Tag Archive for Frackenlooper

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.

Boulder County succumbs to bullying

Vote endangers public's health and property and puts Democracy at risk.

GARY WOCKNER is the  Colorado Program Director for Clean Water Action, Fort Collins

The environmental community — and our organization, Clean Water Action — was extremely disappointed to see the Boulder County commissioners cave in to the oil and gas industry. The commissioners could have extended the moratorium on drilling and fracking and spared the toxic pollution and trespass that this rogue industry will now splatter across Boulder County.

Fracking causes air and water pollution, has been shown to increase cancer risks, and reeks havoc on nearby homes and families. In addition, methane escaping from fracking operations and the burning of natural gas is a significant contributor to climate change.

Shame on the commissioners for not protecting their citizens. Their vote endangers the public’s health and property and further puts our Democracy at risk.

DSC_0395_EliseJonesHickenlooper 2That said, we were happy to see Commissioner Elise Jones try to persuade the other two commissioners to extend the moratorium. Commissioner Jones’ grit and leadership was apparent and appreciated a few weeks ago when she took on (and beat!) Gov. John Hickenlooper in the fracking debate at the University of Denver. And again, Commissioner Jones stood up for the publi when she supported the extension of the moratorium.

Gov. Hickenlooper is a bully, and the oil and gas industry is an even bigger bully with billions of dollars. Commissioner Jones: Please keep standing up to these bullies, and please keep speaking out against the frack attack coming into Boulder County.

Frackenlooper: No “Fair Witness”

Oil and gas lobbyists call him "a stud."

Hickenlooper 2On May 2, Gov. Hickenlooper participated in the FrackingSENSE lecture series at the University of Colorado. There he stated that he wants to be a “fair witness” of oil and gas development (particularly of fracking) in Colorado. 

The term “fair witness” was introduced in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. In this book, a fair witness is defined as an individual trained to observe events and report exactly what he or she sees and hears, making no extrapolations or assumptions. I would venture to say Hickenlooper is anything but a fair witness when it comes to fracking.

Frackenlooper ButtonConsider that he has appeared in paid advertisements for the oil and gas industry claiming that fracking is safe. He has been called a “stud” by oil and gas lobbyists, hardly an impartial reference. He intentionally misled a Senate hearing committee and the press with his claims of drinking fracking fluid, which in reality was not the kind of highly toxic and carcinogenic fracking fluid that is routinely used throughout Colorado. He has sued a local community, Longmont, for imposing a ban on fracking. He has not only continually threatened to veto just about any bills that would strengthen regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, but has pressured Democrats to kill such bills before they even reach his desk so he can avoid looking like the bad guy.

At this same conference Hickenlooper stated that “if we find unhealthy air quality around a community and something coming out of a well that is an issue, we will put the brakes on faster than you can imagine.” Oh really? NOAA recently reported air quality in Weld County that is worse than Los Angeles and Houston and is directly related to oil and gas activity, yet there is no slowdown on activity there. And a recent gas leak near Parachute allowed a carcinogen to seep into the ground near a large creek that feeds into the Colorado River, and I have yet to hear of any “brakes” being applied there.

Probably the most alarming statement that Hickenlooper made at the FrackingSENSE event is that the science on the impacts of fracking is far from settled and that scientists don’t know the impacts of wells on air and how that might affect the health of nearby residents. If this is true, then why are we continuing to drill, baby, drill? Shouldn’t we be implementing the precautionary principal and putting the brakes on fracking until we know the answers to these important questions? Shouldn’t we be putting state money toward studies that would answer these questions instead of toward costly lawsuits against residents who are trying to protect themselves? Instead, Hickenlooper’s appointee to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Urbina, specifically testified against HB 1275 that would have produced a study on health impacts.

The fact that our governor is saying one thing but doing completely the opposite leads me to believe that he is certainly no fair witness to oil and gas development and fracking but instead is a colluding representative of the industry.

Frackenlooper’s unholy alliance

Dear Governor Frackenlooper,

I come by my Democratic credentials much like USAA insurance.  My father was a +50 year member of the IBEW; my senior speech in high school was on provision 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act.  A trip to the Ludlow Massacre site was a nice family drive on a Sunday afternoon.  I have been steeped, like a teabag, in a soup of labor law and collective bargaining jargon. “Kellogg, Brown and Root” plus “Halliburton” were dinner topics  in our household growing up.

