Second Largest Oil & Gas Producer in Colorado Not Participating in Recalls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley) should be removed from office for supporting new oil and gas regulations that will “devastate the oil and gas industry” and “kill oil and gas jobs,” say leaders of an effort to recall the newly elected representative.

Yet top producers in Weld County say the new law won’t have any substantial impact on their industry.

And when it comes to the Galindo recall specifically, the state’s second-largest producer says it’s not interested.

“Noble Energy does not participate in recall elections,” said Brian Miller, spokesperson for Noble Energy in an email. “Our contribution to Values First Colorado was related to the 2018 election cycle.”

Noble Energy is the second donor to Values First Colorado (VCF) to state publicly that its 2018 contribution was intended for the general election and not for any recall effort. Xcel Energy made the same statement to the Colorado Times Recorder back in March.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, an industry group, also stated that it doesn’t support the current recall campaigns.



Weld County Loves Big Oil So Much It’s Ridiculous

Weld County loves them some Big Oil.

Back on April 22, the Weld County board of commissioners met to unanimously approve a resolution in support of the oil and gas industry–a significant component of the county’s economy, putatively “under threat” by the now-signed Senate Bill 19-181. As the Greeley Tribune reported then:

A banner declaring Weld County a “proud supporter of the oil and gas industry” hung outside the Weld County Administration building Monday morning, in anticipation of the Weld County Commissioners reading a proclamation all five signed declaring their support for the industry…

Inside, televisions and projector screens showed the same image, as did signs hanging by each commissioner’s nameplate, and dozens of oil and gas employees and supporters gathered to share their concerns about the bill.

You’ve got to admire the theatricality of it if nothing else. This was a meeting of a government body to nominally debate and then vote on a measure, but the propaganda blazing on every monitor screen and on signs and banners around the meeting singing the praises of the oil and gas industry makes it clear that the outcome of the vote was never in doubt. And as the Trib reports today, taxpayers even picked up the tab for the signage!

The banners, signs and bumper stickers declaring Weld County a supporter of the oil and gas industry displayed and handed out at an April Weld County Commissioners meeting were paid for from the county’s general fund.

Two banners, 500 bumper stickers and 1,000 window signs cost the county $1,977.84, said Jennifer Finch, communications director for the county, in an email.

To be clear, our purpose today is not to question the propriety of spending almost two thousand taxpayer dollars on signs and banners to fellate what is by far the most politically cantankerous and defensive private industry in the state–although we expect that some will, including some Weld County taxpayers with standing to complain. We assume that Weld County commissioners have got a petty cash fund to cover this kind of thing that’s entirely within their discretion to spend, much like ex-Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ $700 cowboy boots.

But this demonstration of boot-licking obeisance to the oil and gas industry by a local government in Colorado does reinforce a very important fact about Senate Bill 181. Because the bill empowers local authorities like the Board of Commissioners in Weld County to exercise much more control over oil and gas drilling decisions, that means Weld County will still have broad authority to let the industry “drill baby drill” within the boundaries of Weld County. Make no mistake, they don’t get to be more permissive than statewide rules, but we know now that the dust has settled that this law was not written to put the industry out of business in Colorado.

So yes, while it’s kind of pathetic, supporters of the industry can take heart! Weld County loves you, and thanks to Senate Bill 181 they’re empowered to show you–with much more than taxpayer-funded bumper stickers.


Colorado Oil & Gas Association Isn’t Supporting Recall Campaigns

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley).

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and State Rep. Rochelle Galindo of Greeley should be ousted from office for supporting legislation, now signed into law by Polis, that allows for more local control in regulating the oil-and-gas industry, according to the websites of multiple campaigns launched to recall the two Democrats.

But Colorado’s largest association of oil and gas companies doesn’t share that view.

“We are not currently supporting any recalls or funding any recalls, nor do I know of any oil and gas company that’s funding recalls,” Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), told the Colorado Times Recorder.

Haley then asked me if I could name an oil company that’s funding the recalls.

“I saw [Democratic presidential candidate] Elizabeth Warren do a video the other day saying [the recalls] are being funded by oil and gas,” he said. “I read a Greeley Tribune story saying it’s being funded by oil and gas. I have not seen any proof that it is.”

I mentioned the Greeley rancher and GOP donor named Steve Wells, who told the Greeley Tribune that Galindo’s vote on the oil and gas bill was the most important reason for his donation to the recall effort.

