State has a lot riding on fight over fracking
There are several implications from the Colorado Legislature’s failure to find middle ground on proposals for greater local control of the oil and gas industry.
Absent a compromise, the issue will likely be decided by voters in November. Nearly two dozen citizen initiatives await approval that could strictly limit or even ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing.
That means groups for and against the measures will throw millions of dollars in television advertising at voters — good news for ad agencies, the only clear-cut winners in this scenario.
The rest of us will have to choose sides, eliminating any hope of a solution that considers the interests of both oil and gas operators and environmental groups.
Democrats have a lot to lose, too. Several of the proposed ballot initiatives are being backed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a wealthy Boulder Democrat. Those measures could result in higher GOP turnout from those who oppose giving Colorado municipalities and counties more power to regulate drilling. Drawn to the polls by the fracking issue, these voters could provide margins to decide Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat and races for statewide office.
But as the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby notes, this fight isn’t drawn strictly along party lines. A coalition of Republicans and Democrats has emerged to fight any ban or restriction on fracturing. Coloradans for Responsible Reform says anti-fracking efforts would devastate the state’s economy, costing thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue.
The effort to ban fracking ignores several factors, the coalition says, including the fact that after several decades in use in Colorado, there’s little evidence that fracking poses health risks.
Some coalition members say the anti-fracking movement isn’t really about local control. It’s about a hidden agenda — a desire to end the use of fossil fuels.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has long said he opposes any outright ban on fracking, is a little more circumspect, acknowleging “a clear sentiment” that communities across the state want a stronger voice in how drillers operate in their backyards.
We hope the Legislature can find a way to craft a compromise bill that would diffuse the citizen initiatives. There’s a chance, albeit a slim one, that a special legislative session during the summer could achieve that goal.
It would spare us the TV ads, but it would also prove that groups like the Polis-backed Coloradans for Local Control aren’t engaged in some level of intellectual dishonesty.
If the group’s goal is to end drilling in Colorado, it should simply say so and provide an economically viable plan to convert to greener forms of energy — not artificially saddle the gas industry with regulations that make it impossible to do business.
The ability to strike a compromise will say a lot about both sides.