Colorado River Basin drying out faster than previously thought

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

What will our Fracker in Chief say about this?

Seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River Basin for valuable water are drawing more heavily from groundwater supplies than previously believed, a new study finds, the latest indication that an historic drought is threatening the region’s future access to water.

In the past nine years, the basin — which covers Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California — has lost about 65 cubic kilometers of fresh water, nearly double the volume of the country’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead. That figure surprised the study’s authors, who used data from a NASA weather satellite to investigate groundwater supplies.

About two-thirds of the water lost over the past nine years came from underground water supplies, rather than surface water.

“We were shocked to see how much water was actually depleted underground,” Stephanie Castle, a water specialist at the University of California at Irvine and lead author of the report, said in an interview.

This water is critical for all aspects of life in the geological area.(No, I will not change my screen name to Captain Obvious.) Fracking, which our governor, a trained geologist, says is harmless, uses enormous amounts of water which in turn affects individuals' water wells. Discarded fracking fluids are now also beginning to affect water tables and aquifers around the nation.

Oh, and did I mention increased earthquake activity in fracking areas?

Here's a map of the Colorado River Basin by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that is in the Post article:

The ease with which our Governor gives his support to the highly disruptive extraction of fossil fuels from our environment never ceases to amaze me. There are many negative aspects of the technology, yet he has remained firm in his support of Big Energy. Maybe this latest piece of evidence will finally catch his attention to the long-term harm fracking will do to Colorado's environment. 

When Gardner Praised Udall…

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman takes us on a trip down memory lane–before U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's career depended on disparaging everything that Sen. Mark Udall and other Democrats have ever said or done:

The recent battle over fracking in Colorado quickly entered Colorado's Senate race and the latest tiff involves Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) caught on tape a couple years ago praising his opponent on oil and gas policy.

"I believe, as Governor Hickenlooper believes, as Senator Udall has said, that the decisions on fracking ought to be made at the local level," Gardner says in the video, provided to 9NEWS by the Udall campaign. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner was responding to a question from a voter at a 2012 town hall event in Berthoud, Colorado…

Now before anybody gets too excited:

In the video, Gardner goes on to clarify that he meant states should control fracking as opposed to the federal government, adding, "I believe that [fracking policy] ought to be deferred to the state, just as Governor Hickenlooper does."

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

So no, Gardner was not making a statement that could be interpreted as endorsing the local control ballot initiatives underway this year. That said, this little vignette courtesy 9NEWS is a useful reminder that Republicans in Colorado don't really have much of a case against Colorado Democrats on pro-energy policy. After Sen. Udall announced his opposition to the local control ballot measures, Republicans continued to attack him with the same intensity. But the fact is, Udall's longstanding support for a balance between energy development and conservation is much closer to the mainstream in Colorado than "drill baby drill"–and that's why the polls consistently show Udall is better trusted on energy policy and the environment than his opponent.

There was a time, as you can see, when the trust the public places in Udall (and yes, even Gov. John Hickenlooper) on energy and the environment worked to Gardner's advantage as he tried to demonstrate how his views were mainstream views. There is a possibility that this November, the voters of this state will push the frame of the debate over drilling in Colorado well to the left of any of these politicians' comfort zones.

Either way, it's better to define the center than attack it.

Everybody And Their Mother Comes Out Against Local Control

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Mark Jaffe reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper's press conference yesterday kicking off the opposition campaign against two local control ballot measures championed by Rep. Jared Polis left no confusion about where the governor stands–as if there ever was any.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday said two ballot measures aimed at giving local governments more control over oil and gas drilling would damage the state's economy and must be defeated…

"It is clear these initiatives will kill jobs and damage our state's economy," Hickenlooper said. "These measures risk thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment, and millions of dollars in tax revenue."

…Hickenlooper said Initiative 88 is the opposite of local control, for it sets a "arbitrary limit" across the state with no room to adjust it locally.

