When Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis struck a deal to keep two anti-fracking initiatives off the November ballot, there was hope that maybe the issue was on a path toward rational resolution.
I’m starting to wonder, though, if that optimism may be short-lived.
It was recently reported that activists opposed to hydraulic fracturing are pushing hard to be represented on the 18-member task force Hickenlooper will name to study oil and gas development in the state. That panel was created as part of the last-minute compromise that avoided a costly, ugly battle over the ballot measures.
Now, I have no problem with opposition views being heard in the energy debate. As I’ve written before, I may not agree with everything the Environmental Defense Fund says and does, but the group at least takes a pragmatic, real-world approach to industry issues.
In Colorado, however, some of the people who have submitted applications to be members of the task force are not being completely up-front about who they are. I do have a problem with that.
As Energy-in-Depth noted, one of them is Anthony Ingraffea, who has been described as an “implacable fracking opponent.” He never states in his application that he appeared in Gasland Part II, saying that “fracking can never be done safely.” Nor does he disclose that he helped Yoko Ono create Artists Against Fracking, which later went on to set up Frack Free Colorado.
Then there’s Jim Ramey, head of Citizens for a Healthy Community. In his application, he wrote, “If given the opportunity to serve on this panel, I will work hard with diverse stakeholders to reach consensus on this difficult issue.” All of which sounds good until you see that Citizens for a Healthy Community calls fracking “dangerous and life-threatening” and wants to ban it altogether.
This tells me that the environmentalists in Colorado aren’t going to let go, the Hickenlooper-Polis deal notwithstanding.
In fact, on Aug. 18, two activists filed a petition with the state to put on the 2015 or 2016 ballot a measure that would create a constitutional amendment making clean air, water, and natural resources public commodities. But here’s the kicker: It says that energy companies would be liable for damages if an “action or policy has a suspected risk” of impairing those commodities and would force them to prove that energy development is safe even “in the absence of scientific consensus.”
(Of course, it’s probably also not a stretch to say that if the activists don’t get places on Hickenlooper’s task force – and, frankly, they shouldn’t, because they want to ban and not regulate the process – then they’ll just howl about “unfairness” and dial up the heat on their rhetoric.)
In the middle of all this, I have to wonder what’s going on with Polis.
The millionaire congressman caught a lot of criticism for withdrawing the two anti-fracking measures he said he’d bankroll. Then late last month, speaking to a newspaper editorial board, he said that if the state legislature did not act on whatever recommendations emerge from the task force, the fracking bans could be back on the ballot. “I think that’s likely,” he said.
Additionally, a member of an anti-fracking group from Weld County said Polis told them the compromise “does not mean there won’t be a ballot fight in 2016, a more favorable time.”
Hickenlooper’s office has said he wants to populate the task force with members “with the attitude to get to yes.” I wish him luck. Because it sounds as if the activists, perhaps emboldened in part by Polis’ seeming retreat from the compromise, will stop at nothing to keep that from happening – and to get bans back on the ballot.