Reports surfaced Friday that a tentative deal had been struck in efforts to strike a 'compromise, successfully navigate a Special Session, and come out on the other side having tamped down angst over flaming water wells and gas wells spewing frack water. The problem appears to be whom the deal is among, which looks to be a narrow set of mysteriously-selected representatives of something. But as the Coloradoan reports, it is not clear who exactly is really on board.
Stan Dempsey, the president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, was less optimistic. His group sent a letter to the governor’s office last month outlining various concerns, saying that more local control would create a “Byzantine set of oil and gas rules and regulations” across Colorado. That would drive up costs for the industry and make it more difficult to operate in the state, the letter said.
“I don’t believe that most of or any of the concerns we communicated in that letter were addressed,” Dempsey said Friday.
Club Twitty has previously blogged on Calgary-based Encana’s disclosure to its shareholders about the restless natives in the Colorado energy colony:
CALGARY — Canadian energy giant Encana Corp. says its operations in Colorado could be hampered by a state ballot initiative that, if successful, would bring oil and gas drilling under local government control.
But it is not just our foreign neighbors in the North that are bothered by the recent rumblings of this troubling trend called 'local control.' Oil magnates back in HQ are also looking askance at Coloradans with their restless, meddling hands on the state Constitution, asserting the right to decide which branches of their state and local government entities ought to regulate which aspects of oil and gas development as if those governments were their own.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
How dare they be so presumptuous, up there living atop our current or future minerals! They need to learn–We know what (suits us) best.
Houston companies join fracking fray in Colorado
…it’s enough to catch the attention of the energy industry.
“Industry is now taking this seriously, and they’re using all their resources to make sure Coloradans are properly educated…"
Ah yes, Coloradans being 'properly educated' by Texans no less, wielding wads of oil and gas money, via such ironically named corporate shops as Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development. CRED.org continues to push the Big Lie that local control is a 'statewide fracking ban' in the waiting, yet still describes itself as having
…a “core mission” to “deliver solid facts directly to the people who need it most: you. As industry leaders, Anadarko and Noble are among the most technically qualified to explain the practice of hydraulic fracturing to Coloradans.”
Critics of the industry’s efforts estimate that CRED has already spent between $2.4 and $4 million on profracking advertising so far this year and the biggest spending months won’t hit until fall.
Not done with this questionable astroturf creation purporting to speak bullshit on behalf of 'Coloradans,' the Texas duo has also worked in concert to spawn inventions like studyfracking.com, this one–as the url implies–even more directly masquerading as 'fact-based.'
It also comes up lacking, as former AP-reporter Judith Kohler writes in an op-ed:
But no matter what I typed, I was directed to the same "fact sheet" that paints a picture of a world in which nothing ever goes wrong. No freelance questions wanted or accepted.
From any look it is clear that Big Oil and Gas fingers reach into all aspects of the fight against local control. And where big monied special interests are tossing cash around, DC lobbyists can't be far behind, also hoping to help learn some yokels how to talk sense into noncompliant locals.
U.S. Chamber enters Colorado fracking battle
By BizWest Media Staff May 29, 2014
LOVELAND – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has entered the fray over hydraulic fracturing in Colorado, where it has organized to coach local business leaders on how to defend attacks on oil and gas development. …Christopher Guith, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce… traveled from Washington, D.C., to Colorado to inform leaders of local chambers of commerce on aspects of oil and gas development in order to help them promote the industry.
…The chamber’s presence in Colorado underscores the powerful interests that have aligned in the state to protect the oil and gas industry from citizen-led efforts to sharply limit fracking. [Emphasis Twitty]
Consultants, never afraid to rush in to protect the well-heeled and entrenched powers-that-be, are also appearing tablets, like carpetbags-of-yore, in hand to heroically defend the downtrodden oil and gas companies from Texas and their kindred corporate souls. That last bit of info was via the Denver Post, in some of its real reportage, not from its faux-news section bought and paid for by Nobel and Anadarko. Yep, that Texas money sure does get around! Thus we learn that Houston cash is behind another recent entrant into the fracking fracas, as the Boulder Weekly noted in an article from May:
Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy is already scheduling ads for television, contracting, for instance, with KMGH-Channel 7 to air more than $360,000 worth of ads this summer and another $519,000 worth of ads in September, October and November, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). At least one other station is poised to air ads by the group — KDVR-Channel 31, which received a “Record of Request for Broadcast Time” from the committee.
