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April 04, 2016 03:01 PM UTC

Hickenlooper: Between a Frack and a Hard Place

  • by: Colorado Pols
John Hickenlooper.
Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the perennial battle over tighter regulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado heats up again this election year, three news stories from the weekend help illustrate the trouble Gov. John Hickenlooper finds himself trying to thread the needle between longtime support for the industry versus the substantial segment of Hickenlooper’s Democratic base increasingly concerned about the environmental and public health effects of drilling near population centers. Over the weekend, as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Gary Harmon reports, Gov. Hickenlooper took fire for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about a pipeline to export natural gas overseas from Colorado’s Piceance Basin:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has sat on the sidelines as western Colorado officials have tried to marshal support for an appeal of a natural gas pipeline out of the Piceance Basin, state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said Saturday.

Hickenlooper needs to persuade Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a fellow Democrat, to support the pipeline, Scott said during Club 20’s spring meeting on Saturday at Two Rivers Convention Center.

The proposed Pacific Connector pipeline would carry natural gas collected in northwest Colorado to Jordan Cove on Coos Bay in Oregon and then to markets on the Pacific Rim…

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Salazar is giving voice to Democrats disaffected by the Hickenlooper administration’s perceived bias toward energy producers. The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland:

The Adams County representative announced via Facebook that he intended to ask for an amendment to hire more inspectors to investigate oil and gas operations.

He could have chosen thousands of areas to cover the $370,000 cost. But he went directly after Hickenlooper’s budget.

“I think the Governor has swallowed too much of the fracking fluid Kool Aid,” Salazar wrote. “I am prepared to send a message to the Governor that his comments are ill-founded and we are tired of his attempts to minimize what Coloradans are feeling about oil and gas operations.”

Rep. Salazar’s budget amendment to fund more oil and gas inspectors out of the Governor’s budget wasn’t successful, but definitely was not received positively on the First Floor of the Capitol.

At the same time, Hickenlooper hasn’t done much to prove Joe Salazar wrong: a paywalled story in the Colorado Statesman today has Hickenlooper defending the status quo drilling regulations alongside Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute.

As we have discussed in this space for the nearly six years John Hickenlooper has been in office, the split within the Democratic coalition over oil and gas drilling is probably their largest point of division on any contemporary issue. As concerns nationally about the effects of drilling nearer to homes and schools have grown, the reaction from pro-energy Democrats to their constituents has been seriously deficient to the point of outright contempt for these concerns. At the same time, Hickenlooper can point to events during his administration, like tighter rules and continued work toward clean power goals, as evidence he is indeed responsive on the issue.

The entrenched influence of the energy industry among Colorado Democrats of course predates Hickenlooper’s administration, and will still be there after Hickenlooper has moved on to bigger things–possibly as soon as this coming December. Looking ahead, the changing economics of the industry combined with greater public awareness do portend a shift: toward greater industry accountability, and support for surface communities over subsurface mineral rights holders.

Being on the right side of that shift will be good politics for people like Joe Salazar.


18 thoughts on “Hickenlooper: Between a Frack and a Hard Place

  1.   Hickenlooper can point to events during his administration, like tighter rules and continued work toward clean power goals, as evidence he is indeed responsive on the issue.  

    If part of the credit for responsiveness you offer has to do with the new methane rules, you should perhaps revisit how all that came about. The big three came to Hick because they were about to get seriously nailed by the EPA. Hick was doing his buddies a favor…he should get 0 props for the methane rules….

      1. Take it easy on Moddy.  Republican math does lead the lemmings to the conclusion that the little sliver in the graph is 'a foundation'  


    1. It's perfectly normal for political parties to be somewhat divided. The Democratic party is a picture of unity compared to the GOP at this point in time. 

      1. Nonsense. Ted Cruz has united the real Republicans in their opposition to Das Drumpf.

        The real Republicans simply do not consider the 40%+ of their primary voters who support Trump to be real Republicans. They define the problem away.

    2. Which is why this latest in the predictable long string of boom bust boom BUST has cratered Colorado's economy and driven tens of thousands from the state. Oh wait, none of that happened.  You need to try harder Mod, you give trolls a bad name. 

        1. Trimpa, Ted. If you want to know why Democrats are "divided" on energy, look no further than Trimpa's penthouse. Trimpa made his fortune repping oil and gas while making sure his pet Democrats were too compromised and divided to stop it.

          Someday I hope Trimpa has to answer for selling the "Colorado Model" out for personal financial gain.

          1. heaven forfend that a guy should make a living.  Before I join the Committee to Poop on Ted Trimpa, I want to be sure its members have done as much for human rights as he has.  I sure haven't, so I'll hold off on throwing my stone.



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