The nation has to do better than regional standards to combat methane waste

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In case you missed it, and it looks like Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper may have, NASA scientists descended on the Four Corners region of the southwest to discuss the problem of natural gas waste, which is widely believed to be caused in part by venting and flaring.   

Gov. Hickenlooper deserves to be applauded for his administration’s strong commitment to tackling the wasteful methane emissions caused by resource extraction activities.  It’s great that Colorado stepped up, but his recent suggestion that the BLM shouldn’t weigh-in is misguided at best:

“I think if the states can agree, our soles are on the dirt–the soles of our boots are right on the ground. If we can agree among ourselves then I think we have a stronger case to go back to the BLM and say, “You don’t need to regulate methane emissions[.]’”

Most states with a methane waste problem aren’t doing squat and no one is coming close to what Colorado has done. In fact, Colorado and New Mexico have a big problem, as evidenced by the Delaware-sized methane cloud NASA discovered that is hovering over the Four Corners.  

Because most states haven’t been as bold as Gov. Hickenlooper’s Colorado, it’s time for strong national standards from the BLM to combat a problem that clearly crosses state borders, and the borders between federal, state, and private lands.

The BLM also has a financial obligation to the American taxpayer. Wasting methane from flaring and venting means lost tax revenue (about half of which goes to states)—and waste is something that the BLM is legally mandated to minimize. It’s clear that we need a smart, comprehensive approach to methane waste.

Once Again: Obamacare Audit Yes, Political Grandstand No

obamacares

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports on the signing last Friday of a bill to comprehensively audit Connect For Health Colorado, the state’s “Obamacare” health insurance marketplace responsible for significantly reducing the rate of uninsured in Colorado:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday signed into law a bill ordering a functional audit of Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s official health insurance exchange.

SB 19 authorizes the state auditor to investigate the performance of the “operation, contract management, project management, and performance of the shared eligibility system and any other related or corresponding state systems in order to ensure a complete and thorough audit of the operation of the exchange.”

Confusion over systems that are shared between the state and the quasi-governmental exchange ran rampant as people fell into glitches that botched subsidies and canceled automatic renewals of health plans.

Although Connect For Health Colorado has been a success story overall, signing up tens of thousands of Coloradans for new health coverage and helping reduce the rate of uninsured in Colorado from 17% to only 11%, some legitimate issues have cropped up regarding glitches in the signup system that interrupted coverage for a small percentage of policyholders. There’s a continuous need to sort out legitimate issues with anything related to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, from conservative hysterics and misinformation, but investigations from 9NEWS’ Rittiman and a few others have uncovered real problems that require attention–maybe not from Republicans who want to use any pretext to destroy the system altogether, but definitely from Democrats who want to make the marketplace work.

Senate Republicans introduced the audit bill and were upset when Democrats in the Colorado House of Representatives killed a companion bill which would have also given lawmakers power over bonuses paid to executives with the exchange.

Some Republicans tried to go a step beyond that and kill the exchange altogether.

Giving lawmakers and excuse to grandstand on an annual basis over bonuses for exchange employees serves no functional purpose: only a partisan political one. The difference between essentially trolling the overall highly successful health insurance marketplace every year, compared to legislation to constructively identify and solve legitimate problems that have arisen–which Democrats supported along with Republicans and Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Friday–should be obvious.

If it’s not, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your motives.

Fracking Task Force Falls Flat: Smart Next Steps Needed

UPDATE: Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst slows down talk of a ballot measure, in a new statement that seems to walk back her comments to the Denver Post's John Frank:

“There have been reports that I may favor a ballot initiative. At this time, I believe a ballot initiative conversation is premature and not an avenue I am interested in pursuing. I look forward to continuing conversations with all parties involved, including mineral rights and surface rights owners, industry, environmental organizations, and local governments and communities on how we can best address the tensions caused by industrial activities in local communities.”

As a reminder, here's what Speaker Hullinghorst told the Post earlier today:

“We may just have to go to an initiative on this — I’m not averse to do that,” she said. [Pols emphasis]

None of this can be considered the definitive word, but you can guess that there are some interesting conservations going on right now behind the scenes. As soon as we have new insight on the state of play here, we'll share it. Original post follows.

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Local Control Task Force About To Flunk Miserably?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Mark Jaffe reported this week, the task force appointed last year to study and recommend proposals to improve local control over oil and gas drilling is wrapping up its work–but it's a big and open question what kinds of recommendations the body ultimately plans to make:

After deliberating for nearly five months, the governor's oil and gas task force is still marked by divisions between members seeking more local control of drilling and those representing industry.

