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Nolan Gall, a third-grader, who spoke in favor of the proposed 10-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags during a Denver City Council meeting on Dec. 16.

Denver’s government pushed forward eco-friendly measures Monday night when it adopted a green energy building code, approved contracts with five solar farms, and unanimously voted in favor of a fee on single-use plastic and paper bags.

The latter bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Kendra Black and supported by Mayor Michael Hancock, will be voted on by the council once more Dec. 23, when it’s expected to pass.  

By July 1, consumers will be charged a dime for every plastic or paper bag they use to carry home their goods and groceries. The ordinance will give retailers 4 cents from every grocery bag sold, and the city will pocket the rest.

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During a public hearing Monday night, several speakers expressed support for the fee. One of them was 3rd grader Nolan Gall, who propped his large stuffed animal — a green sea turtle — next to him on the podium as he spoke to council members.

“I want plastic bags not to be a part of America,” he said. “Show the world we care about our sea life and oceans. We want sea turtles to exist for a long, long time.”

If Denver reduced the quarter-million bags used annually by half, the fees would generate an estimated $7.5 million in revenue. If the city reaches its goal of a 70% reduction, the revenue would be $2.25 million.

That money will be used for program education and marketing, free reusable bag giveaways through retailers, schools and city agencies, waste reduction efforts, and administrative and enforcement costs.

Moving toward Hancock’s goal to have every municipal building powered by renewable energy by 2025, the council also approved more than $10 million in 20-year contracts with five solar farms of Oak Leaf Energy Partners.

Four of the solar farms are in Watkins, roughly 15 miles east of Aurora. The other is about five miles northeast of Grand Junction, in Clifton.

Denver’s government also adopted on Monday night the Denver Green Code, a voluntary building code based on international standards for more sustainable construction.

The goal is to lower the city’s greenhouse emissions, of which buildings contribute more than 60%, and help move Denver closer to its goal having new construction projects achieve net zero energy by 2035.

“This code cycle is an option,” said Scott Prisco, the city’s chief building officer, during a City Council infrastructure committee meeting on Dec. 3. “But in the next code cycle, much of this code will be mandatory so that we’re moving things forward in a big way.”

Multiple city agencies will work together to pilot five commercial projects, which will be expedited with a possible fee reduction. The initiative also will be coupled with five affordable housing projects. 

Not many other municipalities across the country are doing this, Prisco said. “Denver’s at the forefront. It’s an important step to get our big-picture goals.”

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