It pains me, then, to have to leave the only political party which I have held in high esteem, a party that has been ready to protect the worker and our rights to a decent, living wage and the principles of due process.

I have regularly sent checks to the Colorado Democratic State House and Senate campaign funds, the national funds, President Obama, John Kerry, Bill Clinton and even Michael Dukakis.  Jimmy Carter will always be my personal hero.

I have been a committed member of the teachers’ union for more than 30 years, carried a picket sign in the 1976 teachers’ strike, been a precinct committee person, a canvasser, a poll watcher and an election judge.

HickenlooperThe Democratic Party cannot count on me from now on.  I will be a spoiler, a Ralph Nader – ready to split the vote from here on out.  You, Governor, give me no choice.  You and your friends, former Governor Ritter, Senator Bennet, and Phillip Anschutz, among others, have chosen to support the Oil and Gas lobby against the citizens of the state of Colorado.  You are no better than Governor Elias M. Ammons, calling  in the National Guard against defenseless miners at Ludlow in 1914.  You have formed an unholy alliance against the people of Colorado; you have chosen money over the public good.  You need to be recalled!!

Once a geologist, always a geologist!

Elaine M. (Earnest) Doudna

 

P.S. If you think that my salutation is disrespectful, please consider your threat to sue municipalities that ban fracking as insulting !   We are just shaking in our shoes.. OOoooo!!! I just feel like Daddy has taken us to the wood shed for a good whoopin’.

‘Cultural divide’ shapes Colo.’s clash with city drilling rules

Mike Soraghan is a reporter for Energy Wire, and division of E&E News. Free Range Longmont extends a heartfelt thanks for the gracious permission given to republish his article. Visit E&E News and Energy Wire for great coverage of both energy and the environment.

EnergyWire:

 

LONGMONT, Colo. — Kaye Fissinger can point to where every oil and gas well will be drilled around Union Reservoir. Not that she’s welcoming them.

As a breeze broke the stillness, lifted the branches of shade trees and pushed a small catamaran across the small lake on a Wednesday afternoon last month, she pointed to the one already there.

In the distance was a beige tank battery, the pipes, tanks and other equipment that remain after a well is drilled. It is the first of eight wells expected to be drilled at the city park around the lake under an agreement between the driller and the city government.

“Look at what it’s going to do — derricks, trucks, tank batteries …” said Fissinger, activist and campaign manager for a local anti-drilling effort called “Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont.”

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The question of whether there will be more derricks, wells and tank batteries is the subject of a legal fight between that same city government and the state focused on who can regulate drilling. The City Council passed rules in July barring oil and gas wells from residential neighborhoods. Within days, the state sued to block it.

Longmont is where the spread of drilling on Colorado’s high plains, spurred by advances in hydraulic fracturing, is slamming into the sprawl of Denver suburbs along the state’s Front Range. It is not the first place where advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have pushed drilling deeper into suburban and even urban areas.

State officials have banded together with the oil and gas industry to head off regulation by both federal and local governments, arguing simultaneously against a federal “one size fits all” approach and the “patchwork” that would be created by giving cities and counties control over exploration and production.

In Pennsylvania, local governments sued the state after the Legislature passed a measure limiting local control over drilling. In New York, drilling companies such as Colorado-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. have been losing legal challenges to local bans.

But the Colorado suit is the first case in the nation’s current drilling boom in which a state agency has gone to court to prevent a local government from asserting jurisdiction over drilling. The city’s formal response is due by Friday.

The plaintiff in the suit is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state body charged with policing and promoting development. But Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has led the charge against Longmont’s ordinance, calling Longmont’s rules “to a certain extent too forceful” in a recent speech and saying they would put “intense pressure” on other local governments to create a patchwork of different rules.

“I think there’s got to be a limit to it,” Hickenlooper said (EnergyWire, Aug. 16). “We literally begged Longmont not to go forward.”

