More astute post-election analysis from FOX 31's Eli Stokols we wanted to be sure got a mention:
When three of four northern Colorado cities voted in favor of moratoriums on oil and gas production work that relies on so-called fracking, it, too, served as another shot across the bow at Hickenlooper, a former geologist who has already sued the first city to enact such a ban and is widely perceived as an advocate for his former industry.
“The fracking issue certainly complicates Hickenlooper’s political fortunes,” said political analyst Eric Sondermann. “He has staked out some independent ground — to his credit, in my estimation — but it does pit him against a whole lot of his liberal, environmental, Democratic base.”
The votes to ban fracking by citizens in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins on Tuesday serve to highlight an emerging confrontation between many left-leaning voters and the governor who will need their votes in 2014, when it’s increasingly likely they’ll also be voting on some sort of statewide fracking ban.
And it puts more pressure on Hickenlooper’s administration heading into the final stage of a rule-making process whereby the Air Quality Control Commission is about to approve a new set of regulations on the oil and gas industry to limit the industry’s impact on poor air quality by forcing it to more closely monitor greenhouse gas-causing emissions from thousands of well sites. [Pols emphasis]
“The votes are more proof that Coloradans don’t trust the industry and are unsure if the governor and his administration will do what it takes to protect public health and the air we breathe,” Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith told FOX31 Denver.
This week's crushing defeat of Amendment 66, an ambitious and comprehensive school finance measure that would have gone a long way toward solving a decades-long chronic shortfall, is just the latest in a long series of brutal moments public relations-wise this year for Gov. John Hickenlooper. With the passage of moratoriums (and one outright ban) on "fracking" in three out of four Front Range residential cities where they were on the ballot, combined with the wholesale slaughter of Amendment 66, arguably no one in the state had a worse night Tuesday than Hickenlooper. This is a man who lost on his left and on his right.
We want to be clear that despite all the political trouble for Hickenlooper this year, we still don't see any viable challenge to him among the current–or even conceivable–slate of Republican challengers in 2014. Hickenlooper is lucky to have the Colorado Republican Party to contend with, as we know of few entities better equipped to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory (see: 2010). That said, Hickenlooper needs to shore up a constituency for next year's elections, and he needs to start with his beleaguered Democratic base.
Luckily for Gov. Hickenlooper, a big conservation win is out there for the taking.
The state's Air Quality Control Commission is going through a high-profile process to draft new rules regulating air emissions from oil and gas operations. What the passage of the anti-"fracking" measures tell us is that Coloradans want strong regulations that will protect public health and the environment. The public doesn't trust the industry, and voters are looking to Gov. Hickenlooper to implement strong rules. All of this spoke clearly despite the industry spending more than $900,000 to defeat these initiatives. And Hickenlooper himself, after so many gaffes by himself personally and his top staff betraying industry favoritism, is broadly understood by the Democratic base now as compromised on the issue.
With all of that in mind, as we said of Hickenlooper's smart decision to sign a hotly contested renewable energy bill this year, a considerable strengthening of these proposed air quality rules should be a no-brainer. As Stokols reports, an early draft of these rules released by Hickenlooper's office last month was blasted by conservationists as not sufficient. Even energy executives say it's time to move toward "zero tolerance" on methane emissions by the industry.
Despite the gloating among Republicans today, Hickenlooper's biggest political need right now is to shore up his downtrodden, and at the moment at least partway disaffected Democratic base. Already identified as industry friendly, It will cost Hickenlooper no political capital to pass tougher air quality rules than he first proposed. But the benefits with the Democratic base of doing so would have real and lasting value.