Scott Renfroe, the RMGO and his “property rights” problem

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

Of the Federal Office primaries in Colorado coming up in June, the primary of most significance is the one to be held in the 4th Congressional District.  Whoever the Republicans select will be a prohibitive favorite to become elected. 

There are four candidates who are running, Ken Buck, Barbara Kirkmeyer, Steve Laffey and Scott Renfroe.  Buck has the best name recognition.  Steve Laffey has the least name recognition.  Renfroe claimed the top spot on the ballot at the Republican convention and is supported by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners which had a significant presence (Dudley Brown and his delegates) at the Convention.  Kirkmeyer and Laffey went the petition route.

Going into the race one might have concluded that Renfroe, coming off his convention win and with the backing of the RMGO would have some kind of momentum.  The favorability of the RMGO and Dudley Brown given their recent behavior may be on the decline among many Republicans, who seem to be steering a more pragmatic course in 2014, but they are still a force to be reckoned with.

That has not turned out to be the case. 

Interestingly, it has not been because of some wacky statement he made (think “recess leads to the feminization of our boys”), it has been because of his sponsoring a bill which would allow oil and gas companies to use eminent domain to take private property.  If there is one issue that trumps gun rights in rural Colorado, it is property rights.

Scott Renfroe, a former State Senator, was the only Republican sponsor of a bill that would allow private Oil and Gas companies to take property from individual property owners using eminent domain.  The bill failed to make it through the Democratic controlled legislature. The other sponsors of the bill were all Democrats from non-rural districts, Cheri Jahn, Mary Hodge and Lois Tochtrop. 

This touches on the quintessential issue of the relationship of the state to its citizen and their property. 

Republican Party orthodoxy is to limit the power of the state, not to outsource it to oil and gas companies. 

How is a rural Republican going to believe that Renfroe will protect their gun rights or fight for the little guy from rural Colorado back in DC when he won’t stick up for them in Denver?

For evidence that this issue has taken on a life of its own, here is the endorsement of Ken Buck by the RMGO supported candidate for Governor, Greg Brophy:

"I am voting for Ken Buck for Congress in the 4th District. I've known Ken for years, and he is the conservative fighter that we need in Congress. Ken will always protect our property rights, and will be a strong advocate for Colorado’s rural communities. I hope you join me in voting for Ken Buck for Congress." (emphasis supplied).

It seems even if you want to convince rural Colorado voters you are on the far right on personhood (life begins before conception) or gun rights (everyone should be required to carry one), to be credible you need to at least stand up to the oil and gas lobbyists when they want to use the power of the state to take a farmer’s property in Colorado.


30 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. IndyNinjaIndyNinja says:

    "It seems even if you want to convince rural Colorado voters you are on the far right… you need to at least stand up to the oil and gas lobbyists…"

    Possibly the most laughable thing I have read from you so far, and that is saying something. 

  2. dwyer says:

    This was a surprising cogent article from AC.

  3. ct says:

    So you oppose the use of imminent domain for Keystone and support the ability of local property owners to clock drilling and fracking on their own property?  

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      CT, the article was not about me.

      It was about an issue that seems to have legs in the race that was largely flying under the radar.

      I would presume that the states through which the Keystone Pipeline is to be built have some type of eminent domain laws which permit the taking.  

      Colorado does not.

  4. There is one thing worse, AC. Imagine the uproar if Renfroe had sponsored a bill allowing the O&G companies to pre-empt farmers' water rights for fracking…

  5. Awen says:

    I admit to being surprised that the eminent domain rights for oil pipeline companies has become an issue for Renfroe. It puts him in direct opposition to Kirkmeyer, for one; she has testified several times now at the state capitol in opposition to both bills (SB 14-093 this year and SB 13-191 last year).  The issue has become one about local control, and whether county governments want to take on more responsibility for the review of oil pipeline proposals. A few counties have fairly vigorous review processes already; La Plata County seems to be the model for that.

    However, as Kirkmeyer testified, Weld County does not, and its county commissioners more or less choose not to get in-between the pipeline companies and landowners, much to the dismay of some landowners. Kirkmeyer herself has had some experience with pipeline surveyors trespassing on her property to survey for new lines that she had already refused to install.

    I've been writing about this issue for six newspapers in Northeastern Colorado for two years now, and I don't see the oil pipeline companies giving up anytime soon. This is an important issue, despite the lack of media attention (other than my own, of course :-). Both sides will tell you it isn't logical, financially feasible or safe to depend on rail or truck to transport large amounts of jet fuel (that's the oil that's at issue here: fully processed). One pipeline that has already been put in (it was the line that led to the Supreme Court decision in 2012 ) is transporting more than a million gallons per day of jet fuel. Both sides will tell you that a solution needs to be found; the opponents want more local control, even if some county governments don't. Proponents (including legislators) say that this is just about "fixing a comma" in an old statute, that it merely confirms in law the practice of the last 100 years and it is not an eminent domain issue.

