metro and northern Front Range areas were classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a “severe” nonattainment area for 2008 ozone standards, requiring the development of a “severe State Implementation Plan” to help the state meet air quality standards for ozone. Oil and gas activity is a main source of ozone-forming pollution in the state. Perhaps motivated by this, legislators introduced a number of bills to address the state’s air quality, including by regulating oil and gas activity.

SB24–229 Ozone Mitigation Measures enacts a variety of measures aimed at reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (which contribute to ozone pollution) by the oil and gas industry by 50 percent (relative to 2017 levels) by 2030. These include requiring oil and gas operators to obtain a license to conduct oil and gas operations (currently only a permit to commence operations is required) and to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from oil and gas pre-production operations. The bill strengthens enforcement for air quality and emissions violations, expands the Energy and Carbon Management Commission’s authority to include revoking a license to conduct oil and gas operations, and expands the types of violations that will lead to the suspension of an operator’s licenses and permits. The bill also expands the orphaned wells mitigation enterprise to address wells that are at the highest risk of becoming orphaned.

Recognizing that some communities are disproportionately impacted by the effects of oil and gas development and air pollution, HB24–1338 Cumulative Impacts and Environmental Justice follows up recommendations made by the Environmental Justice Action Task Force created by a bill from the 2021 session. HB24–1338 creates a new Office of Environmental Justice which will develop environmental equity and cumulative impact analyses that can be used by state agencies when evaluating the cumulative impacts of potentially polluting activities. In addition, the bill requires petroleum refineries to provide real-time emissions monitoring data, creates a rapid-response team to respond to air quality complaints, and requires a study of whether the state should adopt a petroleum refinery rule.

Wetlands at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

Protecting and conserving water

In a significant victory for the protection of streams and wetlands, HB24–1379 Regulate Dredge and Fill Activities in State Waters is the first state-level legislation in the country to address the gap created by the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency Supreme Court decision which has left state waters and wetlands newly unprotected by federal regulations. The bill requires the development of a state program that is at least as protective as the federal Clean Water Act and that prioritizes avoidance and minimization of adverse impacts, and compensation for unavoidable adverse impacts, of discharging material into state waters, including wetlands.

Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, an amendment to the state constitution, the state must seek voter approval for any new or increased tax, and must refund to taxpayers any revenue that exceeds the estimated revenue as proposed to voters when they approved the tax. In 2019, voters approved a new tax on sports betting, with revenues directed to water conservation projects. This has been very successful, and HB24–1436 Sports Betting Tax Revenue Voter Approval proposes to ask voters to allow the state to keep revenue from this tax in excess of the estimated $29 million they approved in 2019. The retained excess revenue will still go towards water conservation.

Other notable water conservation measures passed this session include HB24–1362 Measures to Incentivize Graywater Use which authorizes graywater use statewide; SB24–005 Prohibit Landscaping Practices for Water Conservation which prohibits local governments from allowing nonfunctional turf, artificial turf, or invasive plant species to be planted or installed in certain settings; and SB24–037 Study Green Infrastructure for Water Quality Management requires a feasibility study of nature-based, watershed-scale water quality management alternatives to traditional water treatment infrastructure, and requires the establishment of pilot projects.

Uncompaghre Wilderness, BLM Colorado via Flickr

Takeaways and looking to next year

Colorado continues to make strides when it comes to better regulating the oil and gas industry to protect public health and the environment. But major air quality concerns in the Denver metro and Front Range areas clearly show there is more to be done. More ambitious measures, such as SB24–159 Mod to Energy and Carbon Management Processes which would have phased out oil and gas production in the state entirely, and HB24–1330 Air Quality Permitting and SB24–165 Air Quality Improvements which would have regulated oil and gas even more tightly to reduce ozone-forming pollution, did not pass this session but may make a comeback in future sessions as the state struggles to get ozone and other pollution under control.

As Colorado’s population continues to grow, land use planning and related topics will continue to attract the attention of policymakers as they attempt to address housing affordability, transportation planning, and other issues driven by development pressures. The framework laid out by SB24–212 Local Govs Renewable Energy Projects to support local governments in taking wildlife and their habitats into account when planning renewable energy development, if successful, can serve as a model for other types of development that impact wildlife.

Powderhorn Wilderness, BLM Colorado via Flickr

Want to read about even more bills?