A review of the straw-poll voting during the Feb. 3 meeting on 53 proposals made by members shows the six task force members representing industry opposing almost all local-control recommendations.

At the same time task-force members representing local interests pressed for proposals giving communities a greater role in locating oil and gas operations.

Although the panel has been able to unify around a few comparatively minor proposals to make local input on oil and gas permitting decisions a more timely part of the state's existing process, the bigger question of giving local governments a direct role in that decisionmaking has been flatly opposed by the industry's representatives on the task force. We have heard that the recommendations for Gov. John Hickenlooper coming out of this commission may not involve legislation at all, just rule changes to be carried out by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC)–which would be much more limited in scope than statutory changes, and very likely will not satisfy conservationists and local governments who want a meaningful role in these important land use decisions.

We want to stress that until the task force delivers its recommendations, nothing is certain. There's a possibility that the stakeholders can still come together on a substantive proposal, operating on the good-faith assumption that the industry ever had any legitimate desire for that. But from the point of view of anyone but the oil and gas industry and their immediate circle of support, disappointment is increasingly likely based on what we're hearing.

And that means you might be voting on local control next year after all, Colorado! Stay tuned.

Once Again, “Gunmageddon” Fizzles At Colorado Capitol

Empty seats in Colorado House gun bill hearing yesterday.

Empty seats in Colorado House gun bill hearing yesterday.

Yesterday's debate over the repeal of 2013 gun safety legislation, as well as a few new bills to deregulate concealed carry permits and make it easier to transfer machine guns (yes, that's right), featured a number of interesting twists–on the way to an outcome that was more or less a foregone conclusion before the day began. As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

The family of victims of gun violence provided the most dramatic testimony Monday afternoon as lawmakers in separate House and Senate committees debated seven Republican gun bills that loosened gun restrictions, expanded gun rights or overturned gun-control legislation Democrats passed two years ago.

"My sister had a right to life," said Jane Dougherty of Littleton, whose sibling was killed at Sandy Hook. "My sister had a right to grow old. … Nobody ever died from a background check."

Many of the arguments for or against the bills are the same ones lawmakers have heard before, but this time around there wasn't the vitriol that marked the 2013 hearings. Instead of hundreds of Coloradans descending on the Capitol, forcing staffers to set up overflow rooms, there were seats available in the committee rooms. [Pols emphasis]

A total of seven gun-related bills were debated, five in the House and two in the Senate. Everyone literate in the process in the building yesterday knew the Senate bills would make it out of committee, and the House bills would die. It's likely that the Senate bills will pass on the strength of that chamber's single-seat Republican majority, after which they will be sent to die in the same House State Affairs "kill committee" that killed five bills yesterday. All of this is just a sideshow, of course, since even if gun rights supporters were to somehow get any of these bills through the House and to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk, he'll veto them and that's the end of it.

Despite this, both the National Rifle Association and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners heavily promoted yesterday's hearings to their members, urging them to turn out and testify in the large numbers seen when the 2013 laws were up for debate. Last year, the GOP introduced a similar slate of repeal bills, but lost face after the vast crowd of gun rights supporters from 2013 failed to turn out again. The excuse offered at that time by the gun lobby was that the efforts of their members were being directed to the upcoming elections.

So what's the excuse now, you ask?

Dudley Brown, head of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the state's most strident gun rights group, says the reason Monday appeared fairly tame is many members felt they did their work in last year's election.

Except…they didn't.

After all the promises of vengeance against Democrats after the 2013 gun bill brouhaha, and the subsequent recall elections, it's obvious today that the gun issue did not result in the sweeping success for Republicans that Dudley Brown predicted. During a powerful Republican wave election that had everything to do with national political storylines and little to do with Colorado, Republicans took one chamber of the state legislature by a single seat–just like they did in the last Republican wave year. But they did not take full control of the legislature, and they did not elect a governor who will do their bidding. And for good measure, both Democratic seats lost in the 2013 recalls were retaken by wide margins–one of them by the former state director of the much-reviled Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

So what is this "work" that Dudley Brown has done? We know that Brown has raised tremendous sums of money agitating gun owners. But apart from winning a few more Republican primaries last year, RMGO has done basically nothing to create a political climate that could actually bring about repeal of the 2013 gun safety laws. And if that is not their "work," what is? Where is all that money going?

