Legislative Update: Warming Up and Getting Ready to Roll

After taking the month of June to recuperate from an extraordinarily hectic legislative session, policymakers and staff are gearing up to tackle the many interim study committees formed to prepare recommendations for the 2024 session. With a couple of committees facing June 30 deadlines to appoint members, those members are now preparing to meet as soon as schedules and agendas are released. Even before formal interim committees begin, however, two other efforts are drawing the attention of CMA members.

On July 11, CDPHE will commence stakeholder meetings to discuss the process for an eventual rulemaking by the Water Quality Control Commission to set new fees for discharge and drinking water permits to support the division’s programs. Fees for discharge permits under the state’s Clean Water Act were last set in 2017 and were established in statute by the legislature. Pursuant to SB23-274 passed this year, the fees will be set by regulation on or before October 31, 2025, and go into effect January 1, 2026, unless the Commission allows a phase-in and may collect the new fee earlier. The fees may be adjusted in the future to cover all direct and indirect costs of administering the Clean Water Program following input from stakeholders. The commission must establish the fees for the disposal of biosolids by rule beginning July 1, 2026.

Also getting a kick-start is a draft enforcement policy released by CDPHE to address perceived gaps in water quality protection resulting from the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA. The document was drafted and released in anticipation, but before the release of the Sackett decision. CMA and other stakeholders are analyzing that decision in detail before committing to final comments on the draft policy. CMA, along with others, did file initial comments by the department’s May 31 deadline but will likely provide additional comments before it is finalized. CMA’s Water Quality Committee will discuss the matter again at its July 18 meeting.

The various legislatively mandated committees meeting during the interim and their respective appointees include the following:

HB23-1294 charged the Ozone Air Quality Committee with the study of ozone air quality focusing on factors contributing to ozone pollution, analyzing strategies to address and improve ozone issues, and develop policy, technical, and financial solutions to improve ozone air quality in the state. Its members include Rep. Jennifer Bacon, Chair; Sen. Lisa Cutter, Vice-Chair; Rep. Gabe Evans; Rep. Meg Froelich; Sen. Chris Hansen; Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer; Sen. Byron Pelton; Sen. Kevin Priola; Rep. Rick Taggart; Rep. Elizabeth Velasco; Rep. Jenny Wilford; and Sen. Faith Winter. The twelve-member committee is authorized to meet up to six times including field trips and must hold its first meeting on or before August 30.

SB23-295 established the Colorado River Drought Task Force to develop recommendations for legislation that will provide tools to address drought in the Colorado River Basin. Its seventeen members are not drawn from the legislature but are appointed to represent statewide interests designated in the legislation. Members include:

  • Jackie Brown, Water and Natural Resource Policy Adviser, with Tri-State Generation and Transmission.
  • Kathy Chandler-Henry, an Eagle County commissioner.
  • Mike Camblin, with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
  • Alexandra Davis, Assistant General Manager of Water Supply and Demand for Aurora Water.
  • Daris Jutten, chair of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
  • Aaron Citron, the Associate Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.
  • Melissa Youssef, a Durango city councilwoman.
  • Orla Bannan, Healthy Rivers Strategic Engagement Manager at Western Resource Advocates.
  • Gerald Koppenhafer, agriculture producer and Montezuma County Commissioner.
  • Andy Mueller, General Manager of the Colorado River District.
  • Lee Miller, General Counsel of the Southeastern Water Conservation District.
  • Steve Wolff, General Manager of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.
  • Kyle Whitaker, representing Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors.
  • Dan Gibbs, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, or his designee.
  • Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg, or her designee.
  • A representative of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe.
  • A representative of the Southern Ute tribe.
  • The state engineer or their designer, serving as an advisor to the group.

A facilitator will be hired in the next two weeks with the first meeting required on or before July 31. The group is authorized up to twelve meetings and must submit a final report to the Water Resources and Agriculture Review Committee by December 15, 2023, outlining all the recommendations that were considered and approved and a summary of the task force’s work.

The Water and Agricultural Resources Committee has not yet announced its complete schedule and agenda but will meet August 23 in Steamboat Springs in conjunction with the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference. The ten-member committee is chaired by Sen. Dylan Roberts with Vice Chair Rep. Karen McCormick. Other members include Sen. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Marc Catlin, Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, Rep. Mike Lynch, Rep. Matthew Martinez, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, Sen. Byron Pelton, and Sen. Cleave Simpson.

The appointments to the Oversight Committee on Tax Policy have been completed with Chair Mike Weissman, Vice-Chair Chris Hansen, Rep. Lisa Frizell, Sen. Chris Kolker, Sen. Larry Liston, and Rep. Bob Marshall. Rep. Frizell is the most recent (and final) appointment to the committee. No schedule or agenda has yet been announced.

Several other interim committees will be meeting as well, but their focus is on public health and safety, criminal law, and social issues. Without question, their recommendations will be reflected in legislation we see in 2024.

Dianna Orf
CMA Lobbyist