As for Initiative 89, Hickenlooper questioned whether local governments would have "the sophistication" to enforce it.

Via Gannett's Raju Chebium, Rep. Polis responds:

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis said one measure he wants to include on the state's November ballot would give local governments the power to approve or reject fracking operations without fear of reprisal from the oil and gas industry. Another measure would allow residents to decide how far fracking wells should be from their homes and businesses.

Fracking may be appropriate far from residential neighborhoods and in rural and industrial areas, but communities must have the ultimate say over whether the wells can sprout up nearby, he said.

"It's perfectly reasonable for residents to feel that it shouldn't be in residential neighborhoods. That should be up to them if they want it," Polis said. "If Loveland residents want fracking, they should be able to have it. If Fort Collins residents don't, they shouldn't be sued." [Pols emphasis]

Our understanding is that despite the swift closing of ranks against these initiatives on the part of Democratic insiders, Rep. Polis remains fully committed to passing them. The fact is, whatever fear has been put into establishment Democrats about consequences from running these initiatives, Polis can defensibly argue he is simply representing his district–where three cities have already passed moratoria, and in the case of Lafayette an outright ban, on hydraulic fracturing. That's a point getting lost as Democrats across the state–Mark Udall, Andrew Romanoff, Ed Perlmutter, and many others–fall in line behind Hickenlooper in opposition to these ballot measures, and the chattering class groupthink ramps up against them.

One of the most popular arguments against these initiatives aimed at Democrats is the assumption "certainty" that they will hurt Democratic electoral prospects this November, either directly or indirectly from the resources expended in the fight. We continue to see a plausible scenario wherein Democrats benefit from these initiatives by stoking turnout, even as individual Democratic candidates give themselves cover by opposing them. Today, as Democrats disappoint conservationists with their stand against local control, they still know Democrats are closer to their position than Republicans will ever be. While these initiatives might be setting up 2015 for a divisive blue-on-blue fight over the issue, that doesn't mean the damage will be felt at the polls this year.

And it wouldn't be the first time the voters proved bolder than the leaders.

Local Control Special Session Officially Dead; Voters To Decide

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is giving up on the idea of a special session of the legislature this year to pass legislation giving local communities greater control over oil and gas drilling. That means two measures supported by Rep. Jared Polis to increase setbacks from drilling and establish an "environmental bill of rights" for Coloradans, are likely a go for this November's ballot:

Talks aimed at brokering a compromise to allow increased local control over oil and gas drilling operations have failed, Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D-Colorado) office reported Wednesday.

The governor's office says there will be no special session – as Hickenlooper had hoped – to pass a compromise law on fracking.

"Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners," the governor said in a written statement. "We have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session."

That news all but ensures Colorado voters will have the opportunity to weigh in with a statewide vote on fracking this year, a follow-up to local ballot questions which have halted the practice in four Front Range communities.

With the special session now dead, as many observers expected, Sen. Mark Udall was quick to announce his opposition to the ballot measures:

"Fracking can be done safely and responsibly," Udall wrote shortly after the governor's announcement. "I believe that Colorado can and must do better, which is why I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions."

Undaunted, Rep. Polis announces he is moving ahead:

“I have said from the beginning of this debate that my one goal is to find a solution that will allow my constituents to live safely in their homes, free from the fear of declining property values or unnecessary health risks, but also that will allow our state to continue to benefit from the oil and gas boom that brings jobs and increased energy security,” Polis said.

“I stand by this goal, I am confident that the majority of Coloradoans share this goal, and I am committed to continuing to work to protect our Colorado values.”

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports that the American Petroleum Institute, which plans to spend a great deal of money fighting these initiatives, hardened opposition among Republicans and the oil and gas industry against a compromise with a poll indicating they can beat the ballot measures. On the other side, proponents have polling that says the measures can pass–even after respondents hear the industry's arguments against the measures.