See below for a comprehensive summary of conservation-related bills considered by the Colorado legislature in the 2024 session, including but not limited to those not already covered in the summary above. Bills are grouped into categories: land conservation; energy and climate; air quality; transportation; water; outdoor recreation; wildlife; wildfire; miscellaneous other bills of note; and failed anti-conservation ideas.

Land conservation

Colorado’s Conservation Easement Oversight Commission and certified holder program were scheduled to sunset in July 2026. SB24–126 Conservation Easement Income Tax Credit extends both the commission and the program indefinitely. The bill increases the cap on the total value of conservation easement tax credits that may be claimed from the current $45 million, gradually increasing to $75 million by 2026 and in subsequent years, though beginning in 2027 taxpayers may claim 80 percent of the fair market value of the donated portion of the easement, down from 90 percent under current law. The bill also allows conservation easement holders to approve expanded wind or solar energy facilities as long as they do not impair conservation values. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1249 Tax Credit Agricultural Stewardship Practices creates a new state income tax credit for engaging in certain stewardship practices on a farm or ranch. The stewardship practices will be laid out in rules by the Department of Agriculture, but the bill states that these may include practices that improve soil health, water retention, or drought resilience, or that create “more diverse and beneficial ecosystems.” The more stewardship practices a farmer or rancher engages in, the greater the tax credit per acre. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1257 Sunset Natural Areas Council extends the Colorado Natural Areas Council, which was scheduled to sunset in September 2024, for ten years to September 2034. The Colorado Natural Areas Council was originally established in 1977 by the Colorado Natural Areas Act. The 1977 law also created the Colorado Natural Areas Program, within Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which identifies and helps protect unique and sensitive natural features such as geological sites or animal and plant communities. The council advises Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the designation of natural areas and the direction of the Colorado Natural Areas Program. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HJR24–1012 Tenth Mountain Division is a bipartisan resolution which passed both the House (62–0 with three not voting) and Senate (32–0 with three not voting) expressing the legislature’s appreciation for the new Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument which was designated by President Joe Biden in October 2022.

Energy and climate

HB24–1173 Electric Vehicle Charging System Permits requires counties and municipalities to adopt a procedure for applying for permits to install electric vehicle chargers, and directs the Colorado Energy Office to develop a model code that counties and municipalities can adopt. The bill also stipulates that if no action is taken on a completed application after a certain amount of time, the application is automatically considered approved. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1246 Electric Grid Resilience Temporary Carbon Dioxide Regulation would have revised current state carbon dioxide emission reduction goals for 2030 and 2050, extending them to 2040 and 2060 and making them a lower priority than other goals laid out by the bill to increase grid resilience against geomagnetic storms. The bill would have also prohibited classifying or regulating carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. This bill did not advance out of the House Committee on Energy and Environment.

HB24–1346 Energy and Carbon Management Regulation extends an existing deadline from April 2024 to September 2024 for the state’s Energy and Carbon Management Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, to issue new rules to regulate and address the cumulative impacts of any operations regulated by the commission, including but not limited to oil and gas. In addition, HB24–1346 expands the authority of the commission, as well as the applicability of existing energy and carbon management laws, to include regulation of geologic storage operations. Geologic storage is the term for injecting carbon dioxide captured from the air or a point source so that it can be stored underground in pore spaces within rock formations. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1357 Pipeline Safety would have required the Public Utilities Commission to adopt rules requiring the use of advanced leak detection technology, increased the fines for violations of pipeline safety laws, and required more pipeline safety data to be made public, among other changes. This bill passed the House Energy and Environment and House Finance committees, but did not advance out of House Finance.

HB24–1359 Public Notification of Hazardous Chemical Releases, dubbed the “Community Right to Know Act,” would have added new reporting notification requirements for oil and gas operators after spills or releases of hazardous chemicals to ensure that nearby residents are provided, in a timely manner, with the same information the operator is required to provide to the state. The bill passed the House Energy and Environment Committee, but did not advance out of House Appropriations.

Under current state law, wells that produce an average of 15 barrels per day of oil or 90,000 cubic feet or less per day of gas (sometimes referred to as “stripper wells”) are exempt from state oil and gas severance tax. HB24–1367 Repeal Severance Tax Exemption for Stripper Wells would have removed this exemption. This bill passed out of the House Energy and Environment and House Finance committees, but did not advance out of House Appropriations.