“I wouldn’t look at that as oil and gas,” Haley responded, referring to Wells as a mineral owner. “I think of oil and gas as Anadarko and Noble, mid-stream companies, production companies. I haven’t seen any of our members funding it.”



Get it Done, Democrats


“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

The originator of this saying might be Benjamin Franklin. It might also be Lucille Ball. More likely, it is one of those proverbs that have been repeated in one form or another for centuries. The progenitor of the wording is less important than the wisdom of the meaning; people who do a lot of stuff tend to get a lot of stuff done.

The 2019 Colorado legislative session must come to a close by midnight on Friday, but before Sine Die, there is still plenty of work to do. As Nic Garcia writes for the Denver Post:

Colorado’s General Assembly is barreling toward the end of its work this week with a number of priorities for Democrats, who regained control of the Senate in the 2018 election, still outstanding.

After a rare Saturday session, there were still about 200 bills making their way through the legislative process. While it’s not unusual for work to pile up at the end of the session, statehouse Republicans also have done their best to slow debate…

…So much work has backed up that both the state House of Representatives and Senate met Saturday, the first time either chamber has worked a weekend during a regular session since 1990.

Obviously, there is not enough time to debate and vote on 200-some pieces of legislation before the mandated end of the 2019 session on Friday, which means Democrats in control of the House and Senate must prioritize how to spend their final few days under the Gold Dome.

“We’re letting the majority know there are bills that we’re just going to take every possible minute to debate against, and there are others where we can have our say and let go.”

— Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert

Some Republicans continue to argue that so many outstanding pieces of legislation is a bad thing, as though Coloradans would be better served if their elected officials just farted around for the last week of the legislative session. This is precisely the thinking that cost Republicans their one-seat majority in the State Senate in 2018. It is also factually incorrect; fewer bills have been introduced overall in 2019 than in the 4 prior legislative sessions.

Republican leadership has not grasped the concept that voters would like their elected officials to do elected official things, so they continue their campaign to disrupt and delay. The GOP’s go-to move is to require legislation to be read out-loud in order to waste time, but it’s not just policy concerns that drive their tantrums; over the weekend Republicans like Sen. Owen Hill meandered into shaking their fists over such meaningless crap as whether or not men should still have to wear their suit coats on a Saturday.

Democrats are well aware of this nonsense, as Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio notes:

“At this point [Republicans] are trying to delay so that we can’t get to Democratic priority bills that they oppose on the calendar,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg. “We can, but then they will filibuster those so long that we then don’t get to anything else that day. So we are constantly rearranging the schedule as priorities shift and as we pass bills and as the house sends bills over to us.”

“I am very proud of the work that we’ve done in slowing things down and turning some things back, not nearly enough. And we will continue to do that for another week.”

— Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colo Springs)

Republicans are gonna obstruct. That’s been their game plan for years, whether it makes political sense or not, so Democrats – particularly in the Senate – are just going to need to keep working around them. That means ignoring the GOP’s threats of delay and pushing ahead with votes on priority issues that have already been debated at length, such as finishing off a sex education measure and a package of Climate Change bills that are widely-supported by Colorado voters. Democrats can also look to SB-181 for reassurance; after a lot of hand-wringing over the oil & gas reform legislation, both Republicans and industry groups now begrudgingly admit that everything is fine.

It would be foolish to end the session without final passage of legislation that many Democrats (rightly) stood up to defend on numerous occasions. On the sex-ed bill, lawmakers were forced to listen to lunatics yelling about anal fisting techniques; this bill needs to be put to bed, if nothing else to spare future lawmakers the same pointless dribble. Ditto for Climate Change legislation that Democrats campaigned on in 2018; Republicans in the legislature aren’t interested in a real debate on clean air and water, and their strategy isn’t going to change for the 2020 legislative session. Just get it done, Democrats.

We have no doubt that lawmakers in both parties are utterly exhausted at this point in the legislative session. But when the finish line is in sight, the smart approach is to dig a little deeper and give it whatever last kick you can manage.


Is It Over? COGA, GOP Senator Give SB-181 The A-OK

Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley).

Late last week, the Colorado political chattering class was taken by surprise when organizers of a ballot initiative to overturn the recently-passed Senate Bill 19-181 reforming oversight of the oil and gas industry announced they were calling off the effort for 2019 in order to assess the effects of the law on the industry. Although Senate Bill 181’s opponents expressly reserved their right to come back in 2020, they acknowledged in the AP story covering their decision that by then the new regulations will be fully in place–and the industry will have little desire to upend them.

