Main­tain Colorado’s rea­soned ap­proach to en­ergy

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Peter Moore Peter Moore is chair of Vi­tal for Colorado.

Af­ter years of en­gag­ing stake­hold­ers, vet­ting en­ergy reg­u­la­tions, and grap­pling with le­gal chal­lenges, Coloradans con­tinue to em­brace a thought­ful and rea­soned ap­proach to re­spon­si­bly de­vel­op­ing our en­ergy re­sources.

Colorado has some of the tough­est, most rig­or­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion of oil and gas in the world, and a wel­com­ing at­ti­tude to­ward new de­vel­op­ment.

For some fringe en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, the tough­est oil and gas reg­u­la­tions in Amer­ica aren’t enough. In 2016, this band of ex­treme voices tried to attack oil and gas de­vel­op­ment on mul­ti­ple fronts.

But time and time again, an­tifrack­ing ac­tivists were soundly de­feated by the forces of com­mon sense and re­spon­si­ble en­ergy de­vel­op­ment.

We saw a small fac­tion of leg­is­la­tors con­tin­u­ing to push a re­jected, nar­row agenda threat­en­ing thou­sands of Colorado en­ergy jobs. Bills aimed at re­dun­dant and over­lap­ping reg­u­la­tory schemes to ef­forts to thwart min­eral rights own­ers all met the same fate. Each time, Vi­tal for Colorado and other busi­ness lead­ers pushed back against these harm­ful pro­pos­als, stop­ping the leg­is­la­tion in its tracks. Repub­li­cans and Democrats killed these bad-for-busi­ness, anti-drilling bills.

Last spring, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists tried to re­call a Thorn­ton City Coun­cil mem­ber for the high crime of, get this, work­ing for an oil and gas com­pany. A hand­ful of the most no­to­ri­ous and well-heeled anti-frack­ing or­ga­niz­ers flooded the com­mu­nity with smears and de­ceit, only to have vot­ers in Thorn­ton slam the re­call door in their face. The Thorn­ton re­call failed for not hav­ing any­where near enough sig­na­tures.

Un­de­terred, this sum­mer, many of the same ac­tivists pushed di­vi­sive con­sti­tu­tional bal­lot mea­sures that would have cut off 90 per­cent of the state from de­vel­op­ing our en­ergy re­sources. These nar­row in­ter­ests tapped into hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from out-of-state en­vi­ron­men­tal groups shar­ing a com­mon mis­sion of ban­ning hy­draulic frac­tur­ing. We saw great fan­fare when they sub­mit­ted their pe­ti­tions to the sec­re­tary of state, but later learned that they were sub­mit­ting many empty boxes with few pe­ti­tions. De­spite this well-funded ef­fort, Coloradans re­jected these dam­ag­ing pro­pos­als by de­clin­ing to sign their pe­ti­tions.

Not to be out­done, many of the same ac­tivists fo­cused their at­ten­tion and flail­ing angst at Amend­ment 71, a bi­par­ti­san mea­sure seek­ing to make it more dif­fi­cult to amend the state con­sti­tu­tion by re­quir­ing greater statewide in­put for con­sti­tu­tional bal­lot pe­ti­tions. Na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal groups spent heav­ily to op­pose Amend­ment 71 equat­ing it to a proxy fight on en­ergy de­vel­op­ment, even though it was no such thing. Green­peace even sent its blimp to Colorado to op­pose the ini­tia­tive. But just like their empty pe­ti­tion boxes, the air-filled blimp on loan from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., failed per­suade lo­cal vot­ers as Amend­ment 71 passed with over 55 per­cent of the vote and win­ning 60 of 64 coun­ties.

The whole­sale de­feat of an­tifrack­ing ex­trem­ists here is no­table be­cause it’s the third year in a row frack­ing foes have lost. Af­ter con­vinc­ing a cou­ple towns to pass short-term bans on drilling, the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity has seen a pair of anti-drilling ini­tia­tives wither on the vine in 2014, the de­feat of a pro­posed frack­ing ban in Love­land, the de­feat of mul­ti­ple anti-en­ergy lo­cal can­di­dates in 2014 and 2015, and a 2016 Colorado Supreme Court de­ci­sion say­ing the en­ergy bans were them­selves il­le­gal and un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Added to­gether, the pic­ture that emerges couldn’t be clearer — the cot­tage in­dus­try of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups op­pos­ing frack­ing have been com­pletely and to­tally re­jected by main­stream Colorado. While pe­ri­odic fights will con­tinue as long as these groups have ac­cess to outof-state en­vi­ron­men­tal donors, the cru­saders against re­spon­si­ble en­ergy de­vel­op­ment have lost cred­i­bil­ity with the pub­lic be­cause they have lost the de­bate.

In 2017, Colorado lead­ers should re-com­mit to de­vel­op­ing en­ergy pol­icy in the right way. That means tough and com­pre­hen­sive reg­u­la­tion of the in­dus­try, and a broad com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing re­spon­si­ble en­ergy de­vel­op­ment here for years to come.

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