Governor vows to prevent fracking ban

Competing sides should cooperate, he says in GJ stop

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper meets with Leitner Poma President Rick Spear as they talk about the Leitner Poma project for the Las Vegas ferris wheel. Hickenlooper is touring several Western Slope communities and made several stops in Grand Junction on Friday.

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.”


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I know, I know. How about we mandate that all fracking fluid used in Colorado be non-toxic, that abandoned wells be permanently capped, that tracer chemicals be used in fracking fluids so that blame and liability can be assigned when warranted, that bonding be sufficient to cover clean up—and permanently stay with the well?

Two stories in Saturday’s Sentinel – Charles Ashby’s (“Governor vows to prevent fracking ban” and the AP’s “Frays in fracking debate”)—afford timely insight into the on-going controversy over adequate regulation of “hydraulic fracturing” in Colorado generally, and on the Western Slope particularly.

Environmentalists will likely accuse Governor Hickenlooper of pandering to oil and gas interests by proclaiming that he “will do everything he can to prevent any kind of ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state”.  However, if he was referring to “any” statewide “ban” or moratorium (as in New York and proposed in California), he is on firmer ground than if his pledge includes much narrower restrictions legitimately aimed at protecting a local community’s public health and safety.

Environmentalists will also likely insist that the Governor (despite his credentials as a “former oil and gas geologist”) – not “the environmental community” – still clings to “a misunderstanding of what [fracking] really is”.

On the other hand, fracking’s critics should enthusiastically agree with the Governor “that the problem some people have with fracking is a matter of bad public relations on the part of the natural gas industry” – which persistently decimates its own credibility.

So, in seeking his more cooperative “middle ground”, Hickenlooper should consider the AP’s report that, at least in California, the industry “has shown a willingness to accept requirements for groundwater monitoring and local control to ease public concerns”.

Consequently, the most effective step the industry can take to improve “public relations” is to support repeal of the “Halliburton Exceptions” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – which exempt “fracking” from the EPA’s otherwise applicable authority to investigate and/or regulate “hydraulic fracturing” under the Safe Drinking Water (which mandates groundwater monitoring), Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts.

Meanwhile, the Governor should stop suing municipalities trying to protect themselves.

In paragraph 5, the Guv proposes a process he knows is slanted and won’t work. All you have to do is go to page 5a of the paper and see how it unfolds. This is the same guv that is proposing action contrary to the State Constitution that gives Home Rule the rank of state law in protecting their people. He is vowing to allow the industrialization of areas (about 2% of the whole state)that have by constitution, the right to protect themselves from such invasion. This is the same guy that was coerced into drinking frac fluid by the same pressure he wants to apply to people trying to protect their health, safety, and well being. He came to GJ to pander for votes, saying what he thinks will buy campaign money and curry favor in an economy dependent on O&G. Yet he dances the sidestep around critical water issues because he needs a bone for the front range. I wonder if he will incude the DeBeque seep or the Parachute Creek spill on his tour for Sally Jewell?

And now we know why the Governor is in trouble in the polls.  He has irritated his base.

Good luck with that, Gov.  Some of us might not vote for your opponent, no matter how crazy.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t undervote in your race.

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