This development underscored the emerging reality that the predictions of doom and gloom for the oil and gas industry under Senate Bill 181 were not accurate, and that the industry will continue to operate in the state subject to increased regulatory focus on public health and safety and more say for local municipalities over siting decisions: authority they enjoy with most every other land-use decision inside their boundaries.

In a must-read story in today’s Greeley Tribune, reporter Joe Moylan talks to Dan Haley of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association as well as Sen. John Cooke, Republican of Greeley–principals on the advocacy and elected sides of the opposition to Senate Bill 19-181. In this interview, Haley and Sen. Cooke effectively dismantle the GOP’s hyperbole surrounding this legislation, and candidly admit the bill is something the industry can live with:

When Senate Bill 19-181 was first introduced on March 1, there was a lot of fear about how the legislation could cause the oil and gas industry to abandon Colorado, taking tens of thousands of lucrative jobs with it.

But by the time it was passed on April 11, the bill had taken a new form. Earlier this week, Speaker of Colorado’s House of Representatives KC Becker, D-Boulder, Colorado Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Colorado Oil & Gas Association President Dan Haley talked about how a couple of words and a handful of amendments turned a feared job killer into a bill both sides could accept…

“Leaders from both the House and Senate, and from both sides of the aisle came together to talk with industry about some concerns they had with the bill and some amendments they needed to continue to operate in Colorado,” Cooke said. “It came down to changing the language on some things to create a little bit of surety and stability for the industry moving forward.” [Pols emphasis]

For Republicans working overtime to hype the calamity of this bill to the state’s economy in order to gin up support for recall elections against state legislators like freshman Rep. Rochelle Galindo–a message that has been increasingly strained as Republicans faced allegations of prejudice over their targets–this would seem to be exactly the wrong thing to say. Given the close connection between these individuals and pro-recall organizers on the ground in Weld County, notably including the Independence Institute’s Amy “Evil AOC” Oliver-Cooke, it’s a major development to see Haley and Sen. Cooke taking the highest stated priority for recall organizers off the table.

This acknowledgement that Senate Bill 181 will not destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado, along with the details Moylan gives on amendments to the bill that placated the industry without gutting the heart of its protections, puts the organizers of the recall campaign against Rochelle Galindo in a serious bind. The grotesquely anti-LGBT original organizer of the Galindo recall effort, Pastor Steve Grant of Greeley’s Destiny Christian Center Church, was “pushed aside” by another group who insisted they were “100% focused on oil and gas” and SB-181 was the sole reason for the recall (with a small caveat).

As of today, the reality now acknowledged by both sides of the debate over Senate Bill 19-181 can no longer sustain the rage needed to recall a sitting lawmaker from office. Recall is a penalty that was intended when written into the state’s constitution to be reserved for officials who have committed serious crimes necessitating their removal from office–not elected lawmakers carrying out their perfectly lawful duties. Every member of the Colorado House stands for election every two years, and the real reason as we now know directly from the mouths of recall strategists for this new approach is the fact that Republicans are increasingly unable to win regular elections in this state.

With the alleged “sole reason” for recalling Rep. Galindo now totally undermined by figures who must certainly be aware what their statements mean to that effort, everyone involved now faces a choice. Can they continue to prosecute a recall campaign without this core argument? Does this shift the message against Galindo back to Pastor Steven Grant’s distasteful slate of grievances? How does it not do exactly that?

There is of course the possibility that this is simply the responsible act it appears to be: the industry and a leading Republican Senator conceding that, although the intent of the law was not “stimulative” to the industry, it can be made to work. If it leads to a stand-down of the Galindo recall, and a return to a state of functional political engagement, this could be the start of something very good. For everybody. Where Republicans adopt the objective of changing their minority status in November of 2020 instead of flailing away with ultimately self-destructive tactics and messages like the hate directed at Rochelle Galindo.

Either way, this is a story everyone considering signing a recall petition needs to read.

And then decide where they really stand.


BREAKING: Big Oil Abandons SB-181 Repeal Initiative

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

That’s the word from the AP via FOX 31–there will be no attempt to repeal Senate Bill 19-181 this year, the landmark legislation granting more local control over oil and gas drilling and reforming the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to refocus its mission on public health and safety:

Opponents planned to ask voters this November to repeal and replace the law, but last week the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office rejected four versions of their proposed ballot initiative.

