A Few Sad Words For Ken Salazar, Statesman For Hire

Ken Salazar.

This week in Colorado politics has been dominated by the debate over Senate Bill 19-181, legislation reforming the relationship between local governments and oil and gas companies as well as changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission so that the agency is no longer required to “foster” the industry’s development over other considerations such as the public health and the environment.

After the “Potemkin Protest” at the Capitol Tuesday by hundreds of on-the-clock employees of the oil and gas industry–a turnout that still didn’t manage to outnumber the witnesses in favor of the bill in the subsequent legislative hearing–the energy lobby rolled out what could be their biggest metaphorical gun in opposition to SB-191: Former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. As FOX 31’s Joe St. George reports:

A renowned Colorado Democrat is speaking out against an oil and gas bill currently being considered by state lawmakers. In a press release, Ken Salazar said the bill is “too extreme for Colorado.”

…In the press release, Salazar described himself as a “proud Democrat” who has worked to protect the environment. However, he also said that when he was a senator, liberals and conservatives worked together to make the United States energy independent.

“Colorado has played a key role in securing that energy independence for our nation. Colorado is a leader of renewable energy. Colorado is also a center of oil and gas,” the statement reads, adding that more than 100,000 Coloradans work in the industry and it provides $1 billion in funding for schools and roads.

“S.B. 181 will wrongly bring our Colorado energy success story to an end,” Salazar said.

And there you have it–a former Democratic U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior, and sometimes shortlisted candidate for governor or another high office, blasting SB-181 as a threat to what he calls the “Colorado energy success story.” And in an interview with the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia, Salazar went even further, slamming Gov. Jared Polis and even threatening fellow Democrats with political retaliation from the industry:

“I love Jared Polis,” Salazar said Wednesday. “Part of what I fear here is that the way this bill is written, driven essentially by a Boulder view of the world, that it jeopardizes the Democratic control that we have here in Colorado. [Pols emphasis] And that was not supposed to happen. In my many conversations during the campaign, it was about governing for everybody. Governing for a centrist point of view, bringing people together, solving problems for the long term.”

The problem with all of this, which becomes especially problematic as Salazar openly attacks fellow Democrats, is that Salazar is now one of the state’s highest-ranking lawyers for the oil and gas industry. To the credit of every local outlet we’ve seen reporting on Salazar’s blue-on-blue broadside this week, nobody has missed this crucial data point:

And with that, this becomes a very different situation. There’s simply no way to separate the fact that Salazar is being paid large sums of money by the oil and gas industry from his attacks on fellow Democrats on that very same industry’s behalf. Any attempt to do so is intellectually dishonest. For everyone who supports SB-181 and also took Ken Salazar at his word when he promised to be a protector of “Colorado’s land, water, and people,” this is a bitter betrayal–even if it was predictable, which it mostly was.

But the implied political threat on behalf of the industry that Salazar works for is over the line and can’t be abided. This isn’t an elder statesman calling for moderation. It’s one man, Ken Salazar, cashing in his reputation in order to maximize his effectiveness as a mercenary for the oil and gas industry.

That sucks. It really sucks. But it must not be rewarded.

34 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    Ken Salazar has probably forgotten more about Colorado natural resources than Pols will ever know.  He is also a man of decency and integrity.  The frenzy with which the freeze in the dark crowd now tries to smear him bodes ill for the future.

    • kenecon says:

      Salazar is an adjunct of the oil and gas industry that is destroying Colorado's air, water and landscapes, and the least of what that industry is doing to wreck the world as a habitable place for humans and other creatures.  We don't need any more of this kind of politician.  He should retire to his ranch and let us begin to clean up the mess that fracking has made of our once beautiful state.

  2. Pseudonymous says:

    In fairness to Salazar, he's never been anywhere else on this issue.  You can't be betrayed by someone who's long declared themselves your enemy.

    • Voyageur says:

      Opponent, yes, enemy — well, that just makes my point that the frenzy on this issue is out of hand.  But your basic point is sound.  Ken has always favor ed balanced development.

      What this issue really needs is a calm, thorough study by an interim committee and a bipartisan reform package next year.  It won't happen, but that's what it needs.

      • gertie97 says:

        No, it won't get it, V, but I wish I would. But the industry may have cried wolf too often. They have fought every proposed change tooth and nail, threatening each time it would shut the whole industry down. Every. Single. Time.

        Reasonable discussion is not in the playbook, and that's a shame.

