Rolling back oil and gas regulations would be a mistake for Colorado

By John Hickenlooper

Editor’s note: Mayor Hickenlooper wrote this in response to a Daily Sentinel editorial asking gubernatorial candidates how they planned to balance gas development and Colorado’s environment. We welcome submissions by other candidates for governor.

I have never claimed to be a good politician, and my campaign staff says I am proving it every day. I am pretty sure that each new grey hair on my campaign manager’s head has my name on it.

Speaking in carefully vetted sound bites doesn’t come easy to me, and I managed to cause confusion with The Daily Sentinel editorial board (“Tell us how you will protect Colorado,” June 20) and elsewhere, I’m sure.

Maybe it’s the tavern-keeper in me, but I have a sympathetic ear, a tendency to see both sides of an argument and a basic optimism that if you get people around a table and talk things through, problems can be solved.

I welcomed the opportunity to write about Colorado’s oil and gas rules in The Sentinel, because this newspaper and the Western Slope are at the center of the debate. Here, the industry’s effects, both positive and negative, are particularly acute.

Colorado is blessed with a wealth of natural gas that can fuel our economy, power our homes and vehicles and create jobs. We live in the most beautiful state, where our economy depends on protecting the sensitive landscape, watersheds and wildlife we enjoy.

My view on the oil and gas rules comes from the five years I spent in the oil and gas business, and the responsibility I feel we share to protect the natural resources that draw people to our state. If elected governor, I will work to make sure that we strike the right balance.

In general, the state rules include the best practices of the oil and gas industry. Both of my opponents want to rewrite the rules, but that would be a mistake. I would not throw out or roll back rules regulating oil and gas extraction in our state. Looking back would only reduce the predictability businesses need to operate successfully and undermine protections for our health and environment.

I learned from running small businesses that there is always room for improvement in any enterprise, and the same is certainly true in government. The current rules allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to examine and modify regulations as issues arise. I have heard from several operators that there are opportunities to cut red tape or tailor regulations for specific basins. As governor, I would encourage the commission to carefully consider these specific concerns and explore ways to address them, so long as protecting our health and environment remains paramount.

I will always be critical of any process that pits one side against another. At times, this rulemaking process was unnecessarily divisive. I want to show that Colorado values all of our communities and industries and reflects our common ethic of conservation. Natural gas is a leading industry in our state, and a robust energy sector is absolutely essential to our economic recovery and job growth.

This year, Colorado is on track to have the second busiest year for gas permitting in our state’s history. We are also the Rocky Mountain regional leader in well starts and growth in active drilling rigs. And I am glad that in the midst of this robust activity, we are also ensuring that the best and safest possible practices are required of the companies operating in our state.

As governor, I would look for more opportunities to build on mutual interest. The recent, bipartisan Clean Air/Clean Jobs Act is a perfect example. The bill — supported by conservationists, the state’s largest electric utility and gas producers — will help us dramatically reduce air pollution, stave off draconian regulation by the EPA and expedite the transition to cleaner sources of energy, especially natural gas.

The truth is that most of our problems are not given to simple black-and-white, good-versus-evil descriptions. And while it may make it harder to campaign by acknowledging that truth, it is the only responsible way to govern.

John Hickenlooper is the mayor of Denver and the Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado.


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