Still No News On Local Control Special Session Deal

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports on what's known, as of today, about the state of negotiations over local control legislation to forestall oil and gas local regulation measures being readied for this November's statewide ballot. The latest news is…no news:

Draft legislation shopped around this weekend that seeks to clarify powers held by state, county and city authorities in Colorado to regulate oil-and-gas drilling has not won full support by the main negotiating parties, and so a special legislative session tentatively scheduled to begin today in Denver has been postponed.

Officials have said for some time that they hoped to make a deal in June. Governor John Hickenlooper weeks ago asked lawmakers to clear their schedules for the beginning of this week. That Friday’s proposal failed to gain the support it needed to launch the session today seems like a significant setback. Although the governor can call a special session any time, sources have said they want to ink a deal before election-year momentum builds and campaign politics steal progress already made and narrow wiggle room in which to find future compromise.

The draft bill sparked frenzied speculation over the weekend that parties had drawn close to a deal after weeks of stops and starts and that the plan for a special session beginning today was on track.

News this morning that the proposal has so far failed to launch the session will please grassroots groups that have led the movement in the state over the past five years to push back against boom-time natural-gas drilling activity. The groups received the six-page proposal this weekend with frustration and anger.

Rep. Jared Polis, so far the leading backer of any serious effort to pass a local control ballot measure, is reportedly willing to pull his support for the initiatives, if the draft legislation unveiled Friday sees no weakening during legislative debate. Grassroots supporters of greater local control, who aren't happy with the draft legislation, need the support of Polis and/or other well-heeled players to have any realistic shot at winning a statewide ballot fight against what would doubtless be fierce industry opposition. But the reason a special session of the legislature did not convene today is the closely divided body, particularly the Colorado Senate where pro-industry Democrats throw a one-seat majority into doubt, may not be in a position to pass anything.

The question is, would that really be so bad?

It's critical to remember as these negotiations drag on that there is a great deal of public support, as evidenced by the local "fracking" bans and moratoria that have passed in several Front Range residential cities, for strengthening local control over oil and gas drilling. Arguments that a statewide local control ballot measure could hurt Democrats politically are poorly founded and of dubious origin. If the industry and its political allies get cocky, for which the early shrill attacks on Polis betray at least a desire, there's no reason to further try to appease them.

A legislative compromise is the industry's chance to prevent both tighter regulation and humiliation in a statewide vote–and the risk of consequences at the ballot box in November hinges on the industry's willingness to show good faith today. The compromise that Polis says he would accept even as many grassroots activists complain about its weakness is, under the assumption the local control measures can pass in November, as good a deal as the industry is going to get.

If they don't understand that, we say let them learn the hard way.

15 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. I think a legislative deal is better than the initiative route. We've got something on the order of a dozen initiatives being cleared for takeoff around this one issue.

    Admittedly, 6 of the 8 from Polis's group won't make the ballot, as they'll pick and choose just how strong they want each of the two groups of measures and discard the rest. However, that leaves another 4 initiatives without any connection to Polis – and a potential free-for-all on the ballot where either no winner emerges or we have an unclear multiple winner situation.

    Add to that the Libertarian mess that is I75, and I for one would like a solid legislative solution.

    • BoulderDem says:

      Gotta agree with you here. Pols' normally excellent judgment is off the rails a bit, something in this case I am sorely tempted to do as well given how disgingenuous and bully-ish the O&G industry has been. If the legislative solution fails — and frankly, I don't see how it can pass the Senate with all that opposition — and the initiatives go forward, the results are going to be extremely unpredictable. I don't worry about the impact on big electoral races — Udall can always oppose the thing, and he probably will; certainly Hick will — I worry that an initiative will get swamped, even with Polis money, and go down huge. It could very easily happen, with Hick, maybe Udall, Ken Salazar, and many others leading the opposition. If that happens, we've just ruined any chance of making progressive change on O&G issues for ten years at least. This is a monumental "all in" moment, and a bad year to do that.

  2. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Colorado Pols, leading Democrat mouthpiece, endorses extortion of leading job creator.

    • HarleyHarley says:

      And you, Moderatus, as the leading GOP mouthpeice, have created how many jobs?

      • ModeratusModeratus says:

        Actually, I have created Colorado jobs, and not government jobs. Quite a number in fact. Thanks for asking.

        • BoulderDem says:

          A job's a job, and government ones are often good. What's your point?

          • Andrew Carnegie says:

            That private sector jobs pay for those government jobs, I presume.

            • BlueCatBlueCat says:

              And public sector jobs create private sector jobs. Teachers, police, firefighters, military families and all other public sector workers spend their money in private sector businesses. When they lose their jobs the private sector loses valuable customers and some in that sector go out of business altogether. 

              When someone hires us we don't ask where their paycheck comes from.  It's a meaningless distinction. Middle class consumers with money to spend, regardless of who signs their checks, are the most important job creators in our economy. So, once again, what's Modster's (and your) point? 

              If there's no deal, the people will decide what's more important to them at their local level. Which would you prefer? Those are your choices.

    • Ralphie says:

      Still lying, Moddy?  You should get help.

    • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

      Well, except that O&G isn't a leading job creator.  Culled from tables in the Leeds 2014 Outlook

      Sector Employment Projections (in Thousands)





      Change Rank

      Total Rank

      Natural Resources and Mining


















      Trade, Transportation, and Utilities












      Financial Activities






      Professional and Business Services






      Education and Health Services






      Leisure and Hospitality






      Other Services













      • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

        So, table no worky.  So much for the preview, lol.

        Bottom line Natural Resources and Mining is 10/11 in expected growth and 11/11 in total jobs.

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          Oh, goody. Another Leeds study. This one looks pretty fact-based. 

          What I do to defeat the formatting gremlins:

          1. take a screen shot of the table you want.
          2. Save it as a png or jpg file.
          3. upload the file to an image hoster like photobucket.
          4. use the picture frame tool in the format menu above to paste it.

          It's sort of an ordeal, but as far as I can tell, it's the only way to post stuff from a pdf file. I'll do it for you if you tell me which table you want. 

          • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

            Of course, I appreciate the help.  I was actually combining two tables and adding ranking on my own.  I guess I could take a picture of that, though.

            I'll keep that in mind next time.

  3. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    What citizens are saying about the compromise legislation: (From the Styx, blog by Peggy Tibbetts)

    Saturday, June 7, 2014
    Coalition statement: Citizens push back against draft legislation on local control of gas drilling, fracking

    Denver, CO — On Friday, Governor Hickenlooper released draft legislation on local control that would call a special session of the Colorado legislature to consider a bill that could jeopardize the ability of local jurisdictions to protect themselves from drilling and fracking for gas and oil within their boundaries.

    In response, community groups, Frack Free Colorado, Our Broomfield, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins and Our Longmont and Sierra Club, Environment Colorado, Food & Water Watch released the following statements:

    “This ‘compromise’ is a sweetheart deal for the oil and gas industry. The thousands of moms, dads and community members in Broomfield who voted to protect our constitutional rights were not consulted on this proposal. We are adamantly opposed to it,” said Laura Fronckiewicz with Our Broomfield.

    “We are deeply dismayed that this proposal will not protect the will of tens of thousands of Fort Collins residents who voted to protect public health, safety and property values from fracking last November,” said Kelly Giddens with Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.

    “The continual plotting and planning by Governor Hickenlooper and the oil and gas industry to thwart or overthrow the will of the people of Colorado must end. This so-called compromise is nothing of the sort. Our Longmont vehemently opposes this back-room deal and will vigorously fight its implementation. The people of Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban fracking and its waste products within our city and we will accept nothing short of complete acceptance of our constitutional right to protect our health, safety, welfare and property. This concoction is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and we trust the people will recognize it as such,” said Kaye Fissinger, President and Chair of the Board of Directors of Our Longmont.

    “Governor Hickenlooper and the oil and gas industry have a serious problem on their hands, it’s called democracy. This bill is their latest move to disenfranchise Colorado citizens on the issue of fracking. As scientific studies continue to confirm the major health risks of fracking, this bill does nothing to ensure Coloradan’s health and well-being. It’s a blatant attempt to permanently remove Colorado communities’ right to self-determination on fracking. Jared Polis does not speak for the hundreds of moms, dads, doctors, teachers and everyday citizens who volunteered tirelessly to use the democratic process to pass initiatives in 2012 and 2013 to protect their communities from the dangers of fracking. If Colorado citizens are unable to participate in determining how our private and public lands are used — to the benefit or detriment of our water, air, soil, and health — do we truly have democracy?” said Russell Mendell, Statewide Director of Frack Free Colorado.

    “The Sierra Club stands beside the people of Colorado and the communities where fracking and drilling for oil and gas is destroying lives, polluting the air, and jeopardizing the health and well-being of this generation and generations to come. Governor Hickenlooper must likewise stand up to dirty polluters and say no to any legislation that preempts communities from standing up for their own life and liberty. Coloradans should have the fundamental right to protect their air and water, and not have that right usurped by big oil interests,” said Catherine Collentine, Colorado Dirty Fuels Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club.

    “All Coloradans deserve clean air, clean water, and a healthy place to raise their families. Unfortunately the fracking boom has turned the American dream into a nightmare for too many frontline communities. Environment Colorado is pushing the state and the nation to a truly clean energy future, relying on solar, wind and other renewable sources. Local communities have the right, and need the power to control whether fracking will happen within their borders, and if it does, where and how. Environment Colorado stands with local communities and will only support policies that give local people real control and real protections for their air and water, their families and their communities,” said Kim Stevens, Campaign Director at Environment Colorado.

    “After threatening to sue any community that protects their health, safety and property to ban fracking, Governor Hickenlooper is trying to cut a secret deal to strip communities of an important tool to keep this dangerous, industrial activity away from homes, schools and public parks. Local communities deserve the right to ban fracking. We oppose this deal for taking away that right,” said Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region Organizer for Food and Water Watch.


    Fox News is recycling this morning's article – still claiming that the compromise legislation is a done deal. It isn't. 


  4. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    hinges on the industry's willingness to show good faith today.

    "Good faith" is almost unknown in the upper reaches of the O&G industry heirarchy and its attendant lobby.

    The environmental community is still communicating, trying to reach consensus. There are many groups, statewide, that want the opportunity to decide this for themselves. E-mails are flying and conference calls are non-stop. It speaks to the lack of confidence Coloradans have in their government.


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