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    But wait there's more.  Bill Ritter and Ben Nighthorse-Campbell will be weighing in shortly about Democratic overreach.  Expect it in 3-2…

  4. davebarnes says:

    Here is the thing.
    Isn't the vox populi who are screaming for more restrictions on drilling?
    Is this Dimocrat "over reach" or trying to get in front of the mob to look like a leader?

    • Voyageur says:

      The Vox Populi crushed initiative 112, which would have banned drilling on 85 percent of private land in Colorado.  But you are right that there is a kind of mob mentality among the losers of that campaign.

      That, to me, is good reason to slow down and try and draft a bipartisan bill.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        You just sad that vulgar and offensive word … bipartisan.

      • Tell me exactly how SB-181 is the same as Prop 112? Actual examples, please, not shrill "Stalinst!" rhetoric or vague "it is a ban!" assertions.

        • Voyageur says:

          Stalinist 112 is not the same as 181. Stalinist 112 was written by extremists who wanted to ban extraction on 85 percent of the private land in Colorado.  As far as I know, 181 doesn't change setback requirements at all..  It changes the make-up of the Oil and Gas Commission  …  Snore, snore.

          • Well, you're the one who brought 112 into this discussion, not me. I fail to see how it is relevant. Glad to see you agree it is not the same thing.

            If we want to get beyond high horses, we might even have a productive discussion about what *specifically* about 181 people like or don't. I personally think the pooling changes need more thought, for example. But I like the local control over surface operations (location, noise, air pollution, etc.) part.

            • Voyageur says:

              I agree the pooling section is confusing at best.  The local control will launch a thousand lawsuits.

              But on balance I think the industry will make more money if 181 passes.  Prices suck now because of oversupply.  Production cutbacks will hurt some, but higher prices will help producers.

              This thing badly needs some clarification.  But unlike 112, it was written in good faith.

              • I agree that the local control will certainly launch lawsuits if localities overreach. It's hard to say if all (or even most) localities will do so – at least not the elected officials. Harder to say what people running initiatives will do.

      • ajb says:

        And what, pray tell, would a bipartisan bill look like? O&G is sitting on what, 10,000 approved drilling permits? And how does one negotiate with the backers of the "Fuck Colorado" Prop 74? Hmmm? O&G doesn't give a rat's ass about the health and welfare of the citizens of this state. Want proof? Just follow the money.


      • kenecon says:

        Bogus statistic from the frack-loving COGCC.  About 57 percent would have been affected by 112.  Clear proof that 112 did not go far enough. 


        • Duke Cox says:

          You have to forgive our old friend V. for repeating misinformation. He actually believes things the Oily Boyz say. Otherwise, he really is a softie. Not sure if he is R&Rs' sockpuppet, or if it is t'other way 'round…😄, but we love our centrist champions just the same.

        • Voyageur says:

          Kenecon speak with forked tongue.  But if you want to see what kind of mindless zealots these Stalinist112 people are, check out hi s unsupported claim that it was too moderate because it would "only" have locked up 57 percent of our oil and gas reserves!  Only 57!  Mighty white of you, white man.  Only gonna steal 57 percent of your land today, we'll steal the rest next year.

          • kenecon says:

            You got it.  Fracking should be banned.  The industry is a grotesque assault against the local environment, the climate, public health and our quality of life.  Has no place near communities or in a healthy sustainable world.  The industry grossly exaggerates its contribution to the Colorado economy.  It's about 3 percent of income and less than 1 percent of the jobs.  Easily replaced by a renewable energy economy. Conservation, efficiency and renewables generate triple the jobs per dollar invested.  Fossil fuels need to go away.  Colorado is a good place to start.

          • Curmudgeon says:

            Yeah, because anyone who'd rather not poison the planet and leave our kids and grandkids to deal with it is a "Stalinist".  

            How are you accessing the internet from 1955?

  5. Duke Cox says:

    Yep….and every other mouthpiece they can cajole or buy to help them get the message across. 

    I guess governor Ritter is still doing penance for the last time he crossed the Lords of the Petroleum Club.

  6. Genghis says:

    “Part of what I fear here is that the way this bill is written, driven essentially by a Boulder view of the world, that it jeopardizes the Democratic control that we have here in Colorado."

    Even money says Salazar's suggestion that he actually read 181 is bullshit.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Maybe it’s that Boulder view into Weld County which has informed reasonable non-industry citizens as to what the rest of Colorado should never ever become??

    • Duke Cox says:

      "Too extreme for Colorado"…

      How many times have I heard some oil and gas acolyte use that expression for ANY suggested change to the way they like to do business. And, make no mistake, Ken Salazar is an oil and gas apologist from way back.

      Oily Democrats aren't as rare as you might think…I guess we could call them Dem-oil-crats. 

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