Stokols speculates once again about the measures "potentially jeopardizing the reelection of Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall — and, by extension, Democratic control of the senate." As we've said previously, that is a dubious suggestion at best. We also don't believe that high-profile Democrats steering clear of these initiatives hurt either the initiatives or their re-election campaigns–there's a lot more driving those campaigns than this one issue, and by disavowing the initiatives early, there's nothing to use against Udall or Hickenlooper even if they do go badly. As for Rep. Polis? The FOX 31 story a week ago, trying to cast CD-2 Republican candidate George Leing as a credible opponent–which even most Democrats opposed to Polis on this issue found laughable–makes it pretty clear he doesn't have much to worry about. That said, we expect the industry will do whatever they can to extract a cost from Polis for his "impertinence."

In November, all of these assumptions will meet their ultimate test–and somebody's going to be wrong.

Local Control Polling: “Terrorism” Enjoys Broad Public Support

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, there's a simple reason why the oil and gas industry and their political allies are losing their minds about ballot measures supported by Rep. Jared Polis to increase local control over drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

It looks like they're going to pass.

The poll from Benenson Strategy Group asked voters about two of the proposed ballot measures, both backed by Polis, D-Boulder. Initiative 88 would require drilling rigs to be set back 2,000 feet from homes — four times the current state rule. Initiative 89 would create the so-called Environmental Bill of Rights…

The measure changing existing setback requirements to require any new oil or gas well to be located at least one half mile from the nearest occupied structure initially passed 64 percent to 21 percent, then 56 percent to 35 percent after poll recipients were read a series of negative arguments against the measure — the same arguments Coloradans will hear on the campaign trail.

For those who don't know, Joel Benenson is Barack Obama's lead pollster, and his firm has a reputation for accuracy. And as you can see, this was no leading-questions poll: respondents were subjected to the industry's arguments against the initiatives, and they would still pass.

The other measure includes a provision that if state and local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs. It initially passed 64 percent to 27 percent, then, after the negative arguments, it passed 52 percent to 34 percent.

As readers know, the rhetoric over these initiatives has really become extreme in recent weeks, with lobbyist Steve Durham bombastically denouncing Polis as a "terrorist" for supporting them. What we're seeing here is the other side of the coin: strong and enduring public support for better protection of local communities from the harmful effects of drilling.

News coverage of these initiatives so far has been unusually one-sided in favor of the oil and gas industry, and overly focused on the failing effort by Gov. John Hickenlooper to broker a "compromise" that would "keep these measures off the ballot." Lost in that narrative, much to the industry's relief, is something critically important: what the people of Colorado want

But they won't be able to ignore the votes this fall.

In Which a Statewide Vote of the People Becomes “Terrorism”

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

​The Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover updates on the still-sputtering negotiations over a possible–but increasingly unlikely–special session of the state legislature to address local control of oil and gas drilling. The session, were it to be convened, would seek to pass legislation to forestall ballot initiatives to that could more strictly regulate the industry–from allowing local governments to impose larger setbacks between drilling and other development, to even banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") entirely within municipal boundaries.

As Sealover reports, it's pretty amazing what the oil and gas industry can get insiders to say on their behalf:

The Colorado Association of Home Builders' bipartisan lobbying team and six of its board members have resigned in response to the organization’s decision to support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposal to give cities and counties more regulatory power over oil and gas drilling.

The shakeup of one of the most powerful business-industry groups in Colorado — including statements by one of the resigned lobbyists that CAHB seems intent on appeasing a congressman that the lobbyist called a "terrorist" — comes as the governor has said he’ll only call for a special legislative session to consider the proposal if he gets enough support from interest groups to persuade Democrats and Republicans to get behind the plan…

“Governor Hickenlooper has chosen to appease terrorist Polis rather than stating in no uncertain terms that what he is proposing is devastating for Colorado’s economy and should be defeated,” [lobbyist Steve] Durham wrote. [Pols emphasis]

Lobbyist Steve Durham.

Lobbyist Steve Durham.

