Colorado Democrats Look to Clear the Air. Literally.

The mountains are still there. Probably. (photo of Denver area in early March, via Streetsblog Denver)

Carbon. Mercury. Sulfur Dioxide.

These are fine things to be discussing in a chemistry class, but not to be inhaling into your lungs in copious amounts. Concerns about air quality and Climate Change were a top priority for Colorado voters even before a disgusting gray soup settled over the Denver Metro area in recent months. At one point in early March, Colorado’s air quality measured more than three times worse than moderate air quality levels in Beijing, China, where people regularly walk around with masks over their nose and mouth.

On Thursday, Democrats in the State House of Representatives introduced legislation that is intended to clean up Colorado’s air quality: House Bill 19-1261, “Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution.” The bill sets goals for reducing carbon pollution by at least 25 percent by 2026, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050 by directing Colorado’s Air quality Control Commission to “reduce, prevent, and control air pollution throughout the state of Colorado.” As House Speaker K.C. Becker tells the Denver Post, HB-1261 contains no new fees for pollution and would have little impact on oil and gas operations that follow methane regulations.

House Bill 1261 is sure to draw opposition from some critics who will try to compare it to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Congressional Democrats, but Colorado’s legislation is focused solely on reducing carbon pollution in our state in an effort to reduce adverse health effects such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Even your phone knows that Colorado’s air quality sucks.

From a purely political perspective, this bill follows many of the promises made by Democratic candidates in 2018; its goals are widely supported by Colorado voters, as poll after poll has confirmed. A full 90% of Coloradans support increasing the use of clean, renewable energy in Colorado, and 62% believe that Climate Change is a significant issue. Polling conducted after the 2018 election further validates this approach.

As Kelly Nordini pointed out in a December opinion piece for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, voters were clear about their concerns in November:

When asked which policy issue was “most important in your vote for governor,” 42 percent of independents selected “energy and the environment” as one of their top two choices – the most of any issue tested. Coming in second place was health care at 35 percent, followed by education at 32 percent.

In other words, it wasn’t the economy, healthcare, education, immigration, or taxes that rose to the top for Colorado’s independents as they headed to the ballot box. The most important policy issue for this key voting bloc was energy and environment, with a strong plurality of the state’s independents going for pro-environment candidates.

Of course, Gov.-Elect Jared Polis won the Colorado governor’s race in a landslide against State Treasurer Walker Stapleton by running as a fierce advocate for Colorado’s environment, pledging to transition Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, pushing for common-sense safeguards on oil and gas drilling, and calling for protecting the state’s parks and public lands.

Breathe easier, Colorado — your legislative leaders are paying attention.

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Anadarko and Noble Aren’t Trying to Save Pollution Rules They Helped Develop

(We’re SHOCKED! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Some of the world’s largest oil-and-gas companies are calling on the Trump Administration not to weaken Obama-era regulations on methane pollution, which is a significant cause of global warming.

But even though Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy basked in the media spotlight for helping fashion Colorado’s path-breaking rules on methane pollution, which served as the basis for Obama’s regulations, the two companies have yet to speak out against the Trump Administration’s plan to weaken the Obama rules.

Exxon Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell have taken unusually sharp public stances against the Trump initiative to roll back Obama’s rules for repairing methane leaks in drilling operations.

Gretchen Watkins, president of Royal Dutch Shell’s U.S. subsidiary, has called on the administration not only to retain the Obama regulations but tighten them.

“We need to do more,” she told the Houston Chronicle.

Calls to Anadarko and Noble, seeking to know if they are thinking of joining other oil-and-gas companies in speaking out against Trump’s proposal to rescind the Obama regulations, were not returned.

The absence of the two companies on the list of companies challenging the administration on methane pollution surprises some industry observers–as do reports that Anadarko is among the companies actually supporting the Trump rollback.

Not only did Anadarko and Noble proudly back Colorado’s first-in-the-nation rules, but they also brag about their stances on global warming.

In public documents, Anadarko touts its work on Colorado’s 2104 methane rules.

“Anadarko works with regulators to develop appropriate solutions at the Federal and state levels,” Anadarko stated last year in public documents. “For example, Anadarko supported air quality regulations in Colorado to detect and address methane leaks, thereby improving air quality and enhancing public trust.”

Both companies brag about their dedication to reducing methane emissions.

“Environmental protection is an integral part of Noble Energy’s commitment to operational excellence and we’ve made significant advances in reducing U.S. methane emissions,” Noble Vice President Gary Willingham stated in a company report.

Environmentalists say now is the time for Anadarko and Noble to walk their talk, as momentum seems to be building among oil-and-gas companies themselves, to push back on the Trump Administration’s initiative.

“For the first time, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies urged the Trump Administration to strengthen, not weaken, EPA climate rules requiring the oil and gas industry to cut methane pollution,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director at Earthworks, in a news release after Shell spoke out for tighter regulations. “Will the Trump Administration listen?”

Other oil industry companies have lobbied the administration to loosen the Obama-era methane rules, including the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies, conducts research, and advocates on behalf of oil and gas companies.

Both Anadarko and Noble are members of the American Petroleum Institute.

The shift of some oil-and-gas entities toward support of the Obama methane rules comes not only in response to public pressure but also to what appears to be a softening among Republicans and some GOP leaders on the issue.

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Drill Bill Passes “In The Dead Of Night” Again!

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis

9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reports on the advancement in the House yesterday of Senate Bill 19-181, the year’s landmark legislation to reform oversight of the oil and gas industry–a 7-4 Energy and Environment Committee vote that took place, scandalously opponents would have you believe, well after midnight once again:

The House Energy and Environment Committee approved Senate Bill 181, the oil and gas reform package, in a 7-4 vote early Tuesday morning after another long night at the Colorado State Capitol.

The bill already passed the state Senate and had its first hearing in the House on Monday which began at 1:30 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until early Tuesday. The bill now goes to the House Finance committee for consideration.

