Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ground Zero for National Fracking Battle; Anti-Fracking Group Attracting Widespread Resistance

Fresh from their November municipal victories and fueled up with new money, Front Range anti-fracking activists shifted their attention to promoting statewide fracking bans. However, their initiatives have produced a powerful reaction that has already activated local governments from across the state and leadership of both parties in strong opposition.

The Democratic Party leaders, such as former governors Bill Ritter and Roy Romer, are aware not only the mischief the initiatives could do to state regulation of business and the economy, but in fact, they could tear the Democratic Party apart and hurt John Hickenlooper’s re-election.

Most of the initiatives are positioned as just “local control” or mere “distance from rig to residence” limits, but they could easily translate into broader bans, fulfilling the activists’ and their funders’ ultimate goal of limiting as much as possible the state’s gas and oil industry.

The gas and oil industry is already spending millions in media, public relations and consultants to oppose the initiatives. The campaign from a group titled, Coloradans for Responsible Energy, has been on television since November and is now using large inserts in state newspapers and magazines.

Also, the broader business community, recognizing the danger to the economy from the anti-fracking activists, have begun organizing through a group called, Vital for Colorado, and has been successful getting ahead of the initiative process. Their first full-page advertisement with a headline, “Energy Chaos in Colorado,” appeared March 16 in the Denver Post. More than 150 local government officials signed a letter in opposition to the “local control” initiative as an anti-jobs and anti-economic development proposal when tough fracking regulations are already on the books.

Fortunately for the business community, this appears to be a very good year to stop extreme environmental initiatives.

·       Energy independence, always a goal of Americans, is in even sharper relief today given the manipulation of European natural gas markets by Russia.
·       The Democratic Party leaders and voters are especially sensitive to maintaining a pro-jobs and strong economy approach for fear of losing the U.S. Senate and various local races.
·       The November electorate is likely to be skeptical of initiatives that offer ill-defined regulatory schemes and whose consequences could raise prices or cost jobs.
·       More than two-thirds of the public supports the Keystone Pipeline in spite of the extreme rhetoric and threats of environmental activists. Energy independence, jobs and the benefits of natural gas vs. other fuels has undermined the “anti’s” position.
Colorado is ground zero for the national fracking battle. The fight will be expensive. Contrary to last November’s anti-fracking sweep of local cities, the business community and energy industry have strong arguments and numerous allies.

“I think this will be the test case. The East and West Coast environmental groups and big money are putting everything in here,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “I think they would go to California, except it’s too expensive and the governor there is also opposing it strongly. So we’re now ground zero in the battle over fracking in this country.”

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