In truth, many of the conservationist groups supporting one or more of the ballot measures in question are displeased with Rep. Jared Polis for even negotiating with Gov. John Hickenlooper and the oil and gas industry–since they believe, and not without good reason, that a local control ballot measure can pass this fall. Despite this, Polis has expressed support for Hickenlooper's compromise bill, and offered to pull his support for the ballot measures if the compromise effort were to succeed. Without Polis' wealth to back these initiatives, they will naturally be more difficult to pass.

But to claim that pursuing a statewide ballot initiative, the most small-d democratic process that exists in this state or for that matter most anywhere, is tantamount to "terrorism" reveals just how far out of touch lobbyists like Steve Durham are. Our genteel local media is pretty good about sanitizing ridiculous statements like these before the public gets wind of them, so we suspect this won't see much publicity beyond the Denver Business Journal. If they're smart, Durham's friends in the oil and gas industry hope so–Durham might not care what anyone thinks of him, but voters get a little upset about being lumped in with "terrorism" for, you know, voting.

How much contempt does this industry have for the voters of Colorado? If Steve Durham is any indicator, a lot.

Bob Beauprez Breeds Idiocy

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

There was a school of thought leading into the June Primary that Democrats were better off with Tom Tancredo as the Republican nominee for Governor, mostly because Tancredo was thought to be particularly poisonous for Republicans across the ballot. While we certainly understood the logic behind that premise, we'd always believed that Bob Beauprez was just as problematic for Republicans, if not more so, because of his incredible penchant for saying ridiculously stupid things. For all of Tancredo's problems as a candidate, he at least seemed to have figured out how to keep his own feet out of his mouth lately.

Beauprez? Not so much.

As the Denver Post reports today, Beauprez's foolhardy nature seems to infect everyone around him; his campaign can't even put out a prepared statement that doesn't say something dumb:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez on Tuesday said calling a special legislative session to forge a compromise on local control over oil and gas drilling in Colorado is not in the best interests of the state.

In a statement sent in response to Denver Post questions, Beauprez called on his incumbent opponent Gov. John Hickenlooper to " reject calls for a special legislative session that would serve as little more than a tool to force ill-advised policies on the people of our state without debate, deliberation, or discussion."…

…Beauprez wrote that the issue should be resolved during the normal legislative session.

"The governor and the legislature have 180 days to deal with issues they determine to be important enough to warrant new laws. [Pols emphasis] The Colorado taxpayer should not have to finance a special session, just so a bill can be passed that would strip citizens' property rights, and create a chaotic patchwork of different regulatory environments around the state, which would remove any remaining shred of certainty — especially on the heels of six consecutive years of rule changes."

Colorado's normal legislative session is 120 days. [Pols emphasis]

As Post reporter Bruce Finley noted, Colorado's legislature is not in session for 180 days — or anywhere close to that number. The normal legislative session runs from early January to early May, but in recent years has been concluded early as legislative leaders seek to save the state a little money.

How on earth does Beauprez's campaign make such a stupid mistake? It's not like this is just Beauprez talking off the cuff and saying something ridiculous, as he is wont to do. This is a prepared statement that included a foolish error that went completely unnoticed by anyone on Beauprez's staff. This is the Republican nominee for Governor who seems clueless to something as simple as how often the legislature convenes.

Is Beauprez's own peculiar brand of idiocy just infecting everyone around him? Has he had trouble finding staff who actually live in Colorado? What's going on here?

Gardner Recites Every Fracking Fallacy In The Book

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Durango Herald's Brandon Mathis reports, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner has got his talking points on energy down pat.

It's total BS, of course, but he's got great delivery:

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, defended hydraulic fracturing as a job creator and said bans of the practice would kill thousands of jobs “overnight” in a visit to Durango on Sunday.

His “all-of-the-above energy policy” relies on fracking. [Pols emphasis]

“If an energy ban were to take place in this state, you would lose 120,000 jobs overnight,” he said. “Twelve billion dollars in economic activity would walk away and $1 billion in tax revenues that builds roads and schools in this state.