The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley:

State lawmakers’ attempt to re-focus Colorado’s regulation of the $10 billion fossil-fuel industry gained momentum Monday after scores of supporters and opponents packed a first committee hearing in the House on the proposed oil and gas legislation…

Now oil and gas industry leaders are calling the new legislation, launched at the start of the month, “sweeping” and “an overhaul.” The Colorado Petroleum Council, a branch of the American Petroleum Institute, last week launched campaign-style television ads opposing the legislation-in-progress, accusing state lawmakers of operating “in the middle of the night” — a March 5 hearing in the Senate ran from the afternoon to past midnight — and claiming that the legislation is “to shut down energy production in Colorado.”

9NEWS’ fact check of an ad running from the American Petroleum Institute–the same API that employs former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb to attack this bill–underscores the biggest hole in the oil and gas industry’s process grievance against SB-181, the claim that the bill is being passed “in the dead of night” or otherwise without adequate input from the public. The truth is that this legislation has been through exhaustive hearings in the Senate featuring hours of public testimony in addition to last night’s hearing that again went well past midnight–technically “in the dead of night,” sure, but ignoring the hours of public testimony that preceded the late-night vote.

At this point, the gap between industry scare tactics and reality is sufficiently wide that there is little to be gained from further hours-long processions of the same rehashed arguments. But it’s useful to point out again that at least in the Senate hearings, grassroots supporters of the bill actually outnumbered the mostly-paid employees of the oil and gas industry who turned out to protest on the clock. We haven’t seen the exact breakdown of supporters vs. opponents from yesterday’s hearing but we’re told it’s a similar story.

In summary, the industry and their Republican minority backers in the legislature are determined to spin this bill as some kind of tyranny. But the facts, from the process to pass the legislation to the true composition of the crowds thronging the capitol to argue both for and against it, consistently fail to live up to the spin.

As for the doom and gloom predictions from the same parties of the bill’s effects? Experience will be the only cure for that. Grownups can read what’s in the bill, but purposefully misinformed opponents are just going to have wait until after it’s passed and does not “destroy the oil and gas industry” to see the truth for themselves.

Just like Nancy Pelosi said.

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Truth Check on Oil & Gas Industry Attack on SB-181

Marshall Zelinger of 9News breaks down a television ad you may have seen over the weekend from oil and gas industry opponents of SB-181, legislation that seeks to prioritize health and safety concerns in decisions about drilling and extraction. The verdict is another strike for the industry’s flailing narrative of opposition:

CLAIM: “But a handful of politicians didn’t like that result and think they knew better. So now they’re trying to ignore the voters and pass a law in the middle of the night, to shut down energy production in Colorado.”

VERDICT: This section is full of overstatements.

“Pass a law in the middle of the night” is not accurate at all. [Pols emphasis]

The bill, Senate Bill 181, is the oil and gas reform bill that would give local governments control over where oil and gas operations could set up. It would also change the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission – the state regulators – to include fewer members from the oil and gas industry and one with an expertise in public health. The commission would also have to start making decisions considering public health and safety first.

The first committee hearing for this bill was on March 5. The hearing started at 2 p.m. The vote that passed it out of the committee didn’t happen until nearly 2 a.m. 9NEWS had a camera and reporter at the committee hearing, as did other news media. The public testified before and against the bill throughout the 12-hour hearing. While the bill was voted on early in the morning, it wasn’t passed blindly with no one noticing or participating.

As we’ve pointed out before in this space, arguments that Democratic lawmakers are being secretive about the legislation and speeding the bill through the State Capitol are just plain silly and easily refutable. Attempts to muddy the story being told by Erin Martinez, whose family was devastated after a home explosion in Firestone, have fallen equally flat.

Senate Bill 181 made it through the State Senate last week. Today it makes its first stop in a State House committee, one of three committees it will go through before a floor discussion and vote.

Today begins the third full week of discussions about SB-181.

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Spilling & Drilling Through SB-181 Debate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Greeley Tribune runs a regular column entitled the Weld County Oil and Gas Spill Report that provides a handy break-down of the spills and other “releases” reported in Colorado’s most drilled, most fracked county. A pretty typical spill summary might read:

KERR MCGEE OIL & GAS ONSHORE LP, reported March 6 a tank battery spill west of Platteville, about 1,250 feet west of Buck Rake Boulevard and Rodgers Circuit. Less than five barrels of oil, condensate and produced water spilled. Waters of the state were impacted. The separator cabinet at the production facility developed a leak. A groundwater sample from 8 feet below ground surface indicated benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene concentrations above COGCC standards. -Greely Tribune: Weld County oil and gas spill report for March 17

It is a useful feature, and worth checking regularly. But it didn’t capture what’s going on a few counties west, up in Jackson County. Apparently for that its up to individuals to check the state’s databases, since most counties and communities–even those being actively drilled–are not served by such diligent reporting.

Of course media following the oil and gas beat in Colorado have been busy covering SB 181–the pubic health and safety/oil and gas reform bill. Which means covering the Capitol circus–Democratic leader using machines to a read bill, a Republican senator talk of secession. But meanwhile the wildcatters and frackers, the big boys and the ‘moms and pops’ are still busy.

Even if drilling is down a bit, along with the price of fracked gas glutted at the hub. Leasing and permitting still continues apace–locking up the public’s lands in speculative chains, raising uncertainty in neighborhoods and for nearby towns and ranchers–all without much say by local jurisdictions about when, how, and where such activity should occur.

Which is to say that business still gets done–even if some workers get a paid day off to spill into the capitol instead. Consider North Park, for instance. There an Oklahoma company is getting called out by the state oil and gas commission, the “COGCC,” for the number of “reportable” incidents–also called “spills and releases”–in its operations there. 

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Erin Martinez: Where The GOP’s Demonization Breaks Down

Erin Martinez, with her husband Mark who died in the April 2017 Firestone home explosion.

A story in the Colorado Sun by veteran local political reporter Jesse Paul takes an in-depth look at the role of one woman in the ongoing passage of Senate Bill 19-181, legislation to grant more local control over oil and gas drilling decisions as well as changing the mission of state regulators to protect public safety over “fostering” a for-profit industry. Erin Martinez was nearly killed inside her home in the gaspatch town of Firestone in Weld County after an uncapped flowline leading to a disused well owned by Anadarko Petroleum filled underground spaces in the home with odorless raw natural gas. The resulting explosion killed Martinez’s husband and brother while leaving Erin Martinez herself with serious injuries.