Officials said the proposals violated a law requiring initiatives to address only one subject.

Opponents of the oil and gas law say they’ll wait to see how the new rules take shape before deciding whether to ask voters to overturn it. [Pols emphasis]

Although their ballot initiative drafts were rejected by the Secretary of State’s office, the industry of course had both the time and resources to try again. The fact that they are choosing not to do so, instead waiting for the process of implementing the new law before deciding whether to commit to the costly process of a statewide ballot measure, only demonstrates again what proponents of SB-181 have maintained from the beginning: despite the shrill warnings that this legislation would “destroy oil and gas in Colorado,” nothing even remotely close to that is going to happen.

There will be more deference to local authority and a greater focus on public health and safety by the COGCC, but the fossil fuel industry will continue to play a major role in the state’s economy–subject to market forces that already act for and against fossil fuel production every day. Much like with the 2013 recall elections over gun safety laws, there’s a rush right now to do as much retaliatory political damage to majority Democrats as possible before it becomes clear that the overblown allegations that motivated backlash were not accurate. This is most evident in the recall campaign against Rep. Rochelle Galindo, where wild predictions of devastation for the oil and gas industry are the primary deflection from that campaign’s less savory motivations.

But the enormous expense of a statewide ballot campaign does not lend itself easily to a political bluff, and the smart money is moving on. This could be a watershed moment, the first sign of months of bellicose rhetoric meeting the wall of a far less controversial reality.

That would be good for the blood pressure of both sides of the aisle.


Rifle’s David Bernhardt Bellyflops Into The Swamp

David Bernhardt (left).

As the New York Times reports–not that there was ever much doubt, but another Colorado Republican oil and gas attorney has won the job of Secretary of the Interior after David Bernhardt of Rifle was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a mostly party-line vote:

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct.

Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation. Two Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, crossed party lines to vote in favor of Mr. Bernhardt.

As interior secretary, Mr. Bernhardt, who has already played a central role in designing many of Mr. Trump’s policies for expanding drilling and mining, will now serve as the nation’s senior steward of its 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters.

Colorado’s U.S. Senate split on the confirmation of Bernhardt, with Sen. Cory Gardner voting as pledged for Bernhardt’s confirmation and Michael Bennet voting against. Conservation Colorado’s Kelly Nordini issued this response to the vote:

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Senator Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood. Senator Gardner made a huge mistake with his vote today, given Bernhardt’s troubling record and spiraling conflicts of interest. Westerners love their public lands and the environment and Bernhardt cannot be entrusted to protect them on our behalf.

“Senator Gardner likes to talk about protecting public lands for future generations, but today’s vote to confirm a former oil lobbyist puts the public lands we love at risk. [Pols emphasis] This is yet another instance of Senator Gardner telling Coloradans one thing and then doing the opposite.”

Confirmation of Bernhardt by the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate will not end questions about his ethical record both at the Interior Department going back to the bad old Jack Abramoff days, as well as his private practice as an attorney representing big energy producers and other polluters creating major conflicts of interest. Colorado has been fortunate to have more than our share of locally grown Secretaries of the Interior in the last two decades, but we’re obliged to note that the last Republican Interior Secretary from our state Gale Norton left office under a cloud–soon after her departure waltzing through the revolving door to work for Royal Dutch Shell.

Bernhardt will take office under a cloud, so at least the worst case scenario won’t come as a surprise.


Oil and Gas Reform Bill Clears Final Hurdle, Now Awaits Governor’s Signature

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg

One of the most heavily-discussed bills in Colorado completed its journey through the state legislature on Wednesday. Senate Bill 181 was given final approval by the State Senate — including all amendments added by the State House — and now moves to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the legislation within the coming days.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, one of the prime sponsors of SB-181, announced the bill’s success in an email message earlier today:

SB181 marks the most sweeping and comprehensive reforms to oil and gas laws our state has seen in over 60 years! Health and safety will finally be the top priority in the regulation of oil and gas. Local governments will finally be able to have a voice in what is happening in their communities.

Here’s a quick summary of what the bill accomplishes:

♦ Puts health and safety first by clarifying the mission of the regulator, the COGCC, is to regulate (not foster) the oil and gas industry.

♦ Empowers local governments to have decision-making authority over the siting of oil & gas activities in their community and allows local regulations to be stronger than state requirements.

♦ Strengthens protections for wildlife, dramatically increases air quality and emissions standards, and addresses & prevents abandoned orphan wells.

