Governor vows to prevent fracking ban
Competing sides should cooperate, he says in GJ stop
Gov. John Hickenlooper will do everything he can to prevent any kind of ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state, the Democrat told several Grand Valley residents Friday.
The former oil and gas geologist, who is touring several Western Slope communities to discuss economic development, told about 50 people at Colorado Mesa University that the problem some people have with fracking is a matter of bad public relations on the part of the natural gas industry and a misunderstanding of what it really is among the environmental community.
So rather than ban it, the state, the industry and environmental groups should get together to find some middle ground to make sure there are no issues with its use, he said.
“The people that operate 60 or 70 percent of the oil and gas wells in the state of Colorado, they want regulation,” Hickenlooper said. “They don’t want the irresponsible operators to tarnish their reputations, but they can’t go to the irresponsible operators and tell them to clean up their acts. They ask us (government).
“The key, if you want responsible regulations, you have to get both sides in the same room at the same time, and not try to pit one against the other, and say, ‘We’re not going to leave until we find the right compromise.’ I think there is a way to get to that point.”
As a result of that conflict, the governor’s administration has pushed for new statewide air and water quality standards as a way of addressing the issue without damaging the environment or people’s mineral rights.
Hickenlooper said he is trying to take that same approach with a statewide water supply plan, which has some Western Slope residents fearful of more transmountain diversions to thirsty Front Range cities.
“We’ve shared the Colorado River with the Front Range almost to the point where we’re no longer meeting our downstream obligations,” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca told the governor. “It’s questionable as to how much growth and development the Colorado River Basin is going to enjoy if there’s any more transmountain diversions.”
Although Hickenlooper did not commit to disallowing any more diversions, as Acquafresca asked of him, the governor said he would commit to making sure all sides have their say.
He said conservation of water on the Front Range always should be the top priority, followed closely by ensuring that water is not stolen from agricultural uses.
“What I will commit to is to not let shenanigans go on,” Hickenlooper told Acquafresca.
The governor also said he’s taking that same learn-before-deciding tactic with the sage grouse issue, trying to balance a federal desire to protect the species with a need not to let it stand in the way of responsible economic and energy development.
To that end, the governor said he’s persuaded U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to come to the Western Slope later this month to see how local protection efforts are working in conjunction with agricultural operations.
“We’re going to look at a couple of ranches where these mitigation efforts are working,” he said. “That’s how to work it. You take the time, and go out there ... and see what we’re doing. She’s coming.”