HB24–1370 Reduce Cost of Use of Natural Gas establishes a pilot program for up to five communities that are interested in working with a utility to decommission some of their natural gas distribution systems and exploring alternative energy sources for new construction, with priority given to communities that want to pursue thermal energy network or geothermal energy projects as potential alternatives. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–159 Mod to Energy and Carbon Management Processes would have phased out all new oil and gas permits in the state by 2030. In the context of environmental impacts, the bill also would have expanded the definition of “responsible party” to include a prior owner or operator, and expanded mitigation of environmental impacts to include any activity regulated by the Energy and Carbon Management Commission, not just oil and gas operations. This bill did not advance out of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

SB24–184 Support Surface Transportation Infrastructure Development expands the authorities of the existing High-performance Transportation Enterprise and adds a number of new requirements, including requiring the enterprise to develop a new strategic plan that aligns with statewide greenhouse gas pollution reduction goals and priorities and complies with environmental standards, and requiring the enterprise to report annually on its work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–185 Protections Mineral Interest Owners Forced Pooling increases the requirements that must be met before the Energy and Carbon Management Commission may issue an order pooling the mineral interests of two or more tracts that are within an oil and gas drilling unit but have separate ownership (also known as “forced pooling”), and adding situations under which the commission must deny applications for pooling orders. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–207 Access to Distributed Generation increases the amount of community solar capacity that utilities must make available to customers, adds protections for community solar subscribers, and requires specific discounts to be offered to income-qualified subscribers. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–208 Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Regulate Electricity for Electric Vehicles would have created a new electric vehicle enterprise which would have been charged with creating consistent and transparent electric vehicle charging protocols. This bill passed out of the Senate Finance and Senate Appropriations committees, but did not receive a floor vote in the Senate.

SB24–212 Local Govs Renewable Energy Projects puts a framework in place to ensure that wildlife habitats are being considered, and the impacts to wildlife are mitigated, during the process of siting renewable energy facilities. The bill directs the Energy and Carbon Management Commission to help local governments develop codes governing renewable energy projects, and directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to identify high-priority habitats and provide best management practices to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts of renewable energy projects on wildlife. The bill also requires the Colorado Energy Office to develop codes and ordinances for renewable energy projects that local governments can adopt. The Colorado Energy Office must also evaluate local government renewable siting processes, identify areas of lower conflict with wildlife and environmental values and recommend ways to streamline renewable energy development in those lower-conflict areas, and evaluate wildlife mitigation and community benefits agreements. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–214 Implement State Climate Goals is a lengthy bill that makes a number of updates and clarifications in a variety of issues areas to implement the state’s climate goals. The bill creates a new Office of Sustainability and outlines how that office will help state agencies implement environmentally sustainable practices. The bill also makes clarifying changes to measures related to energy codes, existing geothermal energy programs, and a variety of other tax credits. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–218 Modernize Energy Distribution Systems requires utilities to update their distribution systems to support achievement of federal, state, regional and local decarbonization and air quality targets. The bill also updates what utilities are required to include in the distribution system plans they are already required to file with the Public Utilities Commission. Utilities are also required to develop and file plans for burying some of their utility distribution infrastructure underground. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–230 Oil and Gas Production Fees imposes two new quarterly production fees, based on average oil and gas spot prices, on every oil and gas producer in the state beginning in July 2025. Revenues from the production fee for clean transit will be directed to three different funds to support public transit projects. Revenues from the production fee for wildlife and land remediation will be directed to a fund to be used for land, wildlife, and habitat conservation and restoration. This will result in an estimated annual revenue of $59 million by FY2026–27 for the wildlife and land remediation fund (about one-third of the total estimated revenue from the two fees). This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

Air quality

HB24–1330 Air Quality Permitting would have tightened requirements for air quality permits for areas designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as being in nonattainment with national ambient air quality standards, including by requiring that permit decisions be based on air quality modeling. (Currently, the Denver metro area and the northern Front Range are in nonattainment for ozone, to which oil and gas operations are a major contributor.) For oil and gas operations, the bill would have required considering aggregate emissions from the oil and gas system, including exploration and preproduction, when evaluating an air quality permit, and would have required that an oil and gas operator successfully obtain an air quality permit before a final decision on the final oil and gas permit is made. The bill passed the House Energy and Environment and House Finance committees, but did not advance out of House Appropriations.

