Crossposted at the Checks and Balances Project.
Governor Hickenlooper likes to paint himself as an outsider, unfamiliar with the political process. But his recent actions to undermine public health, water safety – and basic common sense – have proven that Gov. Hickenlooper has become the ultimate insider – adept at helping his billion dollar oil and gas industry boosters cheat the rules, while playing the role of concerned official.
While Governor Hickenlooper has said the he’ll increase fines and hold polluters accountable, behind closed doors he’s actually been working hard to kill or weaken legislation aimed at doing just that.
Case in point: Governor Hickenlooper announces both his campaign for Colorado to be the healthiest state and safe drinking water week, then days later he successfully killed legislation to help protect water from toxic oil and gas spills. Here’s are the five things Gov. Hickenlooper did to put the public health and water of Coloradans at risk and to make it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute.
#1 – Issued the weakest water testing rules for oil and gas operations in the nation…with huge carve out for Anadarko and Noble. In January, Governor Hickenlooper’s oil and gas commission put forth weakest in the nation water testing rules –which included the Anadarko-Noble loophole for two of the biggest oil and gas operators in Colorado and Weld County – and two of the state’s biggest oil and gas polluters. The Anadarko-Noble loophole makes it easier for billion dollar oil and gas companies to pollute water in an area in Northern Colorado that’s home to more than 25 percent of Colorado’s oil and gas wells and more than half of the most recent spills reported.
The result is that it’ll be harder to detect water contamination and to figure out which well(s) are the source of contamination in the region that needs these public safety standards the most. In 2012, industry reported 402 spills in state, of which 20 percent resulted in water contamination, and just last month, a huge spill near Parachute creek contaminated nearby soil and water with cancer causing benzene.
#2 – Lobbied against efforts to hold oil and gas companies responsible when they pollute Colorado communities and water with toxins, waste. Governor Hickenlooper sent his lobbyists to the Capitol to weaken fines for oil and gas companies who pollute, despite the fact that Colorado has the lowest in the nation fines and a well-documented problem of spills and water contamination. In 2012, 20 percent of all reported oil and gas spills resulted in water contamination and just six companies were responsible for more than 85 percent of all spills. And the Parachute spill – which has contaminated nearby water and soil with cancer causing benzene is now being investigated by the EPA’s criminal investigations division.
#3 – Turned down money to increase the number of state oil and gas inspectors. Governor Hickenlooper’s Department of Natural Resources agency joined up with the oil and gas industry in opposition to additional resources to help making oil and gas drilling safer by turning down money to increase the number of inspectors, from sixteen to twenty-four, for the state’s more than 52,000 wells. That’s despite the state already being short-staffed on inspectors.
#4 – Successfully blocked reform efforts to make the actions of the Colorado oil and gas commission more transparent. Governor Hickenlooper, along with the oil and gas industry, opposed legislation that would have made important systemic changes to Colorado’s oil and gas commission – the Natural Resources Department testified against the bill. Oil and gas companies currently serve on the commission, which regulates their activities, a direct conflict of interest.
#5 – Worked to defeat public health study to see if fracking is making Coloradans sick. Governor Hickenlooper’s chief of public health and the environment, Dr. Chris Urbina, testified against a health study – supported by local residents and medical professionals – that would help figure out if Coloradans who live near fracking are getting sicker than those who don’t live near fracking.