Karen Crummy, a spokeswoman for Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy, declined to estimate how much the committee will ultimately invest in ads and its broader campaign in the coming months. She did say the group is serious about its efforts.
“Obviously we’ll do what we have to to get the word out on the impact this would have on the state,” Crummy says.
Currently at least one local control initiative is out as a petition gathering signatures to get on the ballot, and a decision on a slew of others is expected soon. The Supreme Court could still throw a wrench in the works, and rumors persist somehow (it is not clear exactly) averting a ballot fight via a 'special session.' But it seems that only certain Democratic politicians put much faith in the latter happening. No one else seems to. And the Supreme Court, as noted above, already approved the first measure: Initiative 75. So it seems like a Texas-sized fight is in the works for November, and the Lone Star State is already throwing its cash around.
Even the more gentle of the primary business groups fighting against local control (the curiously named Coloradans for Responsible Reform, which does not propose any reform but does count former Interior Secretary, US Senator, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar and nearly-as-prominent former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, on its board), can connect back one way or another to money coming into Colorado with a pretty clear intent of easing the way to take its resources out. CRR counts among its top leadership Kelly Brough of the Metro Chamber of Commerce. She also sits on the 'Vital for Colorado' board, which gets funding from energy lobby groups and companies and which includes top international natural resource law firms with representatives prominent among its leadership.
Goldilocks & Local Control
In keeping with its industry supporters, Vital for Colorado argues that both federal and local control are wrong, but it is in a befuddled sort of way that seems to suggest there are exactly 50 types of geology in the United States::
Unfortunately, local drilling moratoriums and the threat of a statewide ban on fracking [lie in copy] could endanger these opportunities and negatively impact Colorado’s prosperity for decades. …
Fortunately, Colorado already has a balanced regulatory structure that protects the health and safety of local communities, while allowing for responsible energy development. While some groups are pushing to increase federal government involvement, state government regulation makes the most sense given the differences in geology and individual shale plays.
Nonetheless this confusedly inaccurate message no doubt suits industry, which also wants to keep things just as they are, with only the state having 'primacy' in all things oil and gas. This is made clear again in one industry representative's spin on their own polling, that found that by 2:1 people do not think the state is best suited to regulate oil and gas, which industry calls 'mixed results' and then nonetheless uses to argue state regulation is best.
For the last three years consistently, when we asked about who should regulate oil and gas development, fracking and so forth, it's kind of equally divided in thirds, generally. This has been the trend. A third say the states should be in charge, about a third say the feds should be in charge and about a third say local.
By most accounts attempts to avoid a ballot fight, or more of one anyhow than what is likely already coming, has been so far unsuccessful. But rumors still fly of talks and furtive negotiations. Some accusations and pressure has targeted Representative Polis, who is one of the prominent backers of several of the measures, and a certain force-by-proxy behind it for the sake of campaign fodder.
Much of that has been a bit over the top, even using Polis' wealth to make the charge that allowing local Coloradans more say in oil and gas development around their homes is elitist. Of course Polis standing alone among other big name Colorado Democrats (and Republicans) doesn't make him 'elite' or 'establishment.' It may reinforce his reputation as slightly eccentric, but that is a crown he can steal from Hickenlooper–who is decidedly 'business-as-usual' on this issue.
And the liberal vs. moderate Democrat division that some in the media have pointed to may not be all it seems either. So far there is not much evidence that energy industry representatives are interested in any bargain either. To the extent that some politicians have hoped that a last ditch compromise will provide refuge from the issue: good luck. It seems unlikely, and it seems a bit of a mess for everyone–coated like a flight of waterfowl that mistakenly landed in a disposal pond.
Because it could be that the issue of local control is not a liberal vs. conservative issue either. That some things unite Coloradans, like imminent domain for oil and gas pipelines did forcing Senate Democrats and Republicans to retreat.
There is a reason populism rises as a strain throughout the history of American politics, and a core value at play as patriotic as the yeoman farmer, settler, factory worker, suffragette and voting rights marcher. Sometimes when the people lead the leaders follow.
Take a man that many on both the so-called American left and the right embrace, Thomas Jefferson–Author of the Declaration and inspiration to the Bill of Rights, Jefferson said a lot of things, among them supposedly was:
"The government closest to the people serves the people best."
