Despite the endless accusations of bias against GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, we’ve been watching–and fairly reporting–a troubling tendency on the part of Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper to throw traditional Democratic allies under the wheels whenever it’s convenient or politically advantageous. Hickenlooper has seen fit, while alternately promising to “stay out of” contentious legislative debates, to attack the repeal of certain tax breaks last session as “crazy,” and made statements about climate change that both appear to contradict prior views and diss environmentalists.
Yesterday, at a debate before the Denver Petroleum Club, Hickenlooper started triangulating again–this time against drilling protections passed in Colorado, for which he was roundly criticized once this year already after claiming they were the product of “overboard” environmentalists. The AP’s Steven Paulson reports:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper and GOP opponent Scott McInnis vowed Tuesday to revamp tougher state oil and gas regulations that took effect last year.
The Denver mayor told energy industry executives that some rules pushed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and his administration and approved by the Legislature may not be necessary, including strict rules on pit liners and requirements to pump production water back into the ground instead of using it for agricultural purposes.
Hickenlooper, a former geologist, said the new rules were partially responsible for the decrease in drilling and loss of jobs over the past three years. [Pols emphasis]
“It’s one of the many factors,” he said.
Perhaps under different circumstances, we wouldn’t make such a big deal out of this–since all it does is muddy the contrasting choice offered by these two candidates. To be fair, we do note that McInnis wants the new rules tossed in their entirety while Hickenlooper only says he would eliminate certain “onerous” examples, but we can’t simply ignore the underlying side of the debate Hickenlooper is taking.
We have spent the last year and a half showing why this claim that the new rules have “harmed” the oil and gas industry is absolutely false, the product of deliberate misrepresentation by local Republicans of the economic reality governing this industry around the country (hell, the industry itself has debunked this myth recently). The fact is that huge natural gas plays in Texas and Pennsylvania, and the drop in consumption caused by the recent recession, have everything to do with the temporary slowdown in drilling in Colorado–and Colorado, despite the claims made by Josh Penry and Hickenlooper’s opponent Scott McInnis, has not suffered a bigger slowdown than other states.
Unfortunately, Hickenlooper is subverting the argument–and leaving Democrats around the state who fought for these rules, and defended them against hyperbolic attacks, to twist in the wind.
Somewhere between Hickenlooper’s disturbing tendency to alienate natural allies with highly regrettable choices of words, and this either inability or unwillingness to set out meaningful differences between himself and his likely GOP opponent on key issues, we see the reason–for all of McInnis’ evident weakness–why Hickenlooper “can’t get out of the weeds.”