The experience, as Jesse Paul reports, turned Erin Martinez into an activist with nobody’s prodding:

“I’m not being exploited,” she said. “I asked to be involved.”

With her life upended by the force of the blast that lifted her family’s home off its foundation and rearranged it into a fiery pile of debris, Martinez told her mother during her recovery that she wasn’t going to let another family go through what happened to her. That launched her on a journey that recently became public and is loudly making its way through the Colorado General Assembly…

“I think it’s important for people to understand that Sen. Fenberg and the governor and the Democrats, they didn’t come to me and ask me to get involved and use my story,” she said. “I came to them. I reached out and I said that I wanted to get involved and that I didn’t want to be behind the scenes.” [Pols emphasis]

While Senate Bill 19-181 does not specifically address the issue of abandoned wells and encroaching new development, the bill’s change of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) mission to prioritize public safety represents a systemic shift leading to better diligence by regulators and producers alike–all of which will help ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.

Politically, there’s no question that Erin Martinez’s support and public advocacy on the issue has made it much more difficult for the oil and gas industry and their Republican champions in the legislature to employ their usual demeaning stereotypes about their opponents. Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin, the two men killed in the April 2017 Firestone home explosion, both worked in the oil and gas industry like so many of their neighbors in Weld County. Martinez makes it clear that she doesn’t want the industry destroyed any more than she would have wanted her own husband to lose his job. Martinez and the tragedy she experienced refocus the questions about regulating oil and gas drilling in Colorado where they belong: away from political caricatures, and back to what our priorities should be as a society.

And that gives Erin Martinez a voice louder than a thousand paid protesters.

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Senate Dems Hold Together As Drilling Reform Passes

As the Denver Post reports, the 2019’s biggest legislative battle is over in the Colorado Senate:

Senate Bill 181 is one of the most hotly debated issues in front of the General Assembly this year. Wednesday’s final vote followed a day-long debate. Before the bill goes to Gov. Jared Polis for his signature, the state House, which is considered far more liberal than the Senate, must debate the bill as well…

Among the changes, the bill would make is changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to protect public health and safety. Supporters of the bill also say the bill will ensure more local control over oil and gas regulations.

Republican state Sen. John Cooke of Weld County, which has more extraction operations than any other part of the state, said the bill flies in the face of local control.

Today’s final passage of Senate Bill 19-181 in the Senate brings something of an anticlimactic end to days of intense drama, that saw Senate Republicans pull out all the stops to oppose this bill–including an attempt to stall the process by forcing a 2,000 technical bill to be read at length. That attempt was foiled by clever thinking from Senate Democrats to employ computers to read it at lightning speed, and even though Republicans successfully appealed to a district judge over that “solution” to their obstruction Democratic majority’s control of the calendar put the tactic to rest for the time being.

In the end, all 19 Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, which can be regarded as a significant victory for caucus discipline in the face of formidable lobbying pressure from arguably the state’s most politically activist industry. Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg allowed amendments to the bill that, while they did not in the allow persuade any Republicans to vote for the bill, earned praise from Republican leadership that contrasted starkly with the acrimony of the last couple of weeks.

And with that the bill goes to the House, where although the debate will be no less acrimonious–as it would be with or without the Senate’s amendments–the outcome is not a close question. This major win for Democrats, on a policy issue that has vexed the state for years under control of both parties, is all but in the books.

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Vicki Marble Escalates Attacks on Kyle Clark

State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield) made quite the spectacle of herself over the weekend when she appeared to threaten 9News reporter Kyle Clark for having the audacity to inquire about an interview on the subject of her enthusiasm for another secession movement in Colorado. Marble’s thinly-veiled threats were picked up nationally by outlets like Newsweek, yet she seems in no hurry to put this problem behind her.

On Monday, Marble was a guest on the Jimmy Lakey Show on KCOL 600 AM radio, where she proceeded to trash Clark and accuse the 9News reporter/anchor of intentionally reporting false information.

You can listen to the full interview here; read on for the entire exchange, which we transcribed below. Be advised: There is a WHOLE LOT of crazy after the jump…

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Please Stop Calling This Guy Credible, Dave Kopel Edition

A clip we were forwarded from last Friday’s episode of Colorado Inside Out:

This will destroy Weld County. It will wipe out their tax revenues and wouldn’t surprise me if they start another secession movement, uh over this because that’s it’s no longer an economically viable county, uh with what’s going to be done with it. And for their own survival, uh would be better off uh joining Northeast Colorado and uh then in Nebraska or Wyoming. [Pols emphasis]

That’s Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, calling with a straight face for Weld County to secede from Colorado in the event that Senate Bill 19-181 passes–legislation to increase local control of oil and gas development decisionmaking. We can start by fairly easily debunking the baseless claim that this legislation “would destroy Weld County,” since by definition a bill increasing local control over oil and gas drilling would give pro-energy areas of the state like Weld County the power to “drill baby drill” if they chose to. It’s not at all like, for example Amendment 74, which would have upended any sense of local control over oil and gas and every other zoning decision.

This is a nice way of saying that Dave Kopel’s statement above is completely ridiculous.

Let’s talk about that.

The Independence Institute is one of the more storied conservative advocacy groups in Colorado, a “stink tank” originally founded in the early 1980s by Tom Tancredo backed by New Right funders including the Coors family to provide an argumentative underpinning for the Republican politics that eventually reached their peak of control in this state during the 2002 elections. A combination of pseudo-intellectual white paper outreach to friendly lawmakers and political antics mostly carried out by their shock-jock longtime executive director Jon Caldara, the Independence Institute’s year-round agenda and well-paid ranks of staff have remained a force in Colorado politics even though the wins in the past decade have become few and far between.

