As Fox 31's Eli Stokols reports, Democrats in the legislature are concerned that Gov. John Hickenlooper may be actively working against efforts to pass new fracking safety legislation. That Hickenlooper, an unabashed supporter of fracking, would undermine legislative efforts is not a total surprise — though they have a right to expect more frank conversations than the same old Hick Schtick:
“Most of the oil and gas companies are pretty unhappy with me as well,” Hickenlooper said in a interview Monday. “We’ve sort of found that sweet spot to make everyone a little bit angry.”
But Democrats, who control both legislative chambers at the Capitol, have introduced a wide range of proposals aimed at regulating the industry — and they’re not convinced that Hickenlooper isn’t working against them.
“My sense is we’re definitely facing a headwind,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, the sponsor of several oil and gas regulation bills. “Obviously, a lot of that is coming from the industry. But it’s hard to tell if the administration is also part of it.”
Foote points to an amendment he proposed during the long debate over the state budget to provide an additional eight state oil and gas well inspectors.
“Right now we have 16 inspectors to cover about 52,000 wells,” Foote told FOX31 Denver. “What we were trying to do is give them more people to do their job better. So that was surprising. It was kind of a ‘thanks, but no thanks.’
“I’ve never heard of a government agency turning down the prospect of having more people, but it did happen in this case.”
Hickenlooper is trying to play the tired card that "both sides are mad at me, so it must mean compromise," which is rarely that simple (and in this case, we suspect, largely nonsense because Hick has always been on the side of industry). To his credit, Stokols pushed to get more of an answer from Hickenlooper…and ended up with more political gibberish:
When asked if he or his administration has publicly opposed or lobbied against any of the Democratic oil and gas bills, Hickenlooper didn’t issue a flat denial.
“What we’ve tried to do is make each bill better,” he said.
As we've written before, the Hick Schtick has been overplayed to the point of being tedious. It's become transparently silly, and the fracking debate has exposed its flaws. You can't answer every question with a variation of "we are gathering facts and having conversations, blah, blah, blah." It's the same sort of mealy-mouthed approach that angered supporters of repealing the death penalty. This isn't leadership, and Hick shouldn't be surprised at the growing frustration in the legislature. Frustration does not always mean that both sides are compromising — sometimes it's just simple, plain old frustration.
If Hickenlooper ends up being cast as the primary obstacle to Democratic-supported legislation to make fracking safer, the fallout will go beyond this particular issue. One of the concerns Democrats have always had with Hickenlooper is that he tries so hard to be seen as a moderate compromiser (which he is not) that it is difficult to know where he stands on most issues. This is the biggest hurdle Hick would have if he truly was thinking about a potential run for President in 2016; try to picture the announcement of a Presidential run, and then ask yourself where his campaign is going to find 2,000 dedicated Democrats to fill a room.