Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oil and Gas Task Force Accomplished its Mission, But Democrats Still at Risk

It was never likely Governor John Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force was going to satisfy either its anti-fracking members or the broader anti-hydrocarbon interest groups. They wanted, at a minimum, local control that supersedes state regulations of oil and gas and many wanted an outright statewide ban.

But Hickenlooper, industry supporters and more moderate participants accomplished a number of goals. They created a process that produced some modest improvements for local governments’ effort to manage the industry’s exploration and production. Also important, they improved their position vis-Ă -vis the inevitable ballot initiative. They can now argue that they made the effort and accepted a series of increased regulations in the state with the most regulations. The anti-frackers and anti-oil and gas groups appear increasingly unreasonable and extreme.

Of course, the Governor and his fellow Democratic leaders accomplished their main goal of keeping the initiatives off the 2014 ballot. But, it will be back, and if supporters can find a deep pocket supporter(s) they might get to the ballot and cause problems for Senator Michael Bennet, a more gas and oil-oriented Democrat than Mark Udall. Hence, the recent tension between Democratic leaders in the Colorado Legislature and the Party’s broader leadership. Frankly, it wasn’t clear, even with Congressman Polis funding anti-frackers, if they were going to win in 2014. But, they were likely to be a distraction. The anti-frackers appear to have even less political strength today outside Boulder and the immediate impacted areas.

But the issue is a major test for Hickenlooper and should produce continued political drama.

Denver Post: As Colorado oil and gas task force finishes, obstacles remain
Denver Post: Colorado oil, gas task force sends 9 measures on to governor’s desk
CPR: Hickenlooper: Oil and gas task force recs ‘probably should be enacted’

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