Although Jon Caldara has willingly–some would say happily–sacrificed personal credibility to become the state’s pre-eminent conservative prankster, Kopel and the so-called “research” department of the Independence Institute are supposed to be a little more serious in their approach. That means Kopel isn’t personally out there trying to break election law or using children with disabilities as political props.

But when Kopel calls a good idea the biggest political joke of the last decade in Colorado, which dismally failed including in Weld County the last time they tried it, we feel like it’s okay to stop calling him serious.

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The Methodical Truth About SB-181

The oil and gas industry is now 0-for-2 in its primary arguments against Senate Bill 181, which would prioritize health and safety concerns in regulating oil and gas operations in Colorado. After initially claiming that the legislation was a big secret — nevermind the humongous press conference that preceded its introduction — the bill’s opponents focused their complaints on a process they claimed was too fast for proper discussion.

As we wrote last week, this “too fast” argument conveniently ignores the fact that SB-181 will be heard in 6 different legislative committees with at least 2 separate floor discussions before it can advance to the Governor’s desk. In order to put this ridiculous reasoning in the proper perspective, we took a look back at how much time lawmakers spent discussing some of the more controversial bills of the last two legislative sessions:

The State Senate has dedicated more than 16 and a half hours of testimony and debate to SB-181…and it isn’t even scheduled to be discussed on the Senate Floor until Tuesday.

In fact, SB-181 should have no trouble surpassing the amount of time dedicated to one of the most controversial bills of the last decade. The ammunition magazine ban of 2013 (HB13-1224) was discussed for a total amount of about 23 hours combined (House and Senate) before it made its way to the desk of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper. Senate Bill 181 will speed crawl past that total within the next couple of days.

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Another Day, Another Democrat Sells His Soul To Big Oil

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

Last Friday, opponents of Senate Bill 19-181, the bill to tighten protections for local communities from oil and gas drilling along with other reforms, trumpeted another opinion piece from a well-known retired Democratic politician assailing the bill as both economically and politically injurious–published by the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette from ex-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb:

We live in a time when “big industry” is the enemy of the people. We put a tax on the soda industry; claim the oil and gas industry is ruining our state, and a company like Amazon is destroying small businesses. What we don’t talk about is the freedom of choice and the jobs that get lost in the crossfire.

Yet, no one can deny the human loss when businesses do not follow safety protocol. My heart goes out to Erin Martinez who lost her husband, Mark, and brother, Joey Irwin, in a home explosion in Firestone in 2017 because of an uncapped flowline. That is a real issue.

Another tragedy is the economic impact to families when people lose their jobs to extreme regulation. Colorado voters already told their lawmakers in November they don’t accept regulations that handcuff the industry and lose production to other states…

Now folks, the likening of Erin Martinez’s suffering after her husband and brother were killed in a preventable explosion caused by the oil and gas industry to job losses that may or may not result from Senate Bill 19-181 is crass enough to deserve its own mention. But beyond that, Webb’s contention that voters last November rejected anything like the bill currently up for debate in the legislature is simply not accurate. 2018’s Proposition 112 mandated 2,500 foot setbacks between new drilling and surface development. Senate Bill 181 doesn’t address setbacks at all–it gives local communities more control over siting decisions, changes the rules of “forced pooling” to stop unwanted appropriation of mineral rights, and gets the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission out of the business of “fostering” oil and gas development.

So, there’s that. But as he was quick to point out when former Sen. Ken Salazar came out against Senate Bill 181 last week, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark identifies an even more basic problem with Webb’s deceptive stand against this bill.

Just like Salazar, Webb is being paid to do it. The American Petroleum Institute sits on the top line of the Webb Group International’s client list. Just as Ken Salazar’s law firm represents leading oil and gas producer Anadarko Petroleum, Webb is doing paid advocacy work, trading on his Democratic bonafides to lobby for opposition to a Democratic bill on behalf of a client.

And as we said with Salazar, the last thing any Democrat should do is reward this.

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Even Donald Trump Supports Local Control on Fracking

Just a few weeks after he accepted the Republican nomination for President, Donald Trump sat down with Brandon Rittiman of 9News for a wide-ranging interview. As a reader pointed out to us today, Trump actually spoke in favor of local control on the issue of fracking:

RITTIMAN: And while we are on the top of state, local control, fracking is a big issue in Colorado. We actually had a couple of cities here where the voters said they wanted to ban or put a pause on fracking in their city limits. They weren’t allowed to do it by the courts. However you feel about fracking, should voters be able to vote?

TRUMP: Well, I’m in favor of fracking, but voters should have a big say in it. Some areas maybe they don’t want to have fracking. And I think if the voters are voting for it, that’s up to them.

RITTIMAN: Should they be able to ban it in their town if they vote for it?

TRUMP: It could be. It could very well be. I’d have to see the specific instance, but it could very well be. But fracking is something that we need. Fracking is something that’s here whether we like it or not, but if a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that. [Pols emphasis]

It’s impossible to say if Trump still believes this — or even if he believed it at the time, for that matter — but with a debate over oil and gas regulations continuing at the State Capitol, it’s interesting to remember that the man who now leads the Republican Party was at one point “feeling the pain” of local communities concerned about fracking.

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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.

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Saine Wants Weld County to Consider Becoming an “Oil and Gas Sanctuary”

(This is getting silly – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After a handful of Colorado counties declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, rejecting a proposed law that allows judges to take guns from dangerous people, a Colorado lawmaker now wants her county commissioners to consider not enforcing state laws regulating the oil and gas industry.

“I definitely would encourage the commissioners to take a look at making it an oil and gas sanctuary county, too – a business sanctuary county,” said State Rep. Lori Saine, the Republican told KCOL radio Monday.

Saine made the comment in response to KCOL host Jimmy Lakey’s question about whether Weld County could be an “oil and gas production sanctuary,” in response to legislation under consideration at the Capitol that would, among other things, prioritize health and safety in oil-and-gas regulations and give more control to local jurisdictions.

Asked whether he favors Saine’s suggestion, Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman told the Colorado Times Recorder that he strongly opposes the proposed oil-and-gas legislation at the state Capitol, but he doesn’t think that Weld County has the constitutional authority to declare an oil-and-gas sanctuary county.