Colorado has some of, if not the most, stringent regulations in place. A hydraulic fracturing ban on the ballot would be devastating to our economy.”

As our readers know, there is no statewide "fracking" ban proposed by anyone in Colorado for the 2014 elections. Because there is no statewide ban proposed, there is no danger of Colorado "losing 120,000 jobs overnight"–not to mention that the "120,000 jobs" figure has been inflated to the point of total absurdity. Does Gardner really believe that every gas station in Colorado would close "overnight" if his fictitious "fracking" ban were to pass?

The only thing more frustrating than hearing this nonsense from a "competitive" U.S. Senate candidate is a reporter who reprints it without even two seconds of critical thinking. This issue deserves better. Voters deserve better.

Koch-sponsored “GenOpp” wants you to know about Udall’s “War on Youth”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You remember Creepy Uncle Sam, who symbolized all that was unknown and scary about the Affordable Care Act. Sam had a fun few weeks to try to frighten consumers out of signing up on the health exchanges. Uncle Sam was everywhere  – on your favorite cable news shows  and web pages. Then, as suddenly as he had popped in, he disappeared, after the ACA signup deadline was over.

Generation Opportunity, or GenOpp, the organization which sponsored the Uncle Sam ads, is still going strong, and working harder than ever to lure young people away from the Democratic fold. GenOpp's media arm is called FreetheFuture, and it is mostly funded by the Koch brothers, via GenOpp, through the Freedom Partners LLC, which has funneled five million dollars into it during 2013, according to an expose by Viveca Novak on OpenSecrets.org.

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Drill, baby, drill?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On a recent Spring day Germany generated over 50 percent of its energy from solar:

Germany, with 1.4m PV systems, generated a peak of 23.1GW hours at lunchtime on Monday 9 June, equivalent to 50.6% of its total electricity need. According to government development agency Germany trade and invest (GTAI), solar power grew 34% in the first five months of 2014 compared to last year.

This is truly amazing and shows what can be done with some wise infrastructure investments and a willingness to tell your local Coal Barons to "suck it". Oh wait, that particular Koch – Colorado's own Bill - has seemingly moved on from coal, while Colorado has most decidedly not and still relies on coal for 66% of its energy

The recent fire and power outage at Colorado Springs' Drake Power Plant has given the city, and the state in my humble opinion, an opportunity to turn its eye towards the future.

But many local business leaders just can't see the obvious benefits of a solar-powered Springs:

The 12 options the City Council is considering for Drake include the costs of building a replacement power source, adding renewable energy, offering demand-side management incentives and adding to Front Range natural gas plant. The best financial option is to keep Drake open for 30 years, according to the consultant's report. Utilities would see a more than $200 million return on its investment.

When Drake is decommissioned, Utilities will need to build a replacement power source, which most likely would be a gas-fired plant. Coal-fired power is produced at roughly half the cost of gas-fired power, but is dirtier.

Utilities is spending about $121 million to install scrubber technology at Drake to meet environmental standards. In June, the Obama administration released a draft of The Clean Power Plan, which calls for reducing carbon dioxide emission at power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

More than 30 coal-fired plants have closed across the county in the wake of strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including emission control.

As an astute politician once said, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." That observation and its ramifications here are quite clear. But, besides coal, there is also Colorado's unnatural reliance on hydraulically fractured natural gas and its "clean" fuel — that comes at such a high environmental and human cost.

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Udall Votes Against Keystone XL Pipeline; Colorado Shrugs

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

As the Denver Post's Mark Matthews reports on today's vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline, a vote on which Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado dissented:

[M]embers of both parties have called the move a show vote because it’s widely believed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t allow a floor vote on the measure, which would fast-track construction of the [Keystone XL] oil pipeline…

Environmentalists have raised concerns about potential spills and the pipeline's long-term effect on the planet. Supporters say it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy and employment.

