As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports:
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he understands citizen concerns about neighborhood gas drilling but maintains that passing local laws restricting the activity is the wrong way to address the problem.
“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said in an email to the Independent. “Yet local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights.
“A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.
“These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”
Our view: the political balance between the need to produce energy and the desire by local communities to protect health and safety depends on trust. Gov. John Hickenlooper's problem is that he has lost a good deal of that trust since taking office, and to the extent that his objective as governor was to "make peace" between the energy industry and his fellow Democrats, he has failed. At this point, Hickenlooper has been pigeonholed by his own statements and actions as an unreasonably, and on occasion deceptively, pro-industry governor.
The people who worked to pass the moratoriums on fracking will not be encouraged by this latest statement. Hickenlooper's first words in response to the success of these local bans should not be in defense of the oil industry's "property rights." We're honestly surprised to see such persistent tone-deafness from Hickenlooper on this issue. He risks perpetuating the disaffection with base Democrats sensitive to this issue, a problem that began the first time he claimed to have "drank frack fluid," going into an election year. Subsequent gaffes involving top staffers have strongly reinforced this perception. He could try to fix the problem if he didn't all-but-ignore the concerns of local residents in every statement he gives; Hick always talks about mineral rights, completely glossing over the concern about having a "right" to feel safe from environmental harm in your own house.
With Colorado politics maybe more polarized than ever, Hickenlooper needs the Democratic base. He cannot count on transpartisan charm to win re-election in 2014. With a weak field of GOP opponents but an energized GOP base fired up to vote against him, Hickenlooper's electoral future is with his fellow Democrats, the same people he keeps alienating with his own "folksy" arrogance on this issue. And don't take our word for it: the polling data clearly indicates as much.
It's why we believe the biggest threat to John Hickenlooper's re-election is John Hickenlooper.