“There is a little bit of difference between the Second Amendment sanctuary county versus oil and gas,” said Freeman. “And this is just my opinion. The difference is, with the Second Amendment, with the red flag bill, I think it’s a direct violation of the Constitution, which makes it much easier for us to take a stand on. I don’t really know that this oil-and-gas bill, at this point, could be declared unconstitutional.”

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State Senator Vicki Marble Says She Wants to Secede

(Bye! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Senator Vicki Marble at the Capitol

State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), the third ranking member of her party’s leadership team, proposed secession as “recourse” to a “global agenda,” represented by a bill to strengthen health and safety rules for the oil & gas industry.

Posting a picture of the public hearing for the “Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations,” aka SB19-181, which lasted for twelve hours and featured testimony from hundreds of proponents and opponents, Marble wrote:

No discussion, no stakeholder process, and no consideration for the hundreds of thousands of workers in oil and gas and their families. Democrats have declared war on oil and gas and have deemed these workers and their families as “collateral damage.” Unacceptable, and I’ll fight it ever step of the way.

In response to a comment on her post agreeing with her sentiment, Marble replied,

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The Hollow Argument of Going “Too Fast”

Opponents of legislation to prioritize health and safety in decisions about oil and gas development have focused their strategy on one very vague argument: That the process for deliberating Senate Bill 181 is happening too quickly. This is dumb.

Complaining that a legislative approach is “too fast” is an intellectually lazy and intentionally ambiguous approach often used by interest groups that have otherwise run out of talking points. It is a “problem” that never includes a solution, which is exactly why it is so often employed as a political strategy — and also why it shouldn’t be taken seriously by lawmakers.

As the Denver Post reported on Monday, the two main lobbying groups for the oil and gas industry have been griping about what they say is a lack of “a legitimate dialogue.” This is what the O&G industry considers to be “too fast”:

Whoa — hold on to your hat!

 

Senate Bill 181 will be heard in 6 legislative committees — three in the Senate and three in the House. It will be debated on the floor of both the Senate and the House, and legislators in each chamber will cast a vote in support or opposition. If the bill is amended in the House, it will return to the Senate for concurrence or conference committee. It is only after this point that the bill might end up on the desk of Gov. Jared Polis for his signature or veto.

“Too fast?” It takes 30 minutes just to sketch out the process.

If you are going to employ this “too fast” argument, you should be prepared to answer a perfectly reasonable follow-up question: What is the appropriate amount of time to devote to a specific piece of legislation? 

There are just 120 days in the legislative session, during which time lawmakers will discuss and debate hundreds of different bills. Senate Bill 181 will still be subject to dozens of hours of testimony from hundreds of people. Anybody who has ever attended a legislative hearing knows that the same handful of talking points are repeated by everyone who testifies, but Coloradans will still be heard.

“Too fast?” What’s your rubric? What is the correct amount of time to devote to a single bill? How many committee hearings do you need — a dozen? Two dozen? It’s worth noting that there have been more people testifying IN FAVOR of SB-181 than in opposition, and they aren’t whining about things going too fast.

As Tyler Silvy writes for the Greeley Tribune, the “too fast” argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny:

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg didn’t laugh, but he did say it was funny that industry groups were putting on such a public show, as they were all involved in the process, and nothing in the bill should come as a surprise to them.

Fenberg said he has met with anybody who requested a meeting, including COGA, the American Petroleum Institute, Noble Energy, Anadarko and Extraction, among many others…

…Fenberg has an idea as to why industry groups and Republicans are railing against the process, saying it’s more about stalling than anything

But don’t just take Fenberg’s word for it. Take a look at what Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley — one of the main O&G lobbyists — eventually admitted to the Tribune:

In a follow-up statement sent to The Tribune on Sunday night, Bentley acknowledged that industry groups met with Democratic leadership and offered potential solutions. [Pols emphasis]

The only speed that the oil and gas industry would actually endorse is a full stop, which is the playground equivalent of taking your ball and going home. Last fall, Colorado voters overwhelmingly supported a Democratic majority in the legislature and a Democratic candidate for Governor; Democrats are now doing what they said they would do, and they aren’t leaving anyone out of the discussion.

Complaining about “process” is the last refuge of those who have already lost the argument.

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People vs. Payroll Power: “Petropalooza” Doesn’t Go As Planned

Speaker of the Colorado House KC Becker speaks at a rally for SB19-181.

Yesterday’s 12-hour hearing for Senate Bill 19-181, this year’s landmark legislation to return some control over oil and gas drilling to local communities as well as getting the state out of the business of “fostering” the industry over public health and safety, –the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

Hundreds of people descended on the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday to speak for and against a sweeping reform of how the state deals with oil and gas drilling.

After rallies on the Capitol steps talking about how much they liked or disliked Senate Bill 181, proponents and opponents of the measure introduced by two Boulder Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg and House Speaker KC Becker — came inside the Capitol and spent hours talking to the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee about the bill.

One by one, they told the seven-member committee how the bill either would negatively impact the production of a long-standing industry that has created thousands of jobs and generated millions in tax revenues or would take a bold step to protect the health, safety and welfare of Colorado residents.

FOX 31’s Joe St. George:

More than 400 people were signed up to testify for and against the bill.

Before the hearing, a rally took place on the west steps of the Capitol, which was attended by hundreds in the energy industry. Some workers confirmed to FOX31 their company gave them the day off to come to the Capitol and testify… [Pols emphasis]

“The sponsors of this bill hate everything about you guys. They hate your job and they hate Weld County,” said State Sen. John Cooke (R-Weld County).

It’s a point that needs to be restated as we have in previous years: the oil and gas industry’s “rallies” at the state capitol building, though attended by hundreds of people, are not authentic gatherings of concerned citizens but company-sanctioned events attended mostly by oil and gas industry employees who are earning their regular salary or wage to be there. It’s not really correct to state that workers “have the day off”–more like they’re on political duty and on the clock. The intended effect of the undeniably large crowds who show up for these rallies is to show grassroots support for the oil and gas industry, when in fact it’s the opposite.

