Late last week, the Colorado political chattering class was taken by surprise when organizers of a ballot initiative to overturn the recently-passed Senate Bill 19-181 reforming oversight of the oil and gas industry announced they were calling off the effort for 2019 in order to assess the effects of the law on the industry. Although Senate Bill 181’s opponents expressly reserved their right to come back in 2020, they acknowledged in the AP story covering their decision that by then the new regulations will be fully in place–and the industry will have little desire to upend them.
This development underscored the emerging reality that the predictions of doom and gloom for the oil and gas industry under Senate Bill 181 were not accurate, and that the industry will continue to operate in the state subject to increased regulatory focus on public health and safety and more say for local municipalities over siting decisions: authority they enjoy with most every other land-use decision inside their boundaries.
In a must-read story in today’s Greeley Tribune, reporter Joe Moylan talks to Dan Haley of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association as well as Sen. John Cooke, Republican of Greeley–principals on the advocacy and elected sides of the opposition to Senate Bill 19-181. In this interview, Haley and Sen. Cooke effectively dismantle the GOP’s hyperbole surrounding this legislation, and candidly admit the bill is something the industry can live with:
When Senate Bill 19-181 was first introduced on March 1, there was a lot of fear about how the legislation could cause the oil and gas industry to abandon Colorado, taking tens of thousands of lucrative jobs with it.
But by the time it was passed on April 11, the bill had taken a new form. Earlier this week, Speaker of Colorado’s House of Representatives KC Becker, D-Boulder, Colorado Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Colorado Oil & Gas Association President Dan Haley talked about how a couple of words and a handful of amendments turned a feared job killer into a bill both sides could accept…
“Leaders from both the House and Senate, and from both sides of the aisle came together to talk with industry about some concerns they had with the bill and some amendments they needed to continue to operate in Colorado,” Cooke said. “It came down to changing the language on some things to create a little bit of surety and stability for the industry moving forward.” [Pols emphasis]
For Republicans working overtime to hype the calamity of this bill to the state’s economy in order to gin up support for recall elections against state legislators like freshman Rep. Rochelle Galindo–a message that has been increasingly strained as Republicans faced allegations of prejudice over their targets–this would seem to be exactly the wrong thing to say. Given the close connection between these individuals and pro-recall organizers on the ground in Weld County, notably including the Independence Institute’s Amy “Evil AOC” Oliver-Cooke, it’s a major development to see Haley and Sen. Cooke taking the highest stated priority for recall organizers off the table.
This acknowledgement that Senate Bill 181 will not destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado, along with the details Moylan gives on amendments to the bill that placated the industry without gutting the heart of its protections, puts the organizers of the recall campaign against Rochelle Galindo in a serious bind. The grotesquely anti-LGBT original organizer of the Galindo recall effort, Pastor Steve Grant of Greeley’s Destiny Christian Center Church, was “pushed aside” by another group who insisted they were “100% focused on oil and gas” and SB-181 was the sole reason for the recall (with a small caveat).
As of today, the reality now acknowledged by both sides of the debate over Senate Bill 19-181 can no longer sustain the rage needed to recall a sitting lawmaker from office. Recall is a penalty that was intended when written into the state’s constitution to be reserved for officials who have committed serious crimes necessitating their removal from office–not elected lawmakers carrying out their perfectly lawful duties. Every member of the Colorado House stands for election every two years, and the real reason as we now know directly from the mouths of recall strategists for this new approach is the fact that Republicans are increasingly unable to win regular elections in this state.
With the alleged “sole reason” for recalling Rep. Galindo now totally undermined by figures who must certainly be aware what their statements mean to that effort, everyone involved now faces a choice. Can they continue to prosecute a recall campaign without this core argument? Does this shift the message against Galindo back to Pastor Steven Grant’s distasteful slate of grievances? How does it not do exactly that?
There is of course the possibility that this is simply the responsible act it appears to be: the industry and a leading Republican Senator conceding that, although the intent of the law was not “stimulative” to the industry, it can be made to work. If it leads to a stand-down of the Galindo recall, and a return to a state of functional political engagement, this could be the start of something very good. For everybody. Where Republicans adopt the objective of changing their minority status in November of 2020 instead of flailing away with ultimately self-destructive tactics and messages like the hate directed at Rochelle Galindo.
Either way, this is a story everyone considering signing a recall petition needs to read.
And then decide where they really stand.