♦ Protects property owners from forced pooling by increasing the threshold of consent required before forcing other mineral interest owners.

♦ Enhances worker safety by raising safety and training standards.

♦ Reforms the COGCC by reducing industry representation and influence on the commission.

9News has more on the final passage of SB-181, which included more than 30 hours of public testimony.


Does Cory Gardner Think “Windmills Cause Cancer” Too?

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), giving himself cancer in a 2014 campaign ad.

CNN reports on remarks from President Donald Trump at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee yesterday–in which Trump goes off on a tangent about the horrors of wind power that we have to think would make our allegedly pro-wind power Sen. Cory Gardner blush:

“Hillary wanted to put up wind,” said President Donald Trump at a fundraiser for Republicans in Washington Tuesday, kicking off an extended riff about the evils of windmills — wind turbines, more accurately — and the inadequacy of wind energy. It’s worth looking at in full since it’s clearly becoming part of his stump speech and feeds into his larger distrust of renewable energy and his mocking of climate change…

Among Trump’s false claims yesterday about wind turbines was the baseless assertion that “if you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75% in value.” Nobody knows where Trump got that figure, which is 10% higher than he gave in another setting–but it doesn’t matter because neither number has any basis in reality.

From there, it only gets worse:

Trump: “And they say the noise causes cancer. You told me that one, OK.” (Then he made circles with his hands and a noise with his mouth.) “You know the thing makes so…”

It’s not clear who it was who told this to Trump, but there’s no evidence to back it up. There are frustrations with noise from wind turbines and those have led to reports of things like insomnia and dizziness among some people who live near wind turbines. Scientific studies have not identified any human health risk.

And if “noise causes cancer” isn’t enough for you, next came a statement that will come as a big surprise to thousands of Coloradans who work in the wind power industry:

Trump: “No, wind’s not so good and you have no idea how expensive it is to make those things. They’re all made in China and Germany, by the way, just in case you, we don’t make them here, essentially.” [Pols emphasis]

The wind industry has been on a tear. The fastest-growing occupation in the US in 2017 was wind turbine technician, although it’s still a small part of the economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 105,000 Americans are employed in the wind industry across all 50 states, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group…

Here in Colorado, four production plants owned by Vestas Wind Systems employ some 3,500 people from Windsor to Pueblo. Not all wind turbines installed in the U.S. are made in the U.S., and parts from across the world go into turbines that are made here–but either way it’s absolute nonsense to claim that turbines don’t provide American jobs.

Of course, the fact that Donald Trump tells lies is not exactly breaking news. The Washington Post released an analysis Monday showing that Trump has made a practically inconceivable 9,451 false claims in the last 800 days. But in the particular case of savaging the wind power industry, there should be someone in the GOP willing to stand up and call Trump out: Cory Gardner of Colorado, who made such a big deal of his support for wind energy on the campaign trail in 2014. Gardner’s recent cozying up to Trump ahead of their mutual bid for re-election in 2020 has included no serious attempt at reconciling Trump’s immoderate words with Gardner’s allegedly more reasonable positions on a wide range of issues, including renewable energy.

With all of this in mind, it’s time to ask the question: does Cory Gardner think wind turbines–in particular the “noise they make”–cause cancer? And if the answer is no, and we assume it is, the next question is this: what would Trump have to lie about to lose Gardner’s support? Trump’s treatment of women wasn’t enough, the North Korean debacle wasn’t enough–not even the national emergency Gardner was certain he opposed before it was ordered.

There must be something Gardner cares about enough stand up to Trump, but this once again isn’t it.


Big Oil’s a Great Neighbor–Just Ask New Orleans

Former Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

AP reports via the Colorado Springs Gazette on a lawsuit filed by the city of New Orleans, Louisiana against several oil companies alleging massive damage to wetlands that used to protect the city from flooding and hurricanes:

Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Friday announced the lawsuit, which alleges that pipeline work has caused massive damage to Louisiana’s wetlands and “threatened the safety of our people.”

Cantrell’s statement cites analyses from Tulane, Louisiana State University and the Rand Corporation, saying coastal land loss could cost the state more than $133 billion in lost capital.

“New Orleans has been harmed. … The land that’s been lost was a protective barrier defending us from hurricanes and floods. If the current trend holds, New Orleans will be a literal coastal city within the next fifty years,” she said.