During Wednesday's debate on the issue, Udall did not speak — other than to cast a "no" vote against the project.

A Udall spokesman later explained the senator's position.

"He believes the technical review needs to be seen through to the end," said Mike Saccone, referring to ongoing administrative reviews of the pipeline that could extend beyond November's election.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported just before the vote:

Udall has indicated he will vote against the measure because he believes Congress should wait until the independent review process is completed before taking action, offering a process-based rationale for voting no while leaving the door open to eventually supporting the construction of the pipeline.

We've talked a few times about the ginned-up political controversy over building the Keystone XL pipeline–more correctly, completing an additional section of the line that would speed the delivery of Canadian heavy crude oil to global export terminals in Texas and Louisiana. As we've noted previously, the question is almost totally irrelevant to Colorado energy consumers, since we already have pipelines from Commerce City to the Alberta tar sands. If you live along the Front Range, there's a good chance you're burning Canadian heavy crude in your gas tank right now. Proponents of the pipeline have put out absurdly overestimated job creation figures to hard-sell the pipeline's construction, along with copious doses of "free market" propaganda.

But the truth is, the only real impact on Colorado energy consumers if the Keystone XL Stage 4 is built will be higher local gas prices. By shipping more Canadian heavy crude across the U.S. to Gulf Coast export terminals to global markets, studies forecast a possible 10 to 20 cent per gallon increase for gasoline in the central states.

With all of this in mind, the Keystone XL pipeline is just not an issue that Coloradans have any vested interest in. The strained arguments in favor of building Keystone XL, and shrill attacks on any opponents, are wasted money on most voters because they simply have no reason to care. Polls do show support for the pipeline's construction, but there's no public outcry for doing so despite all the money spent by the energy industry to "raise awareness." Sen. Udall and President Barack Obama's administration have not come out against building the pipeline eventually, just against going ahead with fast-tracked construction ahead of the project's completed reviews and legal challenges. A case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court challenging the route of the pipeline in that state is the true holdup today, and Udall is on perfectly defensible ground waiting for that to be resolved.

If Republicans want to waste their money attacking Udall on this nonissue, Democrats should let them flail away.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidates on Local Control: Yeah, Right

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports, not that there was ever much doubt, but for the record:

None of Colorado’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s current effort to give local governments more regulatory authority over drilling operations in exchange for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis yanking down his nine proposed regulatory ballot initiatives, with all of them saying that doing so would be, in essence, capitulating to the wealthy Democratic congressman.

Only one of the quartet — former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo — said that he would be open to some measure of local control on some oil and gas issues, while another, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, said he believes drilling restrictions already are too harsh and should be rolled back in order to boost the energy economy in Colorado…

Hickenlooper, Polis and the state’s two largest drillers have agreed on a compromise proposal, but the governor is seeking more industry and business support — enough, administration sources say, to get a number of Republicans to vote for the bill — before he calls a special session.

If one of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates were in office right now, it’s pretty clear that no such negotiations would be underway. [Pols emphasis]

Of the four responses, we have to say that Tom Tancredo’s comes the closest to a reasonable position, at least acknowledging the desire of local communities to have some control over heavy industrial operations like oil and gas drilling within their boundaries. All of them employ Rep. Jared Polis as a scapegoat, although Sealover notes correctly that the resistance blocking the local control compromise legislation is from the energy industry.

As for Scott Gessler’s contention that regulations on oil and gas in Colorado are already “too strict” and should be rolled back to “boost the energy economy,” well, that’s the Honey Badger for you! That will almost certainly be a minority viewpoint among general election voters, but for the purposes of moving out of distant third place in this primary, Gessler’s ready to pander and pander hard.

Bottom line: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s friendly relations with the energy industry are a matter of record, about which we’ve had plenty to say in this space–the good, like bringing the industry and conservationists to the table for strong new air quality rules, and the bad like Hickenlooper’s dubious taste for fracking fluid. Fortunately for Hickenlooper, one of these guys will be the alternative in November–and there will be a clear, or at least clear enough, distinction.