But it was a nation united as well, and Jefferson more than doubled its size with a unitary executive action as president–the Louisiana Purchase. So beyond the inherently American idea of local control, is there also common cause to be found in conservation and protection for shared air, water and public lands? In a national estate? And of so why would the public be skeptical about the state's ability or willingness to properly and unilaterally regulate this often toxic, industrial activity sharing our environment? How is that good governance?
Maybe Williams (of Tulsa, Oklahoma) really thought that a 10,000 gallon spill was only 25 gallons or so as the tale gets told. And maybe the fracking flowback fluid spew near Ft. Collins was just the result of a 'mechanical failure' and thus not really anything the state should hold the driller accountable for, at least per the rules. In the end the driller, PDC, was fined less than 50 cents per gallon of leaked fluid: or $35,000 for an incident that spewed 84,000 gallons of fracking flowback fluid for 20 hours. It seems that industry and state regulators find common cause: no need for local folks to be involved or to have those snoopy feds poking around for that matter either.
Thus when it is suggested that additional federal regulation is needed–say for standard disclosures of fracking chemicals, for air quality protection, to mitigate for climate impacts and the like; industry screams their porridge is too hot. And when local governments want to tell a fracker to move back another quarter mile from a school playground, industry screams its too cold. But when the state legislature fumbles and fumes ineffective in its dithering, and the state rubberstamps development and frets over wrist slaps, industry smiles and says that porridge is just fine.
In the American system, of course, there are 'checks and balances' built in throughout. There are supposed to be layers of jurisdiction that cover different aspects of a particular thing, say an industry–federal, state and local. And Just as the federal courts can find that the laws of Congress require the Executive Branch enforce the Clean Air Act and regulate Carbon emissions, for instance, the various levels of government also work to balance power more evenly. In Colorado with the ability for voters to govern via initiative and to even amend the Constitution at the ballot box, this check on our governors is even more direct. Interested people can read all about this stuff in Civics texts.
Sometimes it seems that the rapport and revolving door between industry and its state-based regulators is a bit too free-wheeling, that either federal or local involvement is too much interference among friends. Two is company: American Democracy is a crowd.
And despite what industry and its booster say, when it comes to oil and gas development there is room for better regulation at all levels of government–federal, state and local. That is made obvious in the fact we keep having this discussion, and that it has gone unresolved so far as to push multiple measures to the ballot.
In any case, of course there must be a strong floor of federal regulations that protect the shared environment that does not just belong to Garfield County, the Western Slope, Utah, or Colorado. Air, water, public lands and public resources: these are all resources that the federal government has a stake in protecting and requiring the appropriate regulations to do that. Similarly the state oil and gas commission sets the foundation for overall oil and gas development, off of the federal mineral estate, and interacts with federal government to ensure efficient development of the resource and consistency. In Colorado it is directed to provide necessary regulation to protect state and private property and people, and to facilitate the efficient development of the resource. But neither of these roles of government–federal and state, preclude specific regulation at the local level as well, when local jurisdictions have legitimate resources they seek and are obligated to protect.
That seems like the better regulatory regime–levels of government looking after their own sphere of the public interest, down to the local level that can often best direct the particulars of this activity on the ground. Additional regulations in heavily populated areas, restrictions for important agricultural or wildlife lands, and for other popular or sensitive lands only make sense, which is why these authorities generally already exist for local governments in Colorado–for all activity other than oil and gas.
It may be that rather than a fight among 'liberal' and 'moderate' Democrats, or even liberals and conservatives, it is rather a struggle between local grassroots Coloradans vs. the Establishment: bipartisan, entrenched, entranced and increasingly removed, removed from the common cause being found among those that see the need for stronger regulations on this industrial and impactful activity, and those that understand local jurisdictions need more say in these types of decisions in any case.
Local control has real potential to unite a classic Colorado coalition of common purpose. Most of us are comfortable being different than our neighbor—we like our purple state. And that is why a lot of Coloradans will agree with supporting local control.
And like its more familiar counterpart, this fracked fairy-tale does not end there, with Goldlocks scarfing down all the porridge, gluttony rewarded in the end. Rather the bears get wise and run her off.
And Coloradans are starting to notice…wondering about this particular intrusion.
This time the bears get to vote: and just maybe they'll decide its not meant to be a porridge served up only to serve Texans' taste.