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PRESSER: Colorado Inks Deal To Force Taxpayers To Pay For Colorado River Climate Damage

For Immediate Release
May 30, 2019
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Colorado Inks Deal To Try To Force Taxpayers To Pay For Colorado River Climate Damage

“This referendum is an extreme assault on climate justice.” — Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado

Denver: Yesterday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 19-1327 which refers a measure to the November 2019 ballot to ask voters to raise taxes on Colorado citizens to pay for Colorado River climate damage. The referendum is currently called “Proposition DD” (see link here) and will ask voters to “increase taxes” on legalized sports betting and have part of the proceeds pay for funding the “Colorado Water Plan” as well as so-called “Demand Management” in Colorado.

“Demand Management” is described in the bill as funding “interstate water allocation compacts” (page 42) which involves buying water from farmers in Colorado to try and send that water downstream in the Colorado River to Lake Powell in Arizona which is severely threatened by climate change.  President Trump recently signed legislation enabling federal and state-based “Drought Contingency Plans” which include “Demand Management” to try and save operations of both Lake Powell and Lake Mead and their respective dams, Glen Canyon and Hoover. Both of the dams and reservoirs are extremely threatened by climate change which scientists predict would cause more heat and drought that would decrease the amount of water in the Colorado River by “as much as 40%” in the coming decades (see Colorado State University press release here).

“The best available science dictates that trying to save Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam from climate change is a type of ‘climate denial’,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado. “Further, this bill sets an extremely terrible precedent of raising taxes on citizens to pay for the damage caused by climate change on the Colorado River.”

Taxing citizens to pay for climate damage is not only extremely controversial, it would likely be completely untenable as the impacts of climate change intensify. A 2015 study by the group “Protect The Flows” found that the Colorado River generates $1.4 trillion in “gross state product” each year and supports 16 million jobs (see study here). Simple back-of-the-envelop math indicates that if flows in the Colorado River decrease by 40%, the economic damage could be up to $560,000,000,000 (billion) dollars per year.

“This referendum is an extreme assault on climate justice,” said Wockner. “It’s the fossil fuel corporations that have caused the damage — they should be taxed to pay for climate damage, not the citizens of Colorado.”

In fact, a lawsuit is pending right now — filed by the City of Boulder, Colorado; Boulder County, Colorado; and San Miguel County, Colorado — to try and force two fossil fuel corporations (Exxon Mobil and Suncor) to pay for climate change damage in those government boundaries (see Boulder Weekly story here, and Boulder Daily Camera story here).

The tax-increase bill and referendum was pushed forward aggressively by the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart heirs) which is a very large and controversial funder of NGO groups, media, and scientists in the Colorado River basin. In fact, when we did a Colorado Open Records Act request of the State of Colorado to discover extensive meetings and meeting notes between the Foundation and State employees about the proposed tax, we were told to “contact Walton Family Foundation staff for further details” (see December 2018 press release here and see Boulder Weekly story here “The New Model For Saving The Colorado River Might Just Kill It“).

The tax increase also proposes to fund extremely controversial aspects of the Colorado Water Plan including new river-destroying dams and diversions (see Boulder Daily Camera column here).

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