The fact is, yesterday was their chance: to re-energize the gun owning grassroots after the election, and show that the momentum coming out of the 2013 recalls has not been lost. The failure to even fill these hearings–let alone "overflow" areas to accommodate a larger crowd, and nothing remotely like the massive protests in 2013 in and outside the capitol–tells the story of a battle won two years ago, and a war lost today.

DU Study: State Lax In Enforcing Setback Rules For Drilling

setbackstudy

A new study from the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic asserts that "Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is approving oil and gas drilling near homes, schools and businesses without following its own regulations." From their joint press release with the Sierra Club yesterday:

The study recommends the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission (COGCC) reject incomplete drilling permit applications, increase and standardize notification of residents near drilling and fracking, improve online information access and base setback requirements on science and necessary precautions to protect public health and environment.  
 
“The COGCC has a job to do, which is to implement strong regulations and enforce those regulations to protect public health, safety and the environment. When it comes to drilling and fracking near communities, citizens and local government are the ones living with the impacts and their voices need to be ones that are given the most weight in the process,” said Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club.
 
Colorado regulations, in effect since August, 2013, require pads with multiple oil and gas wells located within 1,000 feet from homes, schools and businesses be placed “as far as possible” from those buildings. The governor and COGCC promised increased enforcement of the regulation last fall, but the analysis found no evidence of additional rigor in permit reviews. [Pols emphasis]
 
Student attorneys at DU Environmental Law Clinic conducted a legal review of 1300 permits issued since August, 2013 and discovered 181 were granted, despite incomplete documentation. Those 181 permits accounted for an immense amount of development: 951 wells, 1221 tanks and 932 separators. Most of the 181 permits for oil and gas wells are located in Weld County – others originated in Adams, Garfield, Larimer and La Plata Counties…
 
“We hope that our analysis will help inform the COGCC as it works to meet its goal of protecting the health and safety of all Coloradoans,” said Lauren Bushong, student attorney with DU’s Environmental Law Clinic. “If followed, our recommendations should allow for greater, and more meaningful, public participation in the permitting process.” 

Read the details of DU's study here. The commission tasked with coming up with legislative proposals to improve local control of oil and gas drilling, which resulted form last year's compromise between proponents of ballot initiatives for that purpose and Gov. John Hickenlooper, is set to deliver their report next month. Should the local control commission not produce a satisfactory result in the legislature, it's likely there will be major combat at the ballot box in 2016 over initiatives to enhance local control and/or further regulate drilling at the state level.

You'll recall that one of the ballot measures last year was to increase setbacks for drilling from existing development.

The principal argument made by supporters of the oil and gas industry in Colorado is that the state "already has" strict regulations on drilling. Obviously, the central claim of this study–that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) under Gov. Hickenlooper is not properly enforcing drilling regulations as they exist today–does not inspire confidence in their willingness to enforce stronger protections. But this is information that the legislature and (if necessary) the voting public needs to know.

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Colo. Unemployment Dropped More Than Any Other State in 2014

UPDATE: Colorado Democrats celebrate via social media:

demsunemployment

—–

Good news for Colorado, as the Denver Business Journal reports:

Colorado added 4,700 payroll jobs in December and finished 2014 with an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, the state's lowest since October 2007, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Tuesday.

The state's private-sector employers added 5,500 positions to their payrolls in December, while government jobs declined by 800 from November levels, the monthly CDLE report indicated…

…A separate survey of Colorado households, which does include those job categories, is used to estimate unemployment rates and the size of the labor force.

That survey showed Colorado's unemployment rate having dropped for nine consecutive months. December's 4.0 percent rate was down a tenth of a percentage point from November and down 2.2 percent from December 2013.

Improving Colorado's economy was the major theme of Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election campaign in 2014, and the numbers certainly validate that strategy. Sure, there are plenty of different reasons why unemployment is falling so quickly in Colorado, but no matter how you look at it, this is a big talking point for Democrats. Colorado's unemployment rates dropped faster than any other state in the country in 2014, at a time when Democrats controlled the legislature and the Governor's office.

Senate GOP Kills College Tuition Cap Bill

Student life.

Student life.

Via AP and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, a priority from Gov. John Hickenlooper's State of the State address dies at the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee:

The Senate Education Committee considered a Democratic bill to extend the current 6 percent hike cap indefinitely. The proposal was part of the Democrats' broader agenda this year to rein in costs for the middle class.

For some students at Colorado State University on Thursday, the proposal sounded like a sound idea.

"Making sure (tuition hikes aren't) ludicrous, like a 20 percent jump? I'm for that," junior health and exercise science major Philip Ephraim said.