HB24–1338 Cumulative Impacts and Environmental Justice follows up on a bill from the 2021 session that created an Environmental Justice Action Task Force to develop recommendations to advance environmental justice in the state. Based on some of the recommendations made by the task force, HB24–1338 creates a new Office of Environmental Justice within the Department of Public Health and Environment, and directs the office to develop environmental equity and cumulative impact analyses for specific areas of the state. These analyses can then be used by state agencies when evaluating the cumulative impacts of potentially polluting activities. In addition, the bill requires petroleum refineries to provide real-time emissions monitoring data to the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Administration, requires the division to create a rapid-response team to respond to air quality complaints, and requires the division to hire an expert to study whether the state should adopt a petroleum refinery rule. Funding to implement the bill is also included. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1339 Disproportionately Impact Community Air Pollution would have added specific provisions to rules that the Air Quality Control Commission is already required to adopt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial and manufacturing sector. The bill would have also added a representative of a disproportionately impacted community and a climate scientist to the commission. This bill passed the House Energy and Environment Committee, but did not advance out of House Appropriations.

SB24–095 Air Quality Ozone Levels would have put in place a variety of measures aimed at reducing emissions of ozone precursors in nonattainment areas for federal ozone air quality standards. These measures included creating a rebate program for the purchase of electric landscaping equipment, and expanding incentives for electric vehicles. This bill passed the Senate (29–5 with one not voting) but failed in the House Finance Committee.

SB24–165 Air Quality Improvements would have made a variety of changes aimed at addressing ozone pollution in the Denver metro area, including: requiring the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt rules to limit emissions from facilities and buildings; requiring a pause in oil and gas preproduction activity during ozone season, newly defined in the bill as May 1 to September 30; requiring the development of a budget for nitrogen oxide emissions and actions to ensure emissions remain within the budget; requiring expanded emissions reporting for oil and gas operators; and setting vehicle miles traveled reduction targets. The bill passed the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, but did not advance out of Senate Finance.

SB24–166 Air Quality Enforcement would have strengthened enforcement for repeat violators of the state’s air quality laws. The bill passed the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, but did not advance out of Senate Finance.

SB24–229 Ozone Mitigation Measures enacts a variety of measures aimed at reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (which contribute to ozone pollution) by the oil and gas industry by 50 percent (relative to 2017 levels) by 2030. These include requiring oil and gas operators to obtain a license to conduct oil and gas operations (currently only a permit to commence operations is required) and to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from oil and gas preproduction operations. The bill strengthens enforcement for air quality and emissions violations, and expands the Energy and Carbon Management Commission’s authority to include revoking a license to conduct oil and gas operations, and expands the types of violations that will lead to the suspension of an operator’s licenses and permits. The bill also expands the orphaned wells mitigation enterprise to address wells that are at the highest risk of becoming orphaned. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

Transportation

HB24–1366 Sustainable Local Government Community Planning would have required that beginning in 2025, local governments must include a climate action element in their master plans whenever those plans are updated. The bill would have also required the Colorado Department of Transportation to establish criteria to define and identify growth corridors, and to coordinate with local governments to develop transportation demand management plans for the identified growth corridors. CDOT would have also been required to update the statewide transportation plan to include additional elements including the impact of transportation decisions on land use patterns. This bill passed out of the House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee but did not advance out of House Appropriations.

HB24–1447 Transit Reform was a lengthy and complex bill that proposed a number of changes to the Denver metro area’s Regional Transportation District. Among other changes, the bill proposed to require the RTD board to develop a ten-year strategic plan that would include plans to advance the state’s climate, housing and transportation goals. Many of the bill’s original provisions were ultimately removed, and while the bill eventually passed the House (44 to 22 with one not voting) and the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, it did not advance out of Senate Appropriations in the final days of the session.