Two More Fracking Ballot Measures Approved; Industry Hardliners Still Won’t Bend

Fracking compromise in Colorado

Um, you know these cards don’t make a useful hand, right?

As we've written about before in this space, a potential legislative compromise agreement on fracking safety, led by Gov. John Hickenlooper, is still being held up by business and oil and gas hardliners who seem content to try to bluff with a hand of mismatched cards.

As the Denver Post reports today, that bluff just keeps looking weaker and weaker:

Two more ballot initiatives that could limit oil and gas drilling have been approved for gathering of petition signatures by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Initiative 88 would require new oil and gas wells to be located at least 2,000 feet from the nearest occupied structure. Current state law establishes well setbacks at 500 feet.

Initiative 92 would give local governments the authority to limit or prohibit oil and gas development within their jurisdictions. The measure proposes that if state and local laws conflict, the more restrictive laws would govern drilling.

Both Initiative 88 and Initiative 92 have received substantial financial backing from Rep. Jared Polis, who has dealt firsthand with fracking on his property in Weld County. Despite having a very personal stake in this issue, Polis has made it clear that he is willing to support a legislative agreement. "Despite the draft not being perfect I stand ready and willing to support the compromise and I appreciate all the work that has been done to craft this bill," Polis said in a statement.

Though no official agreement has been reached that would remove all fracking-related measures from the November ballot, Hickenlooper has managed to bring several key players into the fold. Three of the largest oil and gas companies operating in Colorado — Anadarko, Noble Energy, and PDC — have agreed with Polis to cooperate on a legislative solution. But any potential deal continues to be blocked by groups such as the Colorado Petroleum Association and the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, as well as a handful of some of the smaller oil and gas operations in Colorado. You read that correctly — many of the companies that still oppose any sort of compromise deal aren't even that active in Colorado drilling.

Check out this data on active wells through 2013, via the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR):

O&G Companies Percent of Wells in Colorado Position on Compromise
Anadarko, Noble Energy, PDC 34% SUPPORT
Conoco/Phillips 7% OPPOSE
BP/Chevron/XTO 6.8% OPPOSE

As you can see, the oil and gas companies with the largest stake in Colorado drilling operations are all supportive of a legislative compromise. What's the deal here? Did Anadarko and Noble Energy forget to pay their annual dues to the Colorado Petroleum Association?

Regardless of your opinion on the issue, it's curious that a potential agreement on fracking is still being held up by a handful of hardliners who don't seem to understand that local control is a winning issue. There has been plenty of saber-rattling by industry folks threatening to spend gajillions of dollars to defeat any potential ballot measure this fall, but this appears to be one of those issues that can't just be defeated with a checkbook. Put it this way: if a local control measure makes the ballot in November, would you really bet against its passage? Remember that the Colorado Oil and Gas Association spent nearly $1 million last fall to defeat four local ballot measures…and couldn't prevent any of them from passing. If they couldn't defeat local ballot measures in an off-year election with a crapload of cash, why would anybody think that their odds would improve in 2014?

Still No News On Local Control Special Session Deal

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports on what's known, as of today, about the state of negotiations over local control legislation to forestall oil and gas local regulation measures being readied for this November's statewide ballot. The latest news is…no news:

Draft legislation shopped around this weekend that seeks to clarify powers held by state, county and city authorities in Colorado to regulate oil-and-gas drilling has not won full support by the main negotiating parties, and so a special legislative session tentatively scheduled to begin today in Denver has been postponed.

Officials have said for some time that they hoped to make a deal in June. Governor John Hickenlooper weeks ago asked lawmakers to clear their schedules for the beginning of this week. That Friday’s proposal failed to gain the support it needed to launch the session today seems like a significant setback. Although the governor can call a special session any time, sources have said they want to ink a deal before election-year momentum builds and campaign politics steal progress already made and narrow wiggle room in which to find future compromise.