But for all the deliberate organizing and literal “bussing in” of on-the-clock energy industry workers, something unexpected happened in the hearing for Senate Bill 19-181:

There were still more witnesses who testified in favor of SB19-181 than against it. That’s a very big deal: in every high-stakes political debate, a factor known as an “intensity gap” plays a central role–a fundamental difference in the passion for or against an issue exhibited by the opposing sides. In 2013, during the recall campaigns that resulted from the passage of gun safety legislation, intensity rightly or wrongly was on the side of the gun lobby and the low-information vitriol they whipped up against targeted lawmakers. Since 2013, a key dynamic we’ve tracked is the flagging intensity of gun rights supporters as their bogus predictions of doom failed to materialize.

Yesterday, the oil and gas industry showed that they have hundreds of employees who can be made to appear in one location. And that’s noteworthy. But opposite them were hundreds of grassroots supporters of stronger protections for local communities from oil and gas drilling, and excepting some activist organizations present were not paid to be there. And in the count that matters, witnesses for and against the bill in question, the unpaid grassroots prevailed.

If that’s not your biggest takeaway from yesterday’s dueling rallies and marathon hearing, it should be. Just like with the gun issue since 2013, the real grassroots intensity on oil and gas in 2019 has shifted to match the results of the 2018 Democratic wave election that swept this new majority into power. “AstroTurf,” for which a protest of paid employees amounts to a textbook definition, is no longer enough.

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Job killing! Fast Track! Opposition to New Oil and Gas Regulations Looks Like 2008

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The oil and gas industry, and its Republican allies, are returning to the tactics they used in 2008 when they opposed new oil-and-gas regulations proposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which had been reconfigured the year before.

Today, as Democrats prepare to, among other things, make health and safety the commission’s priority, opponents are saying the legislation will kill jobs and is being fast-tracked.

In 2008, it was largely the same. A Republican Senate news release quoted GOP senate leaders Greg Brophy and Josh Penry, quoting Penry as “critic of the fast-tracking” of the regulations and saying:

Josh Penry in 2008: “I don’t know if the oil and gas commission reads the paper, but we don’t need another job-killer right now,” said Penry, of Grand Junction. “There has been a lot of talk at the State Capitol in the last six weeks about creating jobs,” Penry said. “This is a litmus test for all of that bold talk. Do we really want to create jobs, or risk strangling the only industry that is moving the ball forward in our economy right now?”

By all accounts, the oil and gas industry has mostly boomed in Colorado since 2008. Yet, in 2008, like today, the oil and gas groups staged a rally with industry workers and speakers citing potential job losses. A GOP news release at the time featured a quote from then State Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma):

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 5)

Pro tip from Colorado Pols: If you set your clock ahead 10 minutes every day this week, you won’t have to make the full one-hour Daylight Saving adjustment on Sunday. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► When Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced that he will support a measure — already passed by the House — that would reject President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for big ol’ wall building, he did what Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner should have done. Paul believes there could be as many as 10 Republican Senators who will ultimately defy Trump on this upcoming vote. As the Washington Post reports, the White House is scrambling to keep more Republican Senators from voting “YES”:

The White House told Senate Republicans on Monday to “keep their powder dry” ahead of a vote to nullify President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border as the administration worked to limit defections on a measure rebuking the president.

The message was delivered by Zach Parkinson, White House deputy director of government communications, in a meeting Monday morning with Senate Republican communications staffers, according to two people who attended the meeting…

…At Monday’s meeting, Parkinson cautioned GOP Senate communications aides against public criticism from their bosses over the emergency declaration, saying that if senators are planning to vote to overturn it, they should contact the White House to get further information on Trump’s rationale, according to the two people.

What are the odds that Sen. Gardner has already called the President to ask him what to do? Definitely better than 50-50.

 

► The oil and gas industry in Colorado is panicking about a new regulatory bill that will begin moving through the state legislature today. Industry leaders are warning Democratic lawmakers that Senate Bill 181 will turn Colorado into a “Mad Max” movie.

 

► State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) is openly inciting violence. Sonnenberg fired off a bizarre email recently that calls the legislature “evil” and includes an almost-obligatory Nazi reference.

 

► Did you know that Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in 2020? You’re going to hear this a lot before the 2020 election. Here’s Stuart Rothenberg for Roll Call:

Trump will be a significant liability for Gardner, since a vote for the incumbent is one for continued GOP control of the Senate and inevitably a vote in support of the president.

Gardner, after all, chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle (making him a member of the party’s Senate leadership), and he generally has been a loyal soldier in Trump’s Senate army. [Pols emphasis]

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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The O&G Bill That Was So Secret Democrats Held a Giant Press Conference to Introduce It

We wrote earlier today about efforts by oil and gas interests to delay legislation intended to prioritize the health and safety of Coloradans over profits or other motives in regulating oil and gas drilling operations. The O&G industry is pushing hard to establish a narrative of Democrats crafting Senate Bill 181 in secret and “rushing” the bill through the legislature.

This narrative runs into trouble, however, when you remember that Democrats HELD A GIGANTIC PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THE LEGISLATION just last week. Take a look at this headline from the Denver Business Journal in which the photograph used at the top of the story completely contradicts the headline:

This was such a big secret that dozens of people — including the House Speaker and the Governor — gathered for a press conference last Thursday. From the Denver Business Journal, 3/4/19

As we also mentioned earlier today, the O&G industry is panicking over their loss of control with Democrats in charge of both legislative chambers and a Democrat in the Governor’s office, which has them resorting to specious claims of a secret, super-fast bill process.

Headline aside, Ed Sealover’s story for the Journal does include a few telling quotes about how and why the industry ended up here in the first place:

Becker said at a Monday morning media briefing that she believes there will be plenty of time to discuss what is likely to be one of the most debated bills of 2019. It will have to go through the energy, finance and appropriations committees before getting to the Senate floor and then run another gauntlet of three committees in the House, giving people plenty of opportunity to comment on the measure, she said…

…But she also said pointedly that there was a lack of trust for some in the industry after the campaign for Amendment 74, which would have given property or mineral-rights owners greatly expanded ability to sue local governments for any decisions they make that could impair the value of their properties. Statewide voters defeated that measure, which Becker called “such bad policy and so destructive,” handily in November.

