Where the Democratic presidential candidates stand on Colorado issues

Ahead of the state’s presidential primary on Super Tuesday, the Democratic candidates talk health care, marijuana, education, public land and beer







  Energy & Environment




Do you support the practice of fracking and what, if any, regulations would you put on it?

Background: The use of hydraulic fracturing technology allows energy companies to drill miles-long horizontal wells and extract oil and gas deposits by fracturing shale rock. The natural gas produced reduces a dependence on coal and puts out fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In Colorado, fracking has led to a boom in the energy industry in Colorado, which counts $30 billion in economic impact and thousands of jobs. However, the proliferation of wells and their location near Front Range communities is generating conflict. A shift in political power in 2019 led to a host of new regulations through Senate Bill 181, and some environmental activists want to go further with a ballot initiative to increase the buffer between communities and drilling operations.


Does not support ban on fracking

A: His position on fracking became a topic at an earlier Democratic debate when Biden said he opposes a fracking ban. He supports reinstating methane emission regulations on the industry.




Criticized other fracking bans as misguided

A: The former mayor’s campaign did not respond directly about whether he supports fracking. However, his campaign told The Washington Post previously that he does not support a fracking ban, and would instead seek to reduce emissions through other policies, like making buildings more energy efficient. In the past, he has criticized New York’s state ban on fracking, calling it “misguided.” Part of his reasoning: natural gas has helped speed the decline of coal, which is a more potent polluter. He would support a temporary moratorium on new fracking leases on public lands to revamp the current regulations.




Supports fracking ban

A: He told others that he supports a ban on new fracking permits and a phase-out of existing operations. He says his climate plan would create enough jobs to help displaced oil and gas workers.




Sees natural gas a transition to carbon-neutral fuel

A: Klobuchar did not respond to questions, but it sounds like she does not oppose fracking. In a recent debate, she said: “I actually see natural gas as a transition fuel. It’s a transition fuel to where we get to carbon neutral.” Her campaign platform states that she would reinstate environmental regulations, such as those covering methane emissions, that the Trump administration has rolled back.




Longtime supporter of fracking ban

A: Sanders opposes fracking because he said it pollutes the environment and worsens climate change. Earlier this year, however, he introduced the Ban Fracking Act, which his office says would immediately stop all new federal permits for fracking and prohibit the practice within 2,500 feet, or roughly a half-mile, of homes and schools. In 2025, the federal legislation would ban fracking nationwide. A move to increase setbacks failed at the Colorado ballot in 2018.




Supports eventual ban on fracking

A: Steyer supports a ban on fracking -- but not right away. “We need to push as hard as possible to make the transition in a smart way and as fast as we can,” he says. He proposes spending $50 billion to phase out existing operations while investing in new jobs and programs to help workers in affected communities. In addition to halting new leases for fracking on public lands, Steyer also promises to end federal permitting for new fossil fuel infrastructure “on day one.” In years past, Steyer has taken an active role in the anti-fracking movement. He financed legislative candidates in Nevada who backed fracking bans, and called for a ban on fracking in California unless two-thirds of the host county’s voters approve it in a referendum.




Wants national ban on fracking

A: Warren opposes fracking, and called on Congress to pass a national ban on the activity. The senator also plans to beef up the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rules, which model Colorado’s practice but came under fire from the current administration. Further, she would take executive action to regulate air and water contaminants that result from fracking and other natural gas activities. Warren also proposes creating 10.6 million new jobs in renewable energy through a Green New Deal, which could help current oil and gas workers. “I am committed to leaving no worker behind as we transition to an economy powered on clean energy,” she states on her campaign site.





How would your administration’s energy policy move toward 100% renewable energy, which also is the goal for Colorado leaders?

Background: The push toward renewable energy continues, but reaching 100% would require major changes at the regulatory and consumer level. In Colorado, just 23% of the state’s power is generated from wind, solar and hydroelectric power, with the rest coming from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. The national picture looks similar. Achieving that goal will mean financial pain for a fossil fuel industry that employs more than 30,000 workers in the state, among oil, gas and coal. Colorado’s Democratic governor set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2040.


Wants all renewable energy by 2050

A: In the campaign, he announced he supports a 100% renewable energy plan by 2050, a move he says needs $1.7 trillion to achieve net-zero emissions by then. His climate plan includes a number of measures to hit these targets at the federal level, and highlights ongoing efforts here in Colorado to do the same.




Takes a less aggressive approach to cutting emissions

A: Even though he is one of the most outspoken advocates for the Paris climate accord, Bloomberg’s climate targets aren’t quite as aggressive as some of his rivals. He’s calling for 80% clean electricity in the U.S. by the end of his second term -- 2028 -- before moving as soon as possible to a 100% clean power grid. And he wants to cut economy-wide emissions by 50 percent by 2030. He hopes to get there through a national clean energy standard, tax incentives and stronger pollution standards for power plants. He also wants to change federal policy “to give wind and solar -- which are often the cheapest option for consumers -- a level playing field” by ending all public subsidies for fossil fuels. He’s proposed $25 billion a year for research and development.




Renewable energy for cars and electricity by 2035

A: His climate plan includes the establishment of a clean electricity standard at the national level that would use state-level goals like those in Colorado and allow communities to develop their own solutions. Buttigieg wants 100% renewable electricity by 2035, the same year that he envisions all new passenger cars being zero-emission vehicles.




Wants carbon emissions at zero by 2050

A: Like other candidates, her campaign set a 100% net-zero emissions goal. She hopes to reach the mark by 2050. Klobuchar’s agenda includes efforts to boost renewable energy, including on federal public lands, through incentives at federal and local levels.




Move electricity and transportation to renewable energy by 2030

A: He pledged that his administration would reach 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030, and plans to move the nation’s economy to “complete decarbonization” by 2050 at the latest. This is all part of the Green New Deal plan he supports that would invest billions into developing more renewable energy. For the Colorado oil and gas workers displaced, Sanders said he would guarantee five years of the worker’s current salary and offer health care, housing assistance and pension support, as well as training for a new job placement.




Declare climate change a national emergency

A: Steyer pledges to declare climate change a national emergency on Day One of his administration. He proposes requiring 100% carbon-free electricity no later than 2040, and has a goal to make the entire economy carbon neutral by 2045. And if Congress doesn’t act quickly, he says, “I will not hesitate to use the emergency powers of the presidency to protect the American public from the climate crisis.” This is an idea that caught on among progressives after President Donald Trump used emergency powers to divert funding to a border wall last year. Additionally, Steyer says he would direct every federal agency to tackle climate change, and he plans to make $2 trillion in climate-related investments that he says would create 46 million jobs over the next decade.




A blue and green new deal fan

A: The Green New Deal is at the center of Warren’s climate plan, which calls for 100% clean energy within 10 years. Her 100% target is more ambitious than some, calling for decarbonization not just of the power grid, but also cars and trucks, which recently eclipsed the utility sector as the top source of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. To reach her goal, she’s offered a series of proposals that includes spending $1.5 trillion on U.S.-manufactured renewable energy products, $400 billion on research and development and $100 billion to export clean energy technology to help other countries reduce their own emissions. She also has a companion plan -- the “Blue New Deal” -- which calls for an expansion of off-shore wind farms, using the Block Island project off the coast of Rhode Island as a model. Warren has proposed establishing a Green Bank to finance the massive investments in clean energy, and issuing Green Victory Bonds modeled after the war bond program in World War II.





How will your administration regulate the use of the Colorado River to prevent water shortages?

Background: The growing concern over the Colorado River’s ability to support a population of 50 million people in the western U.S. culminated last year in a water-management accord involving seven states and Mexico. But with the dual pressures of climate change and population growth only expected to exacerbate the challenge of water shortages, don’t expect the issue to dissipate. Colorado has a state-level plan for managing river usage, but the federal government will have a role to play in mediating the competing demands of the seven states and Mexico, where residents, farmers and environmental groups have concerns about having their needs met.


Water infrastructure upgrade needed

A: The campaign’s website does identify the challenges facing the Colorado River. How he would respond is less clear, but he supports efforts to ensure clean drinking water and upgrade infrastructure.




A regional approach is needed

A: In his response, Bloomberg did not directly address water use and conservation in the Colorado River basin. But he said his experience as a big-city mayor in a region with competing interests gives him the experience to help negotiate a workable solution with the states.




Clean drinking water is priority

A: He didn’t respond to questions and his position is unclear. More broadly, his infrastructure and climate plans include provisions to improve waterways for travel and drinking water, but does not prominently discuss water storage or river health.




