Denver climate activists proposing recycling and compost initiative, energy use fees

Climate activists hope to capitalize on Denver’s recent passage of a sales tax meant to fund renewable energy programs by proposing two new ballot initiatives to further combat climate change.

The first, called Waste No More, would phase in requirements for apartments, restaurants, construction companies and other businesses to recycle and compost more, said Ean Tafoya, who is leading the charge. The second, called Polluters Must Pay, would tax residents and businesses for energy used above a certain threshold.

The nearly 63% voter approval of 2A, a sales tax measure to raise money for environmental projects, in November, indicates strong support for another push, Tafoya said. That tax is expected to raise perhaps as much as $40 million a year in better financial times, but that’s not enough, he said.

A May report from Denver’s Climate Action Task Force estimated that the city would need to spend about $200 million a year on clean-energy measures, with that annual price tag doubling by 2030.

Should the Waste No More initiative make its way on the ballot and pass, Tafoya said it would require apartment buildings of 75 units or more immediately to provide residents with recycling and composting services. Large restaurants and other businesses would have to follow over time, he said. Construction companies would have to start recycling as well.

The plan would stagger the start of those requirements through June 2025, Tafoya said.

Should the second initiative pass, Tafoya said an energy allowance would be set for residents and businesses.

“Whatever you use over your allowance, you’d pay,” he said. “We’d work to have seasonal averages. People use more heat in the winter, more electricity in the summer.”

That fee would aim to charge commercial and industrial energy consumers at greater rates than residents, Tafoya said. He estimated it could raise up to $130 million in the first year, which would be spent broadening a clean-energy grid for low-income families and communities of color. This would hopefully counteract the regressive nature of the climate change sales tax, which charges more to those that can least afford the increased tax, he said.

City officials are reviewing the language of the two initiatives, Tafoya said. Once that’s approved supporters can begin to collect signatures to earn spots on the ballot.

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