Drilling in suburbia

Anti-drilling critics have taken to calling the popular governor “Frackenlooper.”

Those critics say exempting oil and gas from city zoning amounts to special treatment for a powerful industry that endangers people’s health.

City governments can generally decide where to allow factories, convenience stores, subdivisions and strip clubs. State governments such as those in Pennsylvania and Colorado are asserting that those city governments have no such say about oil and gas production.

“Name another industry to me that doesn’t have to comply with local, disparate zoning regulations,” said Michael Bellmont, another Our Longmont leader, sitting in his long-term care insurance office in Longmont’s trendy Prospect New Town district.

In Texas, where drilling is more entrenched in the culture, cities do have jurisdiction over oil and gas wells. Two years ago, the Texas Legislature rejected efforts to give the state’s oil and gas agency — called the Railroad Commission — authority over drilling in cities.

“The state has very minimal guidelines for where you can drill. What the cities have done is try to fill in the blanks,” said Terry Welch, a lawyer who represents cities in Texas. “The cities said, ‘Why should every city have the same rules?'”

But some local officials agree that rules should be uniform across the state.

“COGCC rules in Colorado work well for the industry,” said Bonnie Finley, a Longmont City Council member who opposed the zoning ordinance, “and I think that’s all we need.”

Driving north out of Denver on Interstate 25, sprawled-out townhouse complexes slowly give way to cows, hay farms and then pumpjacks, frozen in time. Just off the highway, one pumpjack gyrates slowly next to a line of frack trailers, looking like a cow chewing its cud next to the thoroughbred barn.

Four miles closer to the mountains, Longmont restores the suburban feel. But it is still a town of contradictions. It is a former farming town on the western edge of Colorado’s High Plains. But it is on the eastern edge of Boulder County, home to the University of Colorado and the famously liberal county seat of Boulder. The city has both the county fairgrounds and the “Anti-Corporate headquarters of Oskar Blues Brewery.”

Longmont does not have the history with extractive industries that some of its neighbors do. In the decades before Denver’s growth spilled into the area, pumpjacks were common to the east in Weld County. Not in Longmont, though, where the economy revolved around agriculture. People who moved there in the 1990s and early 2000s had little indication they might find themselves dealing with drilling.

“It’s a cultural divide,” said Sean Conway, chairman of the Board of Commissioners in neighboring Weld County. “They don’t have the benefit of experience and battles fought.”

Powerful forces

Fissinger, the anti-drilling activist who moved here from California in 2006, wants Longmont to retain some of that unique identity. Driving through Firestone, the city to the east of Longmont in the more growth-friendly and agribusiness-oriented Weld County, she started pointing out each beige tank battery.

“There’s a tank battery. … There’s a battery,” she said. After just a few moments, it started to seem pointless, like pointing out burgundy cars on the interstate.

“That’s what I mean,” Fissinger said. “We don’t want Longmont to be another Firestone.”

And that is why her group is taking things a step further than zoning wells out of neighborhoods, pushing for a total ban on hydraulic fracturing with a proposal that will be on the city’s ballot in November (it would not cover drilling without fracturing). If it passes, it will likely be subject to the same legal challenges as the zoning ordinance.

Oil and gas drilling companies say Longmont and Firestone, and other areas of the state, should have the same rules. The industry says it needs a “predictable regulatory environment” and that allowing Firestone and Longmont to have different rules slows permit approvals. In comments sent to the city in February, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) noted that state officials process about 5,000 permits a year, which result in the drilling of about 2,000 wells each year in the state.

“If each well approved by the state is also forced into a months-long local permitting process, the number of wells annually drilled in Colorado would plummet, along with tax revenues, economic activity and jobs,” the industry association wrote in comments to the city.

Powerful forces are arrayed around this fight. Fissinger’s group is getting help from Food and Water Watch, a national environmental group that split off years ago from the Public Interest Research Group and now has an $8 million annual budget.

Longmont’s elections have been shaped by the American Tradition Partnership, a conservative group based inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway that has been active in state and local elections in Montana, Oklahoma and Virginia and pressed a pro-drilling agenda in Colorado’s Garfield County.

And Hickenlooper, a popular governor whom some envision as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, has come down firmