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Senate Candidate Gardner Touts A Failed Measure

DENVER (AP) — GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project.

"Gardner's claiming credit for launching Colorado's clean-energy economy and he did not. Coloradans did that and Coloradans deserve the credit," said Chris Harris, spokesman for incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. Udall's camp has been deriding Gardner's wind-turbine ad and the Republicans' touting of the 2007 law.

The Clean Energy Development Authority, which was set up by the law, was intended to assist in the financing of clean-energy projects such as improvements to electricity transmission lines. It came three years after voters made Colorado the first state to create a renewable portfolio standard.

At the time the law was passed Gardner was a member of the Colorado House. He was elected to the U.S. House in 2010.

In a press release touting the turbine ad that first aired on Monday, Gardner's campaign cited a 2007 speech by then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, who predicted the Gardner bill would "solve one of the biggest challenges when it comes to clean energy."

But the authority had financing caveats that made it toothless, said Tom Plant, who oversaw the authority from its creation until 2011 as head of the Governor's Energy Office.

"He introduced the legislation in good faith in order to do something," Plant said this week of Gardner. But he said the authority's funding mechanism "made it impossible for us to ever issue bonds."

The authority never had a staff and did little but gather once a year to report to the legislature that it had made no progress. By 2012 the authority was scrapped, part of a larger makeover of the Energy Office, now called the Colorado Energy Office.

"There's no point in having something that can't do anything," said Plant, now a policy adviser at the Center for the New-Energy Economy at Colorado State University. The center is run by Ritter, who set up the Governor's Energy Office and appointed Plant to run it.

Gardner's spokesman insisted that the authority was a valuable addition to Colorado's progress toward energy efficiency.

"In Washington, career politicians like Sen. Udall are fond of killing progress by faulting it for being imperfect. That's one reason nothing gets done," spokesman Alex Siciliano wrote in a statement.

The ad talks up more than the 2007 financing bill. It also mentions Gardner's ongoing support for wind energy, including his backing of tax incentives for the industry.

Gardner was invited to a 2013 White House Council on Environmental Quality gathering and has opposed GOP efforts to strip funding from the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer (© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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