The past few months have been challenging for our industry, as well as our families and personal lives. As we emerge from Colorado’s “Shelter-in-Place” orders, the location in which we do our work may have changed as we worked from home, but the work we do is as critical as ever. We acknowledge that member companies are responding to the economic crisis by focusing on their businesses and at times making difficult decisions about their operations.
As we mentioned last month, it was the fact that members told us their ability to participate fully in a conference heavily influenced our decision to cancel this year’s conference. This means we need to adapt to changing economic times, and not only excel at what we’ve been doing to support the industry as we have been for years, but it also means that we must be thinking how we can serve you in new ways. I am pleased that CMA has been presenting webinars that inform members of emerging topics and am pleased members have expressed interest in presenting.
As Governor Polis issued public health orders mandating the closure of most businesses, and asking citizens to stay at home, we worked quickly to keep members informed of the Governor’s orders, and we appreciated the close communication we maintained with the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to clarify the exceptions to the Governor’s orders allowing CMA member companies to operate their Colorado mines. That communication was critical, as other state mining associations had to work quickly to get Governors to amend their closure orders to allow for mining to continue as an essential industry.
Every Colorado Governor has had their mettle tested by an emergency or incident that can define a Governor’s legacy. Though CMA strongly opposes many elements of Governor Polis’ policies, I believe the Governor managed the COVID-19 situation with firm leadership, practical solutions, and clear communication. Perhaps the most memorable moments were Governor Polis stating the “Grim Reaper” would be the ultimate enforcer of public health orders, or his ability to explain the “R0” value in terms of predicting how contagious the COVID-19 virus would be.
Despite the legislature temporarily adjourning for nearly two months, state government continued to do business, though many employees worked at home and government offices were closed to the public. With Zoom and teleconferencing the work of government carried on. CMA testified remotely supporting the final adoption of Colorado’s coal rules and participated in many stakeholder meetings.
If you thought for a moment that Governor Polis’ administration would slow its progress of implementing its Climate Roadmap, perish that thought. Last month, the Governor’s Energy Office hosted a webinar for CMA members updating us on the status of meeting climate goals created by the Colorado legislature last year, including modeling that projects the end of coal fired electric generation by the year 2030.
Perhaps as equally challenging is the re-opening of the Colorado legislature. Legislative leadership has been challenged to reconvene the session implementing social distancing practices and most members donning face masks. For CMA, and all other organizations who lobby at the capitol, life is considerably different as lobbyists now communicate with legislators using text messaging, phone calls and email. In fact, lobbyists and others are discouraged (though not prohibited) from entering the capitol, and the practice of “hanging around the brass rails” is prohibited.
Still though, as life slowly returns to normal, in Colorado, we face a heavy amount of legislation imposing new fees and new regulatory programs spanning all aspects of running a business. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment seeks legislative approval to implement a new dredge and fill permitting program to “fill the void” they believe was created by EPA’s recent revisions to the Waters of the United States rule promulgated in April. Finally, a big thank you to our committee chairs, our Board of Directors, and members for staying engaged with CMA, as we know economic conditions worsened during the pandemic. Our weekly Governmental Affairs Committee conference calls were critical for me to ensure that we were keeping up with issues that would be addressed when the General Assembly returned, understanding the severity of Colorado’s state budget situation, and the sharing of information between member companies and their lobbyists. With technology, we continue to host our monthly committee meetings, as they are critical as the policy issues we are dealing with increase.