En­ergy sab­o­tage costs Colorado jobs, blue-col­lar votes

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Ray Scott State Sen. Ray Scott rep­re­sents Se­nate District 7. He is a Repub­li­can.

Elec­tion post­mortems often men­tion how blue-col­lar Democrats aban­doned their party in big num­bers, tip­ping the race to­ward Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. But only rarely do writ­ers link these po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing de­fec­tions to the party’s job-killing en­ergy at­ti­tudes.

Democrats still pos­ture as de­fend­ers of the work­ing class, but many in the work­ing class no longer feel that way, judg­ing from the elec­tion re­sults. And it’s not hard to see why. Work­ing-class Democrats have good rea­son to be wary, given how often they’ve been thrown un­der the bus, or treated as “ac­cept­able losses,” when the party goes to war against “warm­ing.” The pat­tern of cal­lous in­dif­fer­ence to the cli­mate cru­sade’s hu­man costs be­came too ob­vi­ous to ig­nore dur­ing the Obama years, push­ing these folks into Repub­li­can ranks.

Dur­ing these years, Democrats launched a three-pronged at­tack on coal com­mu­ni­ties, us­ing vil­i­fi­ca­tion, lit­i­ga­tion and reg­u­la­tion to de­stroy the mar­ket for abun­dant and af­ford­able fuel. In an­other pan­der to the cli­mate lobby — which now takes the out­landish po­si­tion that all car­bon fu­els should be “left in the ground” — the pres­i­dent de­railed two ma­jor pipe­line projects: Key­stone XL and Dakota Ac­cess.

The pat­tern of knee-jerk naysay­ing hit closer to home two weeks ago, when Obama’s three ap­pointees to the Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (FERC) re­jected ap­proval of an Ore­gon nat­u­ral gas ter­mi­nal, called Jor­dan Cove, through which Colorado could ex­port sur­plus en­ergy via an ex­ist­ing pipe­line. FERC ap­pointees peered deep into a crystal ball and con­cluded, de­spite am­ple ev­i­dence to the con­trary, that there wasn’t enough for­eign de­mand for U.S. nat­u­ral gas to jus­tify the ter­mi­nal.

Jor­dan Cove is more than just a po­ten­tial jobs gen­er­a­tor for Western Colorado; it also po­ten­tially ben­e­fits all Coloradans by pump­ing more sev­er­ance tax rev­enue into lo­cal and state cof­fers, clos­ing bud­get holes that opened dur­ing the en­ergy slump. A promis­ing eco­nomic and fis­cal life­line for the state was thus sum­mar­ily snuffed out, all so the pres­i­dent and the lead­ers of his cli­mate-ob­sessed party can pat them­selves on the back as “pro­tec­tors of the planet.”

It’s true that Jor­dan Cove en­joyed some “bi­par­ti­san sup­port.” Gov. John Hick­en­looper and U.S. Michael Ben­net, D-Colo., backed the project, as have a few other Democrats in states that stood to ben­e­fit. But a sim­ple res­o­lu­tion of sup­port for Jor­dan Cove, brought be­fore the Colorado Gen­eral Assembly last ses­sion, gar­nered a dis­tress­ing num­ber of “no” votes from Colorado Se­nate Democrats on its way to pas­sage. Floor de­bate made it clear that lib­eral ob­jec­tions had noth­ing to do with ex­port mar­kets, and ev­ery­thing to do with — what else? — “cli­mate change.”

Then, in a highly ir­reg­u­lar move, the res­o­lu­tion was sent by House Democrats to a so-called “kill com­mit­tee,” which didn’t quite get the job done thanks to one Demo­crat who wisely voted “yes.” House lead­ers let the clock run out on the 2016 ses­sion with­out bring­ing the bill to the floor, ef­fec­tively sab­o­tag­ing Colorado’s state­ment of sup­port.

Could that glar­ing act of am­biva­lence have strength­ened the hand of FERC ap­pointees al­ready in­clined to kill the project? It’s im­pos­si­ble to say for sure. But it cer­tainly didn’t help Colorado’s cause.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good: The swear­ing-in of a new pres­i­dent, with a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent out­look and ap­proach, of­fers the prom­ise of a ma­jor “re­set” in how en­ergy is­sues are han­dled by Wash­ing­ton — which also means the last word hasn’t been heard on Jor­dan Cove.

FERC’s rul­ing came af­ter Se­nate Pres­i­dent-elect Kevin Gran­tham an­nounced the cre­ation of a new Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on En­ergy and En­vi­ron­ment, which I’m hon­ored to chair. But it’s ex­actly the kind of is­sue I want the com­mit­tee to tackle, given our abil­ity to take a more in-depth look at the wide va­ri­ety of en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues con­fronting the state.

So don’t be sur­prised if this out­ra­geous act of en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture sab­o­tage be­comes the fo­cus of a hear­ing or two in the com­ing ses­sion.

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