Frackapalooza 2014: Losers

Fracking operation in Greeley.

Fracking operation in Greeley.

News broke on Monday that Gov. John Hickenlooper had reached a deal to avert dueling ballot measures related to fracking, and since we are a political blog and all, we had to swoop in and rank stuff.

Tuesday, we gave you our "Winners" from what we are calling Frackapalooza 2014, which culminated in the removal of four initiatives from the ballot (two backed by Polis, and two backed by the oil and gas industry) in exchange for the formation of a humongous "blue ribbon commission" that will make recommendations to the legislature.

Is this a good deal for Coloradans? A bad deal? As always here at Colorado Pols, we limit our analysis to politics while leaving the policy debate to others. Which leads us to…

Frackapalooza 2014: Winners, Losers, and Lessons

In the interest of both time and space (relative though they may be), we're going to break this up into three separate posts. After the jump, check out our "Losers" from Frackapalooza 2014 (you can find the "Winners" here):

There were no bigger losers in Frackapalooza 2014 than Republican Elected Officials and GOP-Friendly Interest Groups, which we'll call "The Belligerents" for the sake of brevity. Led by the likes of State Sen. Greg Brophy; Rep. Frank McNulty; Stan Dempsey (head of the Colorado Petroleum Assocation); and the Farm Bureau, The Belligerents basically refused to negotiate while criticizing every step of the process before reluctantly "supporting" the Fracking agreement that ended the standoff. In other words, they did nothing to help move a compromise forward and took every opportunity to snipe at Gov. Hickenlooper, Rep. Jared Polis, and everyone else who didn't just capitulate to their demands.

As a result, The Belligerents made a lot of new enemies without even winning a battle to show for it; much more damaging, however, is that Republican leaders in Colorado demonstrated that their participation in important policy discussions is basically irrelevant. Renfroe, McNulty, and their lobbyist loyalists could have chosen to play a more helpful role — which would have made sense given how few cards they held — but when they decided to be obstructionists instead, the grown ups in the room just worked around them. Machiavelli famously wrote that it was better to be feared than loved; but if you are neither, then you are just ignored.

You can also count Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez as a big Loser on this one. This was a rare election-year opportunity for someone like Beauprez, who could have used the impasse in discussions to step in and act like a leader — to show Colorado voters the kind of qualities that he only talks about on the campaign trail. But instead of trying to be the voice of reason and insert himself as a leader who could bring different sides together, Beauprez chose instead to sit outside the Capitol and throw rocks at the windows. He criticized Hickenlooper for trying to negotiate a compromise agreement — a compromise that had the support of the big oil and gas companies and was generally popular with the groups involved in the discussions — while falling hard into right-wing rhetoric land by jumping onboard the silly idea that this whole thing was a capitulation to Rep. Polis. Even worse, Beauprez drew attention to the fact that he really didn't understand the argument anyway, which even conservative apologists such as Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post couldn't ignore:

[Hickenlooper's] Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, may think that any "grand bargain compromise" amounts to weak-kneed capitulation, even if acceptable to oil and gas companies, but Initiatives 88 and 89 were real threats to the state's economy. They may have been defeated — and probably would have been — but who knows? Now they're off the table.

The fracking issue is also essentially off the table in 2014, and in the wrap-up, it was Governor John Hickenlooper who emerged as the big winner.

We listed the Oil and Gas Industry (O&G) as one of the "Winners" from Frackapalooza 2014, but they can't escape here without a mention in the "Losers" section as well. The big O&G companies such as Noble Energy and Anadarko signed onto a potential deal early in the process, signifying both their willingness to cooperate but also their understanding that they were not holding a strong hand on their own. Fracking supporters have spent many months advertising on billboards and buses in an effort to convince Coloradans that the process is safe — yet we didn't even make it until August before the industry started going over-the-top negative with their "Flat Earth Society" ads. After failing to defeat four local ballot measures in 2013, there was plenty of reason for the industry to be worried about their messaging. We still think that the two fracking safety ballot measures promoted by Rep. Polis would have passed, and the industry definitely had no idea what to do about it.




17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Losers: The individuals and families who daily deal with health impacts from fracking.  These include benzene and hydrocarbons in the air and volatiles in the water. No relief in sight, because, as Peggy Tibbets wrote in her piece, "Clusterfrack",

    Frackenlooper and Polis secretly decided in a secret meeting that the best way to address overwhelming public concerns about oil & gas drilling is to form a commission to regulate the commission that regulates the industry.


    Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventionalnatural gas resource  Conclusion: further study warranted, individuals should be protected while studying


    CU study: To see recorded sessions of the Oil and Gas Development: Public Health and the Environment Symposium




  2. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    We will see how long your mistaken accolades for the governor will hold up after the announcement of the members of the panel.

    As I have said before, my understanding indicates the real impetus for this deal emanated from the environmental community, not from Hicks' office….


    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      If so, mamajama55 and Peggy Tibbets need to redirect their criticism. They were "sold out" by people much closer to them than Hickenlooper and Polis.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        I'll defer to Duke's analysis on the environmental politics. He's closer to it than I am. Duke says we "dodged a bullet" on probable defeat of the ballot initiatives. He's probably right.

        What I saw, as I've commented before, was a chaotic scramble to get competing initiatives on the ballot, some of which were unconstitutional or otherwise useless. Had there been cooperation instead of competition among the environmentalists, I believe that we could have come up with meaningful legislation. Perhaps that's optimistic.