The O&G industry tried to pass a destructive measure in Amendment 74 so that they could have leverage in discussions with lawmakers. That didn’t work, so now the industry is left grasping at laughable straws like “secrecy” that are easily disproved.

Elections have consequences.

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Oil and Gas Industry Shows Their Hand (It’s Junk)

Back the frack up

Last week Colorado Democrats announced sweeping legislation intended to make significant changes to oil and gas regulations in Colorado that would prioritize health and safety issues over profits.

As the Denver Post reports today, the oil and gas industry is positively panicking about the situation at the State Capitol:

The fossil fuels industry’s two main lobbying groups on Sunday issued an appeal urging Colorado lawmakers to delay a legislative hearing for discussion of an oil and gas bill, warning of “grave impacts” and arguing that lawmakers first should conduct “a legitimate dialogue.” [Pols emphasis]

Colorado Petroleum Council and Colorado Oil and Gas Association officials declared they’re asking Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg to delay the committee hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday where legislators would explore Senate Bill 181.

Lawmakers for months have been preparing this legislation including measures aimed at prioritizing public health and safety. The legislation in the works addresses mapping to show the locations of oil and gas lines, pollution from the industry and the controversial practice of “forced pooling” that lets companies drill for oil and gas even when mineral property owners object.

Democrats plan to hold the first hearing on Senate Bill 181 on Tuesday, noting that there will be a total of six public hearings and four legislative votes before the bill could make it to the desk of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. Don’t forget: The Colorado legislature is only in session for 120 days.

Asking legislators to delay is a standard approach from interest groups looking to derail a particular bill. The O&G strategy is to drag out the debate to give them more time to lean on specific legislators, with the hope that they can create enough public pressure to flip votes in their favor. This kind of strategerie is similar to what right-wingers did in 2009-10 in an attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act; after 18 months of generally pointless debate and screaming from the newly-formed “Tea Party,” Democrats finally stopped acceding to GOP delaying tactics and pushed it through to the desk of President Obama.

It is a rich bit of irony that the O&G community wants lawmakers to slow down; remember that this is an industry that spent millions of dollars trying to pass a massively-flawed ballot measure (Amendment 74) last fall — for the primary purpose of giving themselves more leverage in future drilling debates. In the parlance of poker, the O&G industry is holding a junk hand at the moment, and they aren’t even going to try to bluff their way forward.

The O&G industry spent tens of millions of dollars on the 2018 election, in support of Amendment 74, in opposition to Proposition 112, and in support of numerous Republican candidates for the state legislature. Democrats claimed historic victories nonetheless. In 2020, the industry is again going to support Republicans over Democrats no matter what happens with SB-181.

The O&G industry has been trying to sweep away this type of legislation for more than a decade now. Democrats see this delaying tactic for what it is.

Now it’s time to move forward.

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The Main Event: Oil and Gas Local Control Bill Announced Today

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

UPDATE #2: Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

Democrats don’t plan to increase the setback distance between oil and gas wells and homes, since voters rejected that idea. Still, some in the industry and many Republicans fear these new proposals could drive up costs for the energy industry and push them to invest outside of Colorado, where the cost of doing business could be cheaper.

Oil and gas representatives have not yet weighed in on the upcoming legislation. They’ve held meetings with top Democrats to offer their general thoughts but haven’t yet seen specifics. And for some Democrats who were swept into power last November, stricter oil and gas regulations are a top priority for this legislative session because they feel lawmakers have not updated the laws to match what’s happening on the ground.

—–

UPDATE: Joint statement from Colorado House and Senate Democrats:

“Coloradans simply do not have confidence that the laws in place are sufficient to protect their health and safety. They are right, and they are looking to their leaders for change,” said [Senate] Majority Leader [Steve] Fenberg. “For too long, the legislature has stood in the way of common sense reforms that would keep communities safe, and protect the Colorado we love.Today, we are announcing change.”

“Right now, oil and gas laws in Colorado tilt heavily toward the industry. We are going to correct that tilt so that health, safety, and environment are no longer ignored by state agencies,” said [House] Speaker KC Becker. “This bill would also ensure that local governments have a greater ability to represent the interests of the people they serve.”

“The legislation we outlined today puts health and safety first and gives communities a meaningful seat at the table,” said Governor Jared Polis. “While we know this doesn’t solve all of the problems our communities face, it is a practical approach to finding a solution for many of our issues and providing more stability by updating our laws to reflect today’s realities.”

Erin Martinez, the survivor of a tragic gas explosion in Firestone that killed her brother and husband, urged for stronger regulation saying “the only way to make sure this never happens again is to learn from this tragedy and create safer regulations and guidelines that put human safety first.”

—–

We told you this was coming. As the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports:

Democratic legislative leaders joined Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday to preview a comprehensive bill that would put public health and safety front and center when oil and gas development is considered.

“This the most sweeping oil and gas reform the state has ever seen, but at the same time it’s incredibly reasonable and common sense,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg said. “We haven’t really done anything since the ’50s.”

As the technology has advanced and companies’ ability to access oil and gas has broadened, communities and landowners have sued, tried to impose drilling bans and launched initiatives to change the law as rigs have moved closer to where residents live and work.

The press conference announcing this new legislative effort just wrapped up a few moments ago, and we’re awaiting details that we’ll update with shortly. The short version is that the bill grants local governments more control over oil and gas siting decisions within their boundaries, does away with the practice of “forced pooling” of mineral rights to force development where it’s not wanted, and also changes state law governing the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) so that the body is no longer required to “foster,” meaning promote oil and gas development, to the detriment of other legitimate concerns like the environment and public health.

Importantly and to put to rest what seems to be an early opposition talking point, the legislation will not impose a universal greater setback between drilling and existing surface development in Colorado, which was the subject of last year’s Proposition 112.