The 2011-12 school year saw a 20 percent jump for in-state students over the previous year. Tuition had increased by 9 percent annually for the years before and after that year, according to CSU. The Legislature passed the tuition cap last year, but it was not permanent…

Laura Waters Woods.

Laura Waters Woods.

Of course, the 6% tuition cap bill that died yesterday was only "permanent" for as long as the General Assembly wanted it to be. Any such statute can be changed at any time. But in Hickenlooper's State of the State address, he called for tuition at Colorado state schools to increase by no more than 6%, in an effort to control the growth in the cost of higher education. Which, if you haven't heard, has been a big problem in recent years (see above).

But by fewer than 700 votes in suburban Arvada, Republicans are in charge of the Colorado Senate. Sen. Laura Waters Woods and her hard-right colleagues on the Senate Education Committee are expected to be a major roadblock on education issues for the next two years, and yesterday's action lived up to the predictions.

On Thursday, Education Committee members agreed that Colorado has done a poor job of funding higher education, but the GOP-controlled board voted 5-4 on party lines to reject the measure.

Republicans on the committee pointed out that even the 6 percent cap could mean tuition would double in a couple of decades. They called the cap an arbitrary limit on the institutions and an example of "micromanaging" the schools…

It's called gridlock, folks, and it's what's on tap in the Colorado Senate through 2016. The only thing we can tell you, and the student body of Colorado State University, is everybody had better get used to it.

And elections matter. We'll say that again too.

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?

Bob Beauprez Needs to Sell a Shitload of Buffaloes

Beauprez-CampaignFinance

Bob Beauprez owes Bob Beauprez a lot of money.

Colorado Republicans are preparing for a tough campaign for State Party Chair now that Steve House has made it clear that he will challenge two-term Chair Ryan Call in March. There are many reasons why Call is facing a challenge despite a pretty successful 2014 election cycle, but much of the debate involves how money is being spent by the State GOP.

There are two main financial questions that are playing a significant role here. The first, which we've discussed before, is a debate about whether or not the State Party Chair should continue to earn a hefty monthly salary; Call is paid about $8,300 per month by the State Party, and many of the GOP faithful would like to return to the pre-Dick Wadhams era when the Chair earned only a small stipend. 

The second big financial question is about whether the State Party should assist former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez in paying off more than a million dollars of campaign debt. The Republican buffalo rancher — that would be Beauprez — has nearly $1.1 million in outstanding loans from his campaign. Beauprez's campaign committee is also $50,550 in the red, a balance that must be taken care of at some point.

Most of the money loaned to Beauprez's campaign came from his own checkbook, and there is some debate about whether or not the Republican Party should help him raise money to refresh his own coffers. There is also some question about whether Beauprez had a deal with Call to assist him in paying off his rather large campaign debt. Throw in the question of whether Republicans funded efforts to kneecap gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, and you can see where this starts to get complicated.

That this discussion is even taking place is somewhat odd when you consider that the ability to finance a campaign was the #1 selling point of Beauprez as the Republican nominee for Governor; the vast majority of his support in advance of the June Primary came from the knowledge that he was the only GOP candidate with any hope of raising serious money.

It was because Beauprez was able to write checks to himself that Republicans decided to give him another shot at the nomination — should those same Republicans now help pay off Beauprez's debt even though he didn't win in November? The answer to that question may well determine whether Ryan Call still has a job in March.

Hickenlooper Evolves On Legal Weed

Weed, with money.

Weed, with money.

Lots of discussion today about Gov. John Hickenlooper's interview on CBS' 60 Minutes this weekend (video above). One year into Colorado's experiment with legalized marijuana, Hickenlooper's outlook appears to have brightened considerably:

Bill Whitaker: In the beginning you didn't think it was a good idea?

Gov. John Hickenlooper: No. I opposed it. You know, and I opposed it and I think even after the election if I'd had a magic wand and I could wave the wand I probably would've reversed it and had the initiative fail. But now, I look at it and I'm not so sure I'd do that even if I had such a wand. I mean, I think we've made a lot of progress. And, you know, still a lot of work to be done. But I think we might actually create a system that can work.

For context, here's what Hickenlooper had to say last year about marijuana in Colorado in a debate against Bob Beauprez, who openly favored repealing Colorado's Amendment 64:

Asked if he thought it was reckless for Colorado voters to approve legal marijuana in 2012, Hickenlooper kept going.

“I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless,” he said. “I’m not saying it was reckless because I’ll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have done it, right? I opposed it from the very beginning.

“In matter of fact, all right, what the hell — I’ll say it was reckless.”

