Don’t Believe The Hype: Local Control a Political Winner

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on a new poll that validates something we've been saying for weeks: measures working their way toward the ballot to enhance local control over oil and gas drilling are also good politics. We understand this fact may upset some conventional wisdom:

According to the statewide poll by RBI Strategies, which is running Polis’s campaign, 51 percent of Coloradans are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, by local communities than is currently provided by the state.

Just 34 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to support a candidate who opposes increased local control of drilling.

The survey challenges the conventional wisdom that a ballot measure to give local communities control of oil and gas drilling will backfire for Democrats, making them the targets of an estimated $50 million in spending by the oil and gas industry in an effort to defeat the measure. [Pols emphasis]

Multiple sources also tell FOX31 Denver that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, whose race against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall could determine control of the Senate next year, is rumored to be back-channeling with stakeholders and urging them to reach a compromise on legislation that could keep Polis’s initiatives off the November ballot.

Cory Gardner's spokesman denies that any such urging has taken place, but it wouldn't surprise us in the least. Despite the insistence from the oil and gas industry and supporting operatives that these measure could prove divisive to Democrats heading into this year's tough elections, we've flatly rejected this as scare tactics–designed to self-fulfill a self-serving prophecy. We believe that the fallout risk is much greater for politicians who choose not to side with local communities. And with a few exceptions, that's generally Republicans.

As we've said previously, any legislative deal on local control over oil and gas drilling must be strong enough to meaningfully placate conservationists and nervous local communities, or there's no reason not to take the issue to the ballot. Given the success local communities have already had with "fracking" moratoria, you can see why the industry is in a panic to head this effort off. Once you get past the wall of misinformation thrown up by the industry's pitch men, local control has a very good chance of passing statewide–and boosting politicians who get on board with it, not hurting them.

As negotiations for a deal continue, everyone needs to keep in mind who has the upper hand, morally and popularly, in this debate. And as this poll shows, it's not the oil and gas industry.

37 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    +100.  All politicians with spine enough to endorse strong, local governance via this initiative will be rewarded in November.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      And garden variety R constituents must wonder why, after decades of having their pols tell them Big Government is bad and the more local control the better, they are suddenly supposed to be against local control.

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        The dissonance in that clown car is deafening….

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        The O&G boys are worried enough that they had to make a trip to the back woods: From TNTSNBM:

        • ct says:

          Also note they have to lie.  It is hard to imagine Local Control actually leading to the industry fleeing the state, but that just shows the oilies and their lackeys just had the same info from internal polling; otherwise they would have been going after 'local control' head on, which they cannot.  Because their polling and focus groups show it makes sense to sensible Coloradans.  And now politicians have to decide, when oil and gas cash 'speech' collides with honest-people-on-the-ground constituents' speech, with whom does one dance?  

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          Guess they think Log Cabin Republicans will have more cred attacking Polis. These are people who stick with a party that has treating them like sinners who threaten marriage and family written right into their party platform and whose members vote accordingly.  I don't think they have any more extra cred than a Jewish neo-Nazi would have attacking Romanoff.

    • BoulderDem says:

      What makes you think a ballot initiative will be about local control? With $40m to spend, the O&G industry can make it "about" anything the freakin' heck they want. I'll guess, oh I dunno, jobs maybe? They'll be lying, but who's gonna tell voters that?

      You all are awful naive.

      • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

        …and even all of the Koch money behind this legal manever to roll back Colorado's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the second-most aggressive in the nation, couldn't prevail in the courts.  I don't know if you were part of the Amendment 37 campaign in 2004, but the same, tired arguments we hear today from oil and gas are the same damn talking points they were spewing then.  Just stand up to the liars and get out the vote…their money is becoming less and less relevant.

        • BoulderDem says:

          How is a court case even remotely analagous to a ballot initiative?

          • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

            The point was we stood up to these interests a decade ago – well funded (then) coal and gas interests who launched a massive campaign in an attempt to scare the average Coloradan in to voting against the constiutional amendment.  They told us, in ad nausea that a renewable portfolio standard would cost the state billions, that it would jeopardize the reliability of our grid and drive business away from Colorado.