The draft bill sparked frenzied speculation over the weekend that parties had drawn close to a deal after weeks of stops and starts and that the plan for a special session beginning today was on track.

News this morning that the proposal has so far failed to launch the session will please grassroots groups that have led the movement in the state over the past five years to push back against boom-time natural-gas drilling activity. The groups received the six-page proposal this weekend with frustration and anger.

Rep. Jared Polis, so far the leading backer of any serious effort to pass a local control ballot measure, is reportedly willing to pull his support for the initiatives, if the draft legislation unveiled Friday sees no weakening during legislative debate. Grassroots supporters of greater local control, who aren't happy with the draft legislation, need the support of Polis and/or other well-heeled players to have any realistic shot at winning a statewide ballot fight against what would doubtless be fierce industry opposition. But the reason a special session of the legislature did not convene today is the closely divided body, particularly the Colorado Senate where pro-industry Democrats throw a one-seat majority into doubt, may not be in a position to pass anything.

The question is, would that really be so bad?

It's critical to remember as these negotiations drag on that there is a great deal of public support, as evidenced by the local "fracking" bans and moratoria that have passed in several Front Range residential cities, for strengthening local control over oil and gas drilling. Arguments that a statewide local control ballot measure could hurt Democrats politically are poorly founded and of dubious origin. If the industry and its political allies get cocky, for which the early shrill attacks on Polis betray at least a desire, there's no reason to further try to appease them.

A legislative compromise is the industry's chance to prevent both tighter regulation and humiliation in a statewide vote–and the risk of consequences at the ballot box in November hinges on the industry's willingness to show good faith today. The compromise that Polis says he would accept even as many grassroots activists complain about its weakness is, under the assumption the local control measures can pass in November, as good a deal as the industry is going to get.

If they don't understand that, we say let them learn the hard way.

Log Cabin Republicans’ Tasteless War On Jared Polis Continues

Log Cabin Republicans logo.

Log Cabin Republicans logo.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels keeps the non-AM radio, non-print news world up to date on the Log Cabin Republicans, "the nation’s original and largest organization representing gay conservatives and allies who support fairness, freedom, and equality," and their ongoing campaign attacking Rep. Jared Polis over his support for ballot measures to enhance local control over oil and gas drilling:

The Log Cabin Republicans are back with another attack on Rep. Jared Polis, this time using his background in internet floral delivery to ding the Boulder Democrat over his support for ballot measures that critics say would cripple Colorado’s oil-and-gas industry.

The national conservative group took out a full-page ad in Monday’s Denver Post that featured a bouquet of roses with a card that read, “Dear Colorado: Sorry about the lost jobs, the good news is your energy costs will be higher. Best, Jared.”

The role of the principal LGBT Republican organization in attacking Rep. Polis over these ballot measures invites obvious questions about how this fits with the organization's stated mission:

Some have questioned why the group is targeting Polis, the first openly gay man elected to Congress, but Angelo said the issue is not sexual orientation but sound business policy. [Pols emphasis]

So folks, you're free to accept at face value that the nation's principal Republican LGBT advocacy group is not launching cheeky paid media attacks on the first openly gay man elected to Congress, on an issue totally unrelated to their mission, because Polis is gay. But there's simply no other reason for them to be attacking Polis than the fact that he is gay, and everyone knows it. It's more than stupid for the Log Cabin Republicans to deny it, it's an insult to the intelligence of everyone who hears them deny it. Of course they are attacking Polis because they are gay, and because Polis is gay, and because in a conservative media strategy roundtable meeting, this offensive tokenism made some kind of misguided groupthink sense. At best, this campaign against Polis is a distraction from the Log Cabin Republicans' stated mission, and at worst, it makes a mockery of their mission.

If we had ever given a dime to the Log Cabin Republicans, we'd be on the phone, and we wouldn't be happy.