It’s a newsworthy development but how does this affect Colorado, you ask?

Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation, a subsidiary of Whiting Petroleum Corporation, and Aspect Energy LLC, both based in Denver, also are among the firms named in the suit.

Both Whiting and Aspect Energy are local energy firms with deep political connections to Colorado. Whiting Petroleum’s Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations is none other than former Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman, who also ran GOP Senate “independent expenditure” campaign through his public relations company a la the Neville family’s Rearden Strategic and the 2018 House IE effort. In his position as VP of Corporate and Government Relations, we expect Cadman is intimately involved in the company’s dispute with New Orleans–and not on the side of New Orleans.

But don’t worry, Colorado! Coastal Louisiana might have been devastated over the course of decades by the oil and gas industry’s irresponsible development and at-best half-hearted remediation, but apart from the occasional house blowing up in Colorado…wait, never mind, that’s not a persuasive argument! Scratch that. We are a mile above sea level, which admittedly makes coastal flooding less likely. So, there’s that. We still get floods though, in the same places that oil companies drill

On second thought, maybe Coloradans should be paying attention? Louisiana’s experience with oil and gas development is more relevant to the present debate than the industry’s surrogates in Colorado will ever admit.


Cory Gardner Applauds Ken Buck’s Call for Recalls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Congressman Ken Buck gave a fiery campaign speech at the Colorado Republicans Central Committee meeting Saturday. Cheered on by U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, Buck hit all the usual red meat issues: guns, abortion, oil and gas, before delivering the coup de grace: a call for recalls.

Buck dared Democrats to “come and take” his guns, invoking Charlton Heston by saying they’d only get them from his “cold dead hands.” He claimed Democrats also want to “kill babies now after birth, while we want to stand up for life at every stage of life.”

Then he mentioned the failed anti-fracking ballot initiative Proposition 112, which Republicans have been claiming shows opposition to an oil and gas safety regulation bill moving through the state legislature.

“They want to shut down the oil & gas industry. We need to remind them [Democrats] that we won Proposition 112 and we need to teach them how to spell “RECALL.”

As he belted out his punchline, “we need to teach them how to spell “R-E-C-A-L-L,” the applause came not only from the audience, but from the three other Republicans who had just endorsed him for party chair: Regent Heidi Ganahl, District Attorney George Brauchler, and U.S. Senator Cory Gardner.

Buck’s speech did its job; the Colorado GOP Central Committee members elected him Chairman. Buck narrowly defeated State Representative Susan Beckman, who had broad support from her colleagues in the legislature, including House Minority Leader Patrick Neville who introduced her.


Landmark Drilling Protection Bill Nears Polis’ Desk

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

As the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports, another major victory for majority Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly today as Senate Bill 19-181, legislation reforming regulation of the oil and gas industry, empowering local communities to control land use within their boundaries, as well as getting the state out of the business of “fostering” oil and gas development passes the House:

The House voted 36-28 for Senate Bill 19-181, which the Senate passed March 13. The Senate will now consider amendments added in the House’s Thursday night session.

The legislation would revamp the state’s oil and gas regulations by changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and putting public health and safety front and center when development is considered. It would also clarify that local governments have the authority under their planning and land-use powers to regulate oil and gas as they do other types of activities.

A press release from House Democrats following yesterday’s voice vote:

“This bill has been a long time coming and it attempts to address the concerns of many local communities about the increased quantity of oil and gas drilling happening in their communities and because they don’t have a say in it,” said Speaker KC Becker. “This bill ensures taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for cleaning up abandoned wells; it strengthens laws around forced pooling, mapping of flow lines and air quality; and finally reforms the COGCC.”

The landmark bill directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to regulate oil and gas development to protect public welfare, and clarifies that local governments have the same authority to regulate the oil and gas industry as they have with every other industry in Colorado – including the mining industry. The bill also removes the prohibition against local governments requiring oil and gas companies to cover the direct costs of regulating, monitoring and permitting the sites in their communities…

The bill addresses emissions and air quality by requiring increased monitoring and implementing a rule-making process to reduce emissions to better meet federal regulations. A “brown cloud” returned to Denver earlier this month and reports showed that the air quality was worse than that of Beijing.