            Of course, NONE of that happened – in fact, the effect was exactly the opposite.  And we're facing the exact sitution today with those who oppose Local Control.  The analogy to the court case was that ten years hence, even after our incredible gains (with still a long way to go), these morons STILL attempt to undo a good thing; my larger point a direct response to the spirit of your comment:  Stop being scared.  Stop thinking that money alone will drive their narrative.  That's exactly what they count on.  Being from Boulder (an assumption on my part given your pseudo name) you know better than almost anyone on this thread that money doesn't equate success.  You handed Xcel their ass in the 310 (municipalization) vote – even after Xcel outspent the advocates by orders of magnitude.

        • BoulderDem says:

          Very simple. The O&G folks will put out $40m in ads and grassroots communication. They'll put up single moms and proud dads, cowboys and Latinos and Ken Salazar and John Hickenlooper and everyone else sympathetic they can think of. They'll talk about jobs and only jobs, how getting that gig with Anadarko or whomever gave them some dignity finally, and now they don't have to worry about getting food on the table. And they'll say that Amendment whatever is a temper tantrum by Boulder liberals that is intended to kill those jobs. Their "investments" in newspaper advertising will guarantee strong endorsements from ed boards. The only time you'll hear the words "local control" is when the scrappy grassroots activists on the other side can scrape up enough money to get on the air. And they'll get under destroyed.

          Initiatives are easy to kill. Much easier than to pass. My only hope is that, if it goes to the ballot, it does well enough not to destroy any chance of passing better legislation in the future.

    • Just Anita says:

      It'll be interesting to see how the Gov's special session "big compromise" legislations pans out. Taking names right and left of supporters for legslative local control, as opposed to "constitutional" local control. Now we know why Democrats want stronger gun laws. They just can't help shooting themselves.

    • wade norris says:

      Count me in for Local Control

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future

      Snake Oil exposes the unsustainable economics behind the so-called fracking boom, giving the lie to industry claims that natural gas will bring great economic benefits and long-term energy security to the United States. In clear, hard-hitting language, Heinberg reveals that communities where fracking has taken place are actually being hurt economically. For those who want to know the truth about why natural gas is a gangplank, not a bridge.

  2. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    To steal a phrase from Bill Ritter, it's time for the Stubborn Stewards to take this government back.  Our elected officials can no longer keep the industry 'in check' – officials elected to not only protect our air and water, but to put their fiduciary responsiblity to the citizens of the State of Colorado first and foremost in this debate.  We aren't broke – we're being robbed – both economically and environmentally.  This industry isn't going to flee the state…where the hell are they going to go?  And if they do 'flee' – the gas isn't going anywhere. 

    It reminds me of the exchange between Jesse James and a judge when he was asked, "Jesse, why do you rob banks?".  His reply, "because that's where the money is!"

  3. SocialisticatProgressicat says:

    I, for one, welcome my Republican friends to their newfound understanding of the value of state standardization of regulation.  Now Marxists and our tepartirandian brothers can finally come to terms with the mess that local control creates.  No more idiotic local school standards with every small town hick in the place pretending he has an Ed.D and determining curriculum.  No more mishmash of local regulations designed to appease the local elite and expand their petty fiefdoms.  The State above all!

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      With all due respect, Progressicat, I don't think you can equate this issue with school curriculum.  FWIW, here's my two cents, and through the lens as someone who was the Chairman of the Yuma County Planning Commission for eight years: drilling is a one-time activity on the land.  Every community has a different reason why they would or would not want the activity – and if so, just how  and where it would be conducted. 

      That's a different issue from the associated air and water issues related to the drilling activity.  Air and water issues transcend beyond the boundary of every well site; emissions in Weld County affect the air quality in Denver; comprimised water supplies can affect large populations of people well beyond the well site.  A 'floor' on state standards, with the option of local communities strengthening those standards, is critical to a the general welfare of the state.

      I view a school curriculum (and the argument for a state standard) as the air and water of the above example.  The state has an interest in each and every one of these childrens outcomes, just like the have the duty to make sure our air is breathable and our water drinkable. While the school is a permanent installation built to the standards of a local building code, it's associated activity, an educated child, will be a transient resource -like air and water.  You want a kid that leaves the Wray School District to be capable of a positive contribution to the state economy no matter where they live in the state – not someone who has been compromised by local activity – say, a rogue school board with insufficient standards – and a drag on the commons for the balance of his/her productive life.