Water

The term “graywater” refers to wastewater that can be collected from fixtures and reused for specific uses. For example, equipment can be installed to collect water from bathtubs, showers, sinks or washing machines to be reused to water plants and landscaping. Previously, individual local governments could authorize its use within their jurisdictions; HB24–1362 Measures to Incentivize Graywater Use authorizes its use statewide, with local governments now authorized to prohibit it within their jurisdictions, changing graywater from “opt in” to “opt out” in the state. The bill title refers to a tax credit for the installation of graywater systems that was included in the original bill but removed in the final version that was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1379 Regulate Dredge and Fill Activities in State Waters directs the Water Quality Control Commission to issue new rules and implement a state dredge and fill discharge authorization program that prioritizes avoidance and minimization of adverse impacts, and compensation for unavoidable adverse impacts, of discharging material into state waters, including wetlands. The rules must be at least as protective as the federal Clean Water Act. This bill helps to address the gap created by the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency Supreme Court decision which has left state waters and wetlands newly unprotected by federal regulations. This bill was signed by Governor Polis. (A similar bill, SB24–127 Regulate Dredged and Fill Material State Waters, would have created a new stream and wetlands protection commission and required the commission to develop and implement a dredge-and-fill permit program to protect state waters and regulate discharges into state waters. This bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources and Senate Finance committees, but did not advance out of the Senate Appropriations Committee.)

HB24–1435 Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects appropriates $56 million, and authorizes two loan programs totaling $257 million, for a wide variety of water conservation projects and programs across the state. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, an amendment to the state constitution, the state must seek voter approval for any new or increased tax, and must refund to taxpayers any revenue that exceeds the estimated revenue as proposed to voters when they approved the tax. In 2019, voters approved a new tax on sports betting, with revenues directed to water conservation projects. HB24–1436 Sports Betting Tax Revenue Voter Approval proposes to ask voters to allow the state to keep revenue from this tax in excess of the estimated $29 million they approved in 2019. The retained excess revenue will still go towards water conservation. This bill was signed by Governor Polis and the issue will appear on the November ballot.

SB24–005 Prohibit Landscaping Practices for Water Conservation prohibits local governments from allowing nonfunctional turf, artificial turf, or invasive plant species on commercial, institutional, industrial, or common interest community property, or in rights-of-ways, parking lots, medians, or transportation corridors beginning in 2026. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–037 Study Green Infrastructure for Water Quality Management requires a feasibility study of nature-based, watershed-scale water quality management alternatives to traditional water treatment infrastructure, and requires the establishment of pilot projects. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–197 Water Conservation Measures implements a number of recommendations developed by the Colorado River Drought Task Force created by legislation in 2023. Changes include: allowing storage water right owners to loan water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for instream flows; requiring an agricultural water protection program for all areas of the state; and allowing matching fund requirements to be reduced or waived for water conservation grants to Colorado’s two federally-recognized Tribes, the Ute Mountain Ute and the Southern Ute. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SJM24–002 Congress Fund $35 Million to Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act encourages Congress to fully fund the $35 million authorized by the federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act but never fully funded, for the Indian Irrigation Fund. The Southern Ute Tribe, whose reservation is within the boundaries of Colorado, hopes to benefit from additional funding to this program. This memorial passed the Senate unanimously, and the House by a vote of 60 to 1 (with four not voting).

Outdoor recreation

HB24–1309 Use of Aircraft in Search and Rescue Operations extends immunity from civil liability to individuals and organizations that operate, arrange for, or assist with helicopter search and rescue operations, provided they meet certain safety and other criteria and did not act out of gross negligence or willful misconduct. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–056 Out-of-State Snowmobile Permit and Search Rescue Fee updates existing laws regarding snowmobiles, including creating a new out-of-state snowmobile permit, which will include both its own fee as well as a search and rescue fee, that will now be required in order to use a snowmobile on publicly-owned land. The search and rescue fee will now also apply to off-highway vehicle permits. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–058 Landowner Liability Recreational Use Warning Signs updates the existing Colorado Recreational Use Statute, which protects landowners from liability resulting from the recreational use of their land by others, but previously did not protect landowners from liability for injuries or death resulting from the landowners “willful or malicious failure” to warn recreational users about known dangerous conditions, uses, structures, or activities. With SB24–058, landowners will not be considered to have committed a willful or malicious failure if they post warning signs at the primary access point to the land that describe the dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity. The bill also requires that individuals recreating on the land remain on designated trails, roads, or areas unless the landowner allows otherwise. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–161 Parks and Wildlife Licenses and Passes makes a number of minor changes to hunting and fishing licenses, including expanding eligibility for seniors and veterans for discounted licenses. The bill also allows revenues from state park passes to be used for capital construction projects. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SJR24–017 Designate April 18 Colorado Sportsmen’s Day 2024 recognizes the contributions of hunters and anglers to conservation efforts and financing, and declared April 18, 2024 to be “Sportsmen’s Day.” This resolution was adopted unanimously in both the Senate (35–0) and the House (57–0 with eight not voting).