From here, the bill goes back to the Senate for consideration of a considerable number of amendments passed by the House during their lengthy floor debate on the bill. Some of these amendments could be contentious between Democrats, as Westword’s Chase Woodruff explains in a freshly-updated story:

While some of the approved amendments were small technical fixes or clarifications requested by state agencies, several others include major, last-minute changes to the bill. Environmental and community activists had already been disappointed by amendments adopted amid pressure from industry groups just before its final passage in the Senate, and spent the last several days urging Becker to pass a “clean bill” without any further amendments. Still, with many of the bill’s key provisions intact, activists welcomed its passage by the House this morning. [Pols emphasis]

“Despite some concerning amendments, SB 181 is still a step in the right direction,” Anne Lee Foster, spokeswoman for anti-fracking group Colorado Rising, said in a statement. “There were some very obvious loopholes granted to industry.”

We’ll see how those amendments are resolved in the final negotiations between the House and Senate–where we expect Gov. Jared Polis’ office, for whom this bill is a top-tier priority, will help keep things on track. A final determination will help everyone understand the consequences for both sides–whether the bill is considered a sufficient solution to the problem to supporters, versus the political efficacy of compromises made to reduce the umbrage taken by the bill’s vexatious opponents.

Today is not the end of the fierce battle over one of the 2019 session’s biggest bills, but the end is now in sight.


Sen. Gardner Can Act for Public Lands, Wildlife, and Climate. But few expect him to.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Much of the Colorado media that cover oil and gas issues are busy following the state legislature, providing details of the drama and blow-by-blow of the SB 181 debate, and dutifully reporting out the industry hyperbole in between the paid industry ads.

And public attention is due, SB181: the Public Health and Safety oil and gas reform bill, passed out of the House last night, and now is headed back to the Senate. A little reinforcement/pressure on legislators might help as industry spills a slick of lobbyists into the state capitol to thwart any efforts to strengthen local oversight of their profit-making.

Make sure your representative and senator know you support SB181. Call them now, then come back.

David Bernhardt was among those that made an appearance at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee.

OK, now let’s move from state matters to talk about our federal ‘public estate’—and what Trump’s vision for “energy dominance” is doing to our lands, wildlife, and climate there.

Most of Americans’ publicly-owned minerals are administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior, under the direction of acting Secretary David Bernhardt. Readers no doubt recall Trump’s first Interior Secretary, the show-horse Ryan Zinke, who was quickly ridden out of town in a stink of scandal on the horse he rode in on, so to speak. By all indications Bernhardt is the work-horse of the duo: less flash, more bang.

Bernhardt is currently undergoing a confirmation hearing to be Zinke’s replacement, appearing yesterday before U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-K St.) and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) committee. Many observers think Bernhardt, as Deputy under Zinke and an experienced lawyer-lobbyist, was already running the operation. The Washington Post reports:

Bernhardt has wielded influence over the department’s most important agencies. Within months of becoming Zinke’s deputy, Bernhardt played a role in decisions to increase national park fees, roll back endangered species protections enforced by the Fish and Wildlife Service, open massive amounts of public lands to more drilling, and weaken safety rules for ocean oil production platforms.

While the federal government was recently shut down over one of Donald J. Trump’s tantrums, it was Bernhardt who made sure that servicing the oil and gas industry continued apace, and at an even faster rate than previously reported.

Washington (CNN)The recent government shutdown cost the US economy billions of dollars, but one industry largely dodged its worst effects — the industry previously represented by the Interior Department’s acting secretary David Bernhardt.

In contrast to other shutdowns in recent decades, the department’s Bureau of Land Management continued to process applications from oil and gas companies to drill on public land as other offices remained closed, which environmentalists and some former BLM employees argue reveals a bias that favors the energy industry.

During the 35-day government shutdown, the BLM approved 267 onshore drilling permits and 16 leases applied for by oil and gas companies, the agency said, a number far greater than previously known. Two of Bernhardt’s former clients were among the range of companies that submitted the approved applications.

The Trump ethic to service industry clients first, to dominate the public’s estate with private profiteering, even when the public is literally shut out from its own government, is part and parcel of what appears a conscious effort to exclude Americans as impediment.

Oil and gas leasing of important wildlife lands, public water supplies, favorite hunting grounds, family camping spots, popular hiking trails, and so forth, for drilling and fracking raises concerns. It turns out the “public” makes public lands management complicated. Under the Trump-Bernhardt regime the ‘solution’ to that problem looks to be less public.