Less water use is key

A: She did not respond to questions sent through the campaign, and her campaign website is short on details, other than promising to reduce water use and address water shortages.




Federal government needs to help on Colorado River

A: Sanders said it’s the federal government’s responsibility to fully fund existing management programs to protect and restore the Colorado River. In 2016, he met with the Navajo Nation president, who urged him to grant the tribe water rights on the Colorado River. Sanders told The Sun that he believes the federal government needed to do more for the tribe. His climate plan also would address the issue of drinking water and aging infrastructure.




Colorado River flow sign of “existential threat”

A: The decreased water flow in the Colorado River is an “existential threat” related to climate change, Steyer says. He said his administration would study options for responsible management and consider conservation technology, voluntary cutbacks, water rights and the agriculture industry. As part of his broader water plan, Steyer said he would find $75 billion to protect upstream watersheds and groundwater, as well as undo the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations.




Responsible growth needed to manage water

A: On the issue of water shortages, Warren says the federal and state governments need to work together to encourage responsible growth, and monitor and manage drought risks. Her Blue New Deal calls for working with tribal governments on drought management. And to combat the effects of global warming-driven natural disasters, she has also committed to investing $1 trillion in communities most affected by climate change. Her campaign acknowledged the stress on the Colorado River basin but did not offer any specific actions she would take here.





What would your administration do in response to the proliferation of wildfires in the West?

Background: The catastrophic fires that ravaged California communities for three straight years set records, putting policymakers across the West on notice: as global temperatures rise, natural disasters are expected to occur more frequently and be more destructive. States like Colorado have responded by increasing funding to fight fires and prevent them. The maintenance of power lines is another issue. The federal government is commiting more resources to the problem as well, even as the president has sparred with state leaders. But the federal government’s role could expand in unexpected ways if the trend continues.


Sees wildfires in light of climate change

A: The campaign released a 1-minute video blasting President Trump for his response to the California wildfires, and Biden cast the issue in the light of climate change, saying action was needed now. He didn’t offer specifics on his campaign website.




More federal management of forests needed

A: Bloomberg’s plan to address wildfires includes a new federal effort to make forests more resilient through a historic investment in restoration and management. He set a goal to reduce the loss of life and property damage by 50% within four years. Part of the strategy includes working with states to reduce disaster risks, such as fire-proofing electric transmission lines and creating smaller more resilience power grids.




Improve disaster relief efforts

A: Asked about the California wildfires, Buttigieg cast it in the frame of climate change but offered no specifics. His campaign website includes provisions to improve disaster relief and upgrade power grid infrastructure.




More money needed to fight fires

A: The senator has addressed the California fires by emphasizing her support for more money to prevent and fight fires. But she has not provided specifics.




$18 billion more for firefighting

A: The candidate’s Green New Deal proposal includes $18 billion more for firefighting. “We must change our framework of fire suppression and forest management to take the whole local ecosystem into account, including the rural communities who are most vulnerable,” he said in a statement from the campaign. He also would facilitate community response plans for evacuations and recovery “to avoid the use of martial law and increased policing in disaster response.”




Additional federal help to states

A: Steyers says the threat of wildfires and other disasters demands that the federal budget adapt to the realities of climate change. More specifically, he would expand federal help -- through FEMA, emergency responders and the National Guard -- to states that are experiencing wildfires. On the prevention front, he would focus new spending on healthy forest and soil management.




Focus on fire mapping and prevention

A: The candidate said her administration would pay particular attention to wildfires and other disasters because they pose a particular threat to the West and vulnerable populations, such as low-income residents, seniors and people with disabilities. Her plan includes a focus on fire mapping and prevention that focuses on these vulnerable populations, as well as prioritizing spending on land management. One other component includes investing in microgrid technology to supply power to high-risk areas like those in California. She also pledged to work with tribal governments on the issue.



The Issues

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The Candidates

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Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Former Vice President and U.S. Senator   

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

Former New York Mayor and businessman   

x Pete Buttigieg

x Pete Buttigieg

Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana (Campaign suspended 3/1/20)   

x Amy Klobuchar

x Amy Klobuchar

U.S. Senator from Minnesota (Campaign suspended 3/2/20)   

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont   

x Tom Steyer

x Tom Steyer

Businessman and climate activist (Campaign suspended 2/29/20)   

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. Senator from Massachusetts