I consider myself very fortunate to live and work in Northern Colorado where we have access to an abundance of natural beauty and recreation. But with that beauty, comes the threat of wildfires and the devastation that follows. Unfortunately, our communities have first-hand experience of the impacts wildfires can have on our health and safety.
Last year, three of Colorado’s largest wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of acres, with the Cameron Peak Fire alone burning more than 200,000 acres. Our communities will undoubtedly feel the impacts for years, or even decades to come.
One of the commonalities of these fires is they often occur in the service territory of one or more of Colorado’s electric cooperatives. Liability insurance is also either unavailable or prohibitively expensive thanks to the PG&E fires on the West Coast.
These are the reasons Poudre Valley REA joined the Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA) and Colorado’s other electric cooperatives to work with the Colorado General Assembly to sponsor a bill in the legislature to address our concerns.
Senate Bill 21-170 was the result of a yearlong collaboration dedicated to developing legislation that would encourage electric cooperatives to develop more comprehensive wildfire protection plans to help prevent wildfires. The bill included adding additional reasonable measures to prevent fires, filing plans with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and implementation. In exchange, the bill would protect cooperatives by granting liability protection from lawsuits alleging the co-ops were at fault for starting a fire.
Despite having bipartisan support in both the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate, the bill did not make it out of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee; meaning the bill was never voted on and won’t become a law.
But we’re not about to give up on this legislative issue. We wholeheartedly believe it is critically important to the communities we serve that all reasonable steps be taken to prevent wildfires. And we are committed to continuing to do our part. We plan to work alongside CREA and our fellow Colorado electric cooperatives to come back in 2022 with a bill everyone can support.
We want to thank the three members of the Colorado General Assembly from Northern Colorado who were willing to stand up and be counted in support of Poudre Valley REA and our members. To our prime bill sponsors, Senator Joann Ginal (D), former Representative Jeni Arndt (D), and Representative Michael Lynch (R), we say thank you.
In closing, I hope you all can spend time with friends and family this Fourth of July. May your celebrations be joyous and safe.
President & CEO
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