Wildlife

HB24–1349 Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax proposes to create a new excise tax on guns and ammunition, subject to the approval of voters on the November 2024 ballot. An early draft of the bill originally directed a portion of excise tax revenue to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife wildlife cash fund to be used for the administration and enforcement of wildlife-related gun laws and for shooting safety programs; however, these allocations were removed from the final bill, which was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1375 Wild Carnivores and Livestock Nonlethal Coexistence would have updated existing law which allows for compensation of livestock owners when livestock are killed by wolves or game animals. The bill would have added requirements that livestock owners employ nonlethal coexistence strategies and dispose of livestock carcasses in a way that makes them inedible for native carnivores in order to be eligible for compensation. The bill also would have required Colorado Parks and Wildlife to coordinate with livestock owners to implement proactive nonlethal coexistence strategies in areas where native carnivores are present. This bill did not advance out of the House Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources Committee.

SB24–199 Annual Species Conservation Trust Fund Projects appropriates $5 million for a variety of programs that support species that are threatened or endangered, or that are candidates or likely to become candidates as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

Wildfire

HB24–1272 Sunset Colorado Fire Commission extends the Colorado Fire Commission, which was scheduled to sunset in September 2024, for nine years to September 2033 and requires a sunset review prior to its repeal. The Colorado Fire Commission, within the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in the Colorado Department of Public Safety, was created by the legislature in 2019 to help the state develop strategies on fire issues, and reports annually to the Wildfire Matters Review Committee of the state legislature. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

HB24–1300 Home Sale Wildfire Mitigation Requirements would have authorized counties to require wildfire mitigation for existing residences and structures, not just for new construction as 12 counties in Colorado currently require. This bill passed the House (38 to 23 with four not voting) but did not advance out of the Senate Committee on Local Government and Housing.

Other miscellaneous bills of note

HB 24–1136 Extend Contaminated Land Income Tax Credit extends an existing tax credit for environmental remediation of contaminated land. Existing law allows property owners, including nonprofit organizations, to claim a tax credit for a portion of the costs of approved remediation activities on contaminated land, as certified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The tax credit had been set to expire after 2024, but this bill extends it to 2029. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–179 Floodplain Management Program requires the Office of the State Architect to develop a state floodplain management program that meets or exceeds the minimum criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program and the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s floodplain regulations. This program will apply to development on state-owned land in local jurisdictions that do not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–190 Rail and Coal Transition Community Economic Measures directs the Rural Opportunity Office to take steps to support business and industry development, economic diversification, and workforce training for coal transition communities. The bill also creates two tax credits designed to encourage the continued use of rail lines in coal transition communities. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

SB24–193 Protect Tribal Lands from Unauthorized Annexation requires that any annexation by a municipality of land within the boundaries of a federally-recognized Tribal reservation must be accompanied by approval by the Tribal government in order to be valid. This bill was signed by Governor Polis.

Failed anti-conservation ideas

Echoing bills passed or considered in other Western states in recent years, HB24–1029 Prohibit Foreign Ownership Agriculture and Natural Resources would have prohibited any person, entity or government of a state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring a controlling interest in agricultural land, mineral rights, or water rights within the state, with an exemption for refugees acquiring a controlling interest in property for agricultural purposes with the prior approval of the secretary of state. This bill did not advance out of the House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. A similar bill, HB24–1238 Foreign Government Ownership of Real Property, would have required that a foreign government that is a state sponsor of terrorism and owns any real property interest within the state to register with the Colorado secretary of state within 60 days of acquiring the real property interest. This bill passed out of the House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee but died in House Appropriations.

SB24–039 Nuclear Energy as a Clean Energy Resource would have updated the definition of “clean energy” as used in current laws regarding eligibility for clean energy project financing, and the definition of “clean energy resource” in laws regarding meeting the state’s 2050 clean energy goals, to include nuclear energy. This bill did not advance out of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.

SB24–092 Cost Effective Energy Codes would have required that any provision of an energy code adopted by a local government be “cost effective,” defined as achieving economic benefits that would exceed the economic costs based on an analysis spelled out in the bill. This bill did not advance out of the Senate Local Government and Housing Committee.

 

Feature image: Rocky Mountain National Park via Flickr, photo by Crystal Brindle, CC BY-ND 2.0