        Yes, all anti-fracking initiatives were faced with a unified propaganda, lobbying, and legal pushback from CRED, the PR arm of the oil and gas industry. Hickenlooper was absolutely complicit in being an uncritical repeater of talking points from the industry: 110,000 jobs lost! from a hypothetical fracking ban! etc. 

        As a public official, Hickenlooper was aware that the real figure (from CU 2012 study) was about 31,000 jobs directly tied to oil and gas production. He also had to have known that these are mostly low-wage jobs. So he lied, and was never really challenged on his lies.

        So as much as environmentalists wasted their collective energy and good will by not working together, Hickenlooper was the most complicit in saving his own political future and selling out the thousands of Coloradans getting sick from fracking in their communities.

        I'm also not jumping on the "trash Jared Polis" bandwagon. I think Polis should have let the signatures be turned in, because democracy is supposed to work that way.

        If Polis had some self-interest on the line, so what? The man contributed millions of dollars in an effort to keep Coloradans, air, and water from being contaminated. If his own health, water, and air were threatened, that adds to his credibility, and doesn't subtract from it.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          Thanks for your confidence in me, mama. All I did was push for a solution to the impending defeat of the ballot initiatives. As I explained before, I am convinced that running 88 and 89 would have resulted in the defeat of both.

          I saw 88 as a measure that would make it very difficult, if not practically impossible, for the industry to drill within a city or town. Add to a 4,000 ft. diameter plus the size of the well pad and you would need nearly a mile of clear space between dwellings in order to locate a pad.

          I do not know why my suggestion was ignored and both initiatives were dropped. But, as I earlier noted, I am not on the negotiating "team", and I, too, am feeling a little sold out by the result. But, the larger point is, as was correctly pointed out earlier by another polster, this deal should "un-motivate" a large number of Prius haters.

          • BlueCatBlueCat says:

            True he  didn't run the best campaign. Also true that if Bill, knowing how desperately the Rs were looking for a scandal that would stick, had been able to keep his pants zipped or at least been discreet, Gore could have run as more of the same Clinton peace and prosperity instead of feeling he had to distance himself.  He handled it badly but it was Clinton's fault he had to handle it at all. 

            And he still won. Just not by enough. Even then Florida SOS Harris has said that if the whole state had been recounted, not just cherry picked,  Gore would have won. There was also good old swing vote Supreme, Sandra Day O'Conner, deciding to hand the election to Bush even though they all knew their grounds were so shaky, the same lack of uniformity in recounting methods that existed then and now pretty much everywhere, that they stipulated the decision should not be seen as establishing a precedent. May as well have come right out and said we know there's no grounds for stopping the recount but we want to end this mess, it's really close and five of us are Republicans.

            So there's plenty of blame to go around. But the fact remains, only very, very close ones can be stolen and if you use your vote or the withholding of your vote to make a point in the face of a worse alternative, you contribute to saddling the rest of us with that worse alternative.

            In this case that worse alternative, Cheney/Bush, resulted directly in irreparable damage of epic proportions to ourselves and the whole world.  As a material being living in a material, not ideal ivory tower, world I don't apologize for taking a dim view of purist point makers. As for Nader, I'm pretty sure he would have made an awful President.

    • The realistThe realist says:

      Agree. This can still backfire for the Guv at the polls this fall. Those who are working so hard to put Hick in a good light are forgetting that there are tens of thousands of voters who won't easily forget that their views are being ignored.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        One can ask if those "tens of thousands of voters" really want Bob Beauprez as governor.      C.H.B.

        • The realistThe realist says:

          Many just might not see much difference between the two – the election is more like a Republican primary than a General Election. When you vote, you have to choose to pull the lever – or mark the circle or square – for the candidate you like best. There are likely to be a significant number of voters who will not vote for Hick OR BWB.

          • BlueCatBlueCat says:

            The same bad argument made by those for whom Gore wasn't different enough from Bush and who didn't vote or voted for Nader or some other twit. Well it turned out to make a huge difference. Practically everything exploding in the Muslim world and every conservative 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision can be traced back to Gore winning by a margin so small Rs were able to steal the election.

            You're no realist. I'd expect most liberals not thrilled with Hick will not be following your example.

            • Diogenesdemar says:

              Trust me, Gessler's no Bush . . .

              Gessler 2014 (and beyond) !!!

              (PS.  I do get your point, BC . . . but it wasn't just the Naderites that messed that one up, Al-Gee did a tremendously fine job of screwing the pooch that entire campaign . . . not the least of which was his selection of a truly insufferable running mate. History sure could have been different, and a lot of the reason it isn't is very much on Gore's sloped shoulders.)

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        As I said earlier, I had hoped the deal would leave initiative #88 in place. We had a chance of passing that one if we didn't have #89 dragging it down. We have a much better chance of electing Dems now that these are off the ballot. That is where we must focus our effort.

        Hick should be re-elected for one single reason. We have a better chance of wrangling a positive result out of a Hickenlooper COGCC than a Beauprez appointed group. If BWB gets the nod…God help us…

  3. ct says:

    I have a bit different take than Duke.  TABOR was on the ballot three times before it passed.  Sometimes we need to extract more than (mostly, so far) empty promises).  No environmentalist would be confused if BothWays were governor, you know?  



    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      Interesting point, ct. Time will tell if the backroom deal did anything positive for us. I don’t disapprove of a deal being made, I am just not very happy with the deal.

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