Here’s The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read All Day

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Conservative message group Compass Colorado, one of a stable of press release-issuing GOP aligned front groups who pop up in inboxes from time to time, thinks they have figured out what’s really motivating Gov. Jared Polis to, their words, “stymie” Colorado oil and gas through the passage of Senate Bill 19-181–and Compass Colorado director Kelly Maher isn’t talking the usual capitalism-destroying cave-dwelling econightmare that the left has been fighting for all these years.

Why, Polis is doing it to (cue evil laughter) make money, of course!

According to his own financial disclosure statements, Polis is an investor in two Denver-based Bow River Capital funds that invest heavily in the Canadian oil and gas industry – a market with a much looser regulatory framework than that of Colorado or the United States. Polis personally has more than $250,000 invested in these funds. [Pols emphasis] If Polis scuttles oil and natural gas development in Colorado, the value of his personal investment holdings in Canada could increase as domestic supply contracts as a result.

Shortly after Polis started investing in Bow River energy funds, he joined forces with a fellow Democrat Congressman to sponsor legislation that would impose a burdensome regulatory framework on the oil and gas industry domestically. Polis’ pursuit of this legislation asking the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as other industries is hypocritical given his investment in the more-lax Canadian oil and gas industry.

“Jared Polis’ radical environmental agenda could cost Colorado families hundreds of dollars a year in increased utility costs,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “As part of this agenda, Polis also wants to end oil and gas development in Colorado, which will hurt our economy and cost our state hundreds of high-paying jobs. If he’s a “true believer” when it comes to the dog whistles he’s sending out to his radical environmental base, why does he continue to profit off of the investments in Canadian oil and gas?”

It all sounds terribly damning like there should be taiko drums thundering in the background, until you apply a bit of crucial context to this wild allegation. Gov. Polis’ 2015 congressional financial disclosure listed his net worth as somewhere between $142 million and $468 million, the range reflecting the value range of assets reported in the disclosure. Most informal estimates place Polis’ net worth on the high side of that range, and the booming markets of the last couple of years have most likely not been adverse to his bottom line either.

With this in mind, the idea that Polis is supporting this bill in order to “profit off investments in Canadian oil and gas” is without a doubt one of the silliest allegations leveled in a legislative debate that has been severely factually challenged from the beginning. The theory that Democrats want to plunge the world into some kind of primitivist dark age, as dumb as that is, at least has some anecdotal one-liners that can be thrown around in a debate. This is just prima facie stupid.

Gov. Polis’ GOP opponents (and yes, a Democrat or two) have tried for years to turn his wealth into a liability, but the arithmetic falls apart under even casual scrutiny. There’s just no rational way to make the charge stick. In addition, there’s something perhaps even more contemptible about wealth-adoring Republicans suddenly upset about Democrats who possess money.

But that’s for another blog post. For today, let’s just try to keep it somewhere in the vicinity of real.


So Much BS, So Little Time

Last night a “reporter” employed by the right-wing Independence Institute, Sherrie Peif, Tweeted out from the Capitol that a large natural gas project had been withdrawn from consideration by the energy company responsible, DCP Midstream, due to “uncertainty” regarding new legislation to regulate the oil and gas industry making its way through the Colorado General Assembly.

A claim immediately picked up and recirculated by political groups opposed to Senate Bill 19-181:

There’s just one problem, as the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports today: none of this is true.

DCP Midstream has no intention of reducing investments in Weld County, and it did not pull its application for a $350 million gas processing facility…

“We are pursuing a variety of options related to compression,” Sandberg said. “We pulled a permit for one compressor station. The remainder of the project has not been canceled. The pulling of the compressor had nothing to do with 181.”

DCP has invested billions of dollars in Weld County, including its Grand Parkway — 62 miles of steel pipeline just completed last year. Sandberg said those investments are not stopping any time soon.

This is far from the only example of blatant disinformation being spread to sow fear over passage of this legislation. The truth is that the energy industry has recently suffered far more from low natural gas prices than any regulatory burden. While grassroots outreach campaigns funded by the oil and gas industry warn of billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, the truth is there’s no way to predict that–and the industry’s estimates predicate on a total shutdown of the oil and gas industry, which is not going to happen, are completely worthless.

In this case, the energy company was nice enough to admit that their lobbyist was not truthful:

Sandberg acknowledged [DCP Midstream lobbyist Patrick] Groom said the company was pulling out due to regulatory and other reasons, “but ultimately, it’s not related to SB 181.” [Pols emphasis]

Take note when this happens, because it doesn’t very often.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 



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.


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.


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…



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.


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.