    If you want the full blow-by-blow on this issue, the Sterling Journal-Advocate, Fort Morgan Times, Julesburg Advocate, Haxtun-Fleming Herald, Holyoke Enterprise and Yuma Pioneer have been running my stories on this for the past two years, under the byline of Marianne Goodland.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:


      Thanks for the info.

      I thought it was an interesting development and has been largely under the radar.  Kirkmeyer has an article about it up on her campaign website and Brophy mentioned it in his endorsement of Buck which is up on his website.  The candidates seem to think it has legs, so perhaps it does.

      • Awen says:

        It's been interesting to see how the winds of change have moved people on this issue in just one short year. Brophy voted FOR the 2013 version, SB 191. He voted against SB 91 this year, despite the fact that SB 91 was identical to the 2013 bill that moved out of the Senate. Jerry Sonnenberg supported the 2013 bill and was supposed to be a co-sponsor of the 2014 version, but he withdrew his sponsorship prior to it getting the House Judiciary Committee, and from my conversations with him I believe he would also have voted against it, had it reached the House floor.

        The difference between last year and this year? A lot more people are complaining publiclily about the bad actors of the oil pipeline industry. I've heard stories about people who demand that nurserymen dig up their trees (and livelihood) for the placement of a new line, or  that irrigation ditch companies have to deal with pipeline companies that want to run new lines under irrigation ditches whenever they want, even if it's in the middle of spring planting season and runoff.

        I think legislators saw the tide turn against the oil pipeline companies in the past year and fear a big fight over eminent domain, no matter what the pipeline companies call it. I've also been told that the environmental community has gotten into this, although one enviro told me it was all about fracking, which couldn't be further from the truth. But all you have to say is "fracking" and the gates at the capitol get stormed, and darn quick.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      I enjoy your articles in the Yuma Pioneer, Marianne.  Keep up the good work. 

  6. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    This is an interesting issue, which has made for some strange bedfellows. SB14-93 died, as Awen said, being postponed until it could no longer be acted upon.

    My super-conservative-Senator-stand-in George Rivera, who is usually all about corporate rights, voted No on SB93. I think that he was actually advocating for his rural base on this one. I was kind of shocked, to be honest.

    As a consequence, (I think) Rivera is getting very little of the Koch dollars flowing to the big Republican races in Colorado. He'll almost certainlybe defeated by Rep. Leroy Garcia. The gunhead base which turned out for Rivera in the 2013 recall will never amount to more than 30-35%, and that isn't enough to win a regular, even off year, election. 

    Being a social conservative just ain't what it used to be anymore. To get the big bucks and endorsements, one also has to be for the corporate overlords.

    I'm fascinated by how these local control /private property /eminent domain rights bills do seem to transcend social issues and left/right dynamics. 

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      MJ, Renfroe, other than the RMGO endorsement, has not been raking in money or endorsements.  I don't see this as a sell out for money.  

      I think Renfroe sees the world through the eyes of someone developing property, not the eyes of someone whose property is being involuntarily developed.  His would-be constituents don't see things that way.  People tend to suffer from if it makes sense for me, it makes sense syndrome, as opposed to trying to look at things from both sides.

  7. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Senator Renfroe has other legislative baggage that has yet to gain a lot of PR, but should. In the 2013 and 2014 sessions of the Legislature, he was the prime sponsor of what I call the "special interest land grab" bill. This year, it was SB 91 (in 2012, the prime sponsor of the "grab" was Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg from Sterling).

    For those not familiar, the bills basically demand that the federal government surrender title over all agricultural lands to the state, excluding National Park Service units, military bases, and Native American reservations. The State Land Board would become the holder of this property, to manage or sell. BTW, the Land Board has a grand total of about 43 employees; most located in the Denver office; to manage the existing 3+ million acres of school trust land. 

    School trust land is not public land. Fees are charged even for recreation. The grazing fees are set at market value. Meaning that any rancher who presently runs stock on Forest Service or BLM land likely would see their fees go up three, four, or even five fold (now that's a real WAR on rural Colorado).  

    The bills had other problems, including constitutional issues; other economic concerns regarding outdoor recreation; likely negative impact on traditional land uses such as hunting & fishing; and the fact that "agricultural land" was never defined.

    The whole scheme never hung together and it was a surprise that so many of my fellow Republicans voted for it. Conserv America, Colorado chapter, testified against it all three times. Senator Renfroe had trouble understanding why Conserv didn't want the protect-public-lands legacies of prior Colorado Republican office holders like Senators Armstrong, Campbell, Allard, Brown; and Reps. McInniss & Hefley; thrown under the bus.

    C.H.B.    (AC/DC Rules!)   


  8. Old Time Dem says:

    Surprisingly good and nonsense-free article.  I may feel compelled to be more respectful in the future.

  9. ct says:

    Or the other AC posted.

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