When Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call saw a question on Twitter Friday about working with U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) on an compromise to give control of fracking to nearby communities, he responded quickly: “We shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists.” Call then deleted the tweet and apologized. But Monday, that effort to allow Colorado communities to control fracking is dead after lawmakers, industry figures, and activists were unable to reach agreement and bring a bill to the legislature.
Owen Loftus, communications director for the Colorado GOP, said the organization declined to comment.
What did Polis do to make him similar to people who murder and terrorize civilian populations for political aims — at least in the mind of the head of the state Republican party? He pushed for a bill in the Colorado State Legislature that would have allowed local governments to regulate oil and gas drilling inside their boundaries. At the same time, he is advocating for ballot initiatives that would have much the same effect if passed by Colorado voters in the November election. “My constituents want to see this addressed,” he told the Denver Post as a Colorado bill seemed unlikely Friday. “The people of Colorado are demanding a reasonable balance between energy development and their quality of life,” he said in a statement. “I will not stop fighting for a solution that does just that.”
A number of Colorado cities passed ballot initiatives in November of 2013 banning or putting a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. But a lawsuit from the oil and gas industry contends it’s not legal for them to do so according to state law. A potential local control bill would have allowed compromise — localities could regulate noise, specify a minimum setback distance from homes or businesses, inspect the drilling operations, and implement other regulations as they saw fit.
The push for local control came down to writing a bill that would be acceptable to all stakeholders, including the oil and gas industry, conservationists, and climate change activists. But despite support for a statewide bill from Governor John Hickenlooper, Colorado Democrats announced Monday that a local control bill would not appear during this legislative session. Representative Su Ryden, who was expected to sponsor the bill, said they simply ran out of time on negotiations. “There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of different interests involved,” she told ThinkProgress.
But Representative Ryden told ThinkProgress that community control might not be totally dead in the legislature. There’s a remote possibility of Governor Hickenlooper calling a special legislative session to work on the issue, she said. “I’ve heard people talking about that… If there was hope we could get something we could all agree to I think people would come back to the table.”
The drilling industry is being driven to negotiate by a variety of similar but farther-reaching ballot measures that may appear for a vote November. The 12 measures, promoted by four separate campaigns, would enhance cities’ and counties’ abilities to limit or ban drilling beyond what a community control bill would have done, or allow removal of some corporate rights. The four sets of organizers are collecting signatures necessary to appear on the ballot in November. Representative Ryden wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of addressing community control with constitutional amendments via ballot initiative. “They tend to be rigid and hard to work around once they’re in the constitution,” she said. “I’d like to see a legislative solution.”
This is what GOP Chairman Call described as a “jihad against responsible energy development.”