We’ll update shortly with more coverage and statements on what everyone expects to be one of the central battles of this legislative session. After years of frustration in affected communities and political inaction as this longstanding conflict metastasized into last year’s twin battles over Proposition 112 and the energy industry’s extreme “takings” countermeasure Amendment 74, reforming the relationship between the fossil fuel industry and its regulatory authorities in Colorado is long overdue and a major priority for the Democratic grassroots.

But no one expects the industry to go quietly.

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Coal Is Going And It’s Not Coming Back

The Colorado Sun’s Mark Jaffe reports on legislation from Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly to provide economic relief to communities being negatively impacted by the transition away from dirty coal power to cleaner and renewable sources of energy–a transition occurring as both deliberate policy and now inexorable market forces as the price of renewable power drops below coal generation:

The Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act — a bill working its way through legislature under the title of House Bill 1037 — would provide those funds and at the same time lower the financial impact of power-plant closures on utility customers, its sponsor says. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full House.

“Nucla is going to suffer tremendously from that closure,” said Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, the bill’s main sponsor. “The status quo is unacceptable. It is a lose-lose situation.”

The bill’s other lead sponsors are Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.

Democrats who represent communities for whom coal mining has been an historically important part of the local economy are keen to provide economic relief. The legislation would allow utilities retiring coal plants to obtain preferential financing for that process, and direct the savings into funds to soften the impact of plant closures on those communities. Seems like a straightforward proposition, right?

A similar Hansen-sponsored bill was passed by the House in 2017, only to die in the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans. [Pols emphasis]

Not if you’re a member of the rapidly shrinking minority, a significant amount of which is on the payroll, who are still hoping to keep President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “bring back beautiful clean coal” production from the present brink. Under this wrongheaded interpretation of events, the migration away from coal-fired electrical generation is solely the product of the government “picking winners and losers” in the energy market–not a plunge in the cost of both renewable and natural gas power or the fact that public polling shows overwhelming support for transitioning to renewable sources.

At the end of the day, trying to politically weaponize the demise of coal power is like seeking revenge for horse and buggy manufacturers being put out of business by the upstart automobile industry. For years, Colorado Republicans have pandered to this industry and its workers, giving them unreasonable hope that a declining industry could be restored to its former glory despite the world having passed it by. In 2016, Trump did the same dishonest thing to win votes in coal producing regions of the country.

At some point, and it looks like 2019 may be the year, we just need to do the responsible thing.

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Tonight: Colorado Mesa University Hosts Climate Change Denier

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Heartland Institute climate skeptic Billboard

Colorado Mesa University is hosting climate change denier Steve Goreham this evening, for a speech titled “Energy, Climate Change & Public Policy.”

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese promotes tonight’s speech at CMU by climate change denier Steve Goreham

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese promoted the event on her Facebook page.

Pugliese has publicly rejected global warming, saying, “It is not a proven scientific theory. There is not evidence to support it.” Pugliese did not return a call requesting comment.

Goreham is the Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute, a Koch-funded advocacy group that has disputed the reality of climate change and global warming for decades.

The organization’s claims are so dubious that esteemed scientific journal Nature felt the need to editorialize about its suspect assertions back in 2011, saying: “the Heartland Institute’s climate conferences…are curious affairs designed to gather and share contrarian views, in which science is secondary to wild accusations and political propaganda.”

(more…)

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Enough About Sad Club 20; This Argument is Settled

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

In today’s Denver Post political newsletter “The Spot,” reporter Nic Garcia resurrects a topic that was a brief flashpoint last summer: The demise of Club 20 as a statewide political power. Garcia takes a tone that is oddly deferential to Club 20 and glosses over the reality that the organization made itself irrelevant with a rightward partisan lurch over the last decade:

It has been 205 days since then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis declined to debate his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, in front a crowd of Western Slope movers and shakers.

While Polis’ apparent snub of Club 20 meant little to the general public, his calendar conflict sent shock waves through the state’s political class and reinforced – rightly or wrongly – a long-held belief that Colorado Democrats don’t care about the rural parts of the state. [Pols emphasis]

Enough.

This “Democrats hate rural voters” narrative is what Club 20 has clung to in its desperation to remain relevant, but the truth is much simpler: Polis skipped the group’s annual kiss-the-ring gathering in Grand Junction in 2018 because he and his campaign correctly understood that Club 20 doesn’t represent rural Coloradans any more than groups like the Colorado chapter of the NFIB accurately reflect the interests of everyday small business owners.

Club 20 has long presented itself as the voice of the Western Slope, which might have been true at one point; but in the last several election cycles, Club 20 has consistently favored right-wing candidates and oil and gas interests at the expense of all other constituents. When Club 20 zigged right, it never bothered to turn around to check if anyone else was following along. It is true that the annual Club 20 debates were once a key date on the election calendar; people also used to wear leg warmers in public. Things change.

Last summer, Club 20 complained loudly about Polis’ decision to skip their gubernatorial debate – at one point, calling the decision “simply outrageous” – but the absence of the Democratic nominee did little to hurt his General Election hopes. The Republican Governor’s Association later tried hard to spin the Club 20 snub as a broader diss of the Western Slope…which also went nowhere.

This is the point where we remind you that Polis won the election by nearly 11 points over Republican Walker Stapleton.

Polis is Governor today because he outperformed Stapleton in the more heavily-populated parts of Colorado, but he also held his own on the Western Slope. Take a look at this county-by-county map of the 2018 gubernatorial election via the New York Times. You’ll notice that the left side of the map is not engulfed in a giant swatch of red:

Results from 2018 Governor’s race in Colorado, via The New York Times

 

Stapleton carried West Slope counties like Mesa, Delta, and Montrose. But Polis actually came out ahead in counties like Garfield, Routt, and Gunnison. Polis held events all across the Western Slope and did just fine, proving that a statewide candidate can differentiate between the lobby groups and the West Slope voters.

The headline of “The Spot” newsletter posits the wrong question when it asks, “After apparent snub, has Polis regained this group’s trust?” To whatever degree that there is a burden of reconciliation in this case, that responsibility rests solely on Club 20.

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