Back in March, Hickenlooper went even further:

Keeping the state safe in this new era is a top priority for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. "I think our job right now is to regulate it vigorously, make sure that kids don't get it. Make sure people don't drive when they're high. And if it turns out it is harming our state — we're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't — but if it does, we're going to make sure the public hears that as well. Let's say it doesn't work out, I want to be able to say, 'We did everything we could to try and make sure this transition to recreational, legalized marijuana was done effectively, fairly and still didn't work.' And then the voters should look at it again."

We take Hickenlooper at face value on his "evolution" over legal marijuana, since we don't think the apparent success of legalization–both the lack of societal harm or the federal government's so-far tolerance for it–could have been predicted in 2012. Marijuana proponents will of course argue that there was never any real societal danger from legalization, but we don't think it's unreasonable for others to have been skeptical about that. Either way, the experience of marijuana legalization in Colorado is increasingly undeniable: plenty of harm reduction and revenue, with little actual downside. After decades of zero-tolerance criminal prohibition, the last year of the sky not falling in Colorado is proving a lot of people very, very wrong.

And when even beer-baron Gov. Hickenlooper admits it, you can believe it.

ICYMI: Hickenlooper Finally Picks New Chief of Staff

From Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post, Gov. John Hickenlooper has selected well-known Denver attorney Doug Friednash to be his new Chief of Staff:

Friednash, a former state lawmaker, also served as the city attorney for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock before joining the Brownstein firm.

Friednash replaces Roxane White, who resigned last year to oversee a national nursing program serving first-time moms living in poverty. She also served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff when he was mayor of Denver.

Friednash won't officially sit behind his new desk until February 2. Interim Chief of Staff Kevin Patterson will move to a new "Chief Administrative Officer" role within the Governor's office.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: The Final Four

We are finishing up our Top 10 Stories of 2014 by posting the final four all at once.

As we realized while writing the first six entries, there isn’t much that we can say about the biggest stories of 2014 that hasn’t already been written in this space. With 2015 already upon us, it’s time to close this series out.

With that, we give you the entire list of our Top 10 Stories of 2014. Follow the links below for the first six entries, or follow the jump to read the final four in its entirety.

#10: Colorado’s Two-Headed Electorate
#9: Unfinished Business in Jefferson County
#8: Cory Gardner Runs for U.S. Senate
#7: Frackapalooza!
#6: Colorado GOP Goes WTF
#5: So Much for Those Recalls
#4: Republicans Battle Each Other But Take Control of State Senate (below)
#3: Coffman Crushes Romanoff in CD-6 (below)
#2: Hick Finds His Groove, and Another Bad Loss for Beauprez (below)
#1: Gardner Wins Senate Seat, Ending Long Career for Mark Udall (below)

 

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Hickenlooper: Veto Keystone XL

keystone-xl-southern-section-starts-transcanada-1-537x357

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews–didn't see this coming, did you?

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday afternoon that he supported the administration’s pledge to veto new legislation from Congress that would fast-track construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline…

Hickenlooper said Obama, a fellow Democrat, was making the right call in opposing the U.S.-Canada oil pipeline.

“He has not been persuaded that this something in the best interest — long-term — of the United States,” Hickenlooper said. “I know there are a lot of people in Colorado who disagree with that (but) … with the price of oil down as low as it is, I don’t think the Keystone pipeline makes sense.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would speed the passage Canadian heavy crude oil to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf Coast, has become an article of faith for just about every energy industry backer and surrogate in Colorado politics. This is despite the fact that Colorado already has a pipeline connection from Commerce City to Alberta, and the Keystone XL pipeline would never enter the state. In fact, the biggest quantifiable effect completion of the Keystone XL pipeline on Colorado would have is an increase in local gas prices, as Canadian crude is routed to global markets via the Gulf Coast. The campaign trail claims by Cory Gardner last year that Keystone XL would create "thousands of jobs in Colorado" were simply hogwash, unsupported by any objective evidence.

And of course, there is the tar sands are really bad for the planet angle.

With that said, and Gov. John Hickenlooper makes this pretty clear, the biggest reason why Keystone XL is quickly becoming a nonstarter is the plunging global price of oil–which changes the economics of exporting massive quantities of low grade Canadian crude oil, well, anywhere. Now that low oil prices and a glut of supply have taken the immediate pressure off, a rational conversation about this project reveals a high cost with dubious benefits at best to the American economy.

It may not be as satisfying, but sometimes the bottom line speaks louder than a million protesters.