      • SocialisticatProgressicat says:


        I think in most ways you're right.  State level Republican politicians, however, are rabid advocates for local control/determination of schools and their curriculum, regulation , taxation, and pretty much every other -ation you could think of.  The intereference of the state in their "independent" day to day lives is most unwelcome.  In my hyperbolic frenzy, I brought up schools only because they are emblematic of the dissonance present in today's conservatives protesting that local control is somehow inappropriate.

        I also like poking fun at my own, more socialist notions.  My more Marxist brethren would genuinely argue that local control is inappropriate as it is too often a vehicle for local prejudice and king making.  They would propose a strict regime of state standards that would ensure development outside inhabited areas but would probably be less accomodating of communities that wanted to welcome wells in.

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          I'll jump in, uninvited. Michael's right about the "commons" needing a consistent set of regulations at the state and federal, and even worldwide, levels:

          Air, water, oceans  are worldwide commons. When the sea levels rise because of climate change, the seas won't ask if people living on those shores are communist, capitalist, tribal, or any other arbitrary division.

          Public health is "the commons" for countries, but also world, and, as we found out with the AIDS and swine flu epidemics, when we don't treat public health as a common good, we all suffer for it.

          And the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights, which prohibit, say,slavery, set standards by which we judge cultures and countries.  So abstractions like freedom and dignity and education and opportunity are also "commons", but expressed differently in each culture.

          Per Progressicat, Education should have common standards, so that when students move from one locale to another, they are prepared. The realities of our school finance system make this a pipe dream; in PCS60, tomorrow, I will teach in a room with broken desks, torn-up outdated books, but if I go to PCS70 with a higher tax base, students will have state-of-the-art everything.  Yet, having the same educational standards and consistent expectations for content for each grade level are at least an attempt at equity.

          Then there are geologic commons, where people live in a certain biome, for example high plains desert (Pueblo) or sedimentary basin underlaid by aquifers and ancient fossil fuels (north eastern Colorado, western Slope). Within that common area, residents need to be able to make decisions about how to live within the resource "budget" they have been given.r

          That's not socialist, nor capitalist or communist, but it is kind of an acknowledgement of native wisdom: people are of the earth, and can't be separated from the earth.

          Just bear with me, thinking in print here. We need new labels.

  4. OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

    IT may be good politics, but it's bad policy. 

    • ct says:

      I support it and will do what I can to get it across the finish line.  

      • OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

        Good on ya. I agree with the desire for more regulations, I don't agree with the method to do it. Do it at the state level, with one unified set of regulations, and don't put it in the constitution, which will require another statewide vote to fix the inevitable unintended consequences. 

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          Do it at the state level, with one unified set of regulations,

          We have been trying to do that for years, but the O&G industry isn't just favored and coddled by the Colorado state government, in many ways it IS the Colorado government. The revolving door between the industry and the state government is a very big door, and the "Oily Boys" have plenty of capital with which they can pack the Capitol with their supporters and former employees.

          The only opening we ever had to change things fundamentally came and went with the Ritter administration. Three house bills in 2008 (HB 1341, HB1298, and HB1265), successfuly enacted, got the ball rolling. Even with as much obstruction as the industry could muster, we were making significant progress toward some sane regulations. Ritter bailed, Hick was elected, and Governor Frackenlooper promptly put the kibosh on the process.

          While I generally agree that statewide regs would be best, that ain't gonna happen in this state until we stop electing former O&G employees into the legislature and our governors' chair.  Short of a sea change at the Capitol, I am very much in favor of local control as a method to protect Colorados' citizens from unwanted industrial development near their homes and schools.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      The tens of millions they're going to blow losing this vote could easily fund (likely in perpetruity) all the lawyers they'll need to handle any patchwork of local regulations that emerge from the initiatives passage.  To think there's any shortage of institutional capacity on their part to handle this perceived problem is pure folly. 

  5. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    I think we may have gotten some help with this issue from Los Angeles:

  6. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    The benefits and burdens of being an "energy state".  From today's Denver Business Journal:

    Colorado is at the forefront of an oil and gas boom, bringing thousands of new jobs to the state and billions in investment. And we draw worldwide attention for figuring out ways to regulate energy operations that balance industry needs with environmental concerns. But Colorado also is a battle ground for hot energy issues like fracking and local control of drilling near homes. Here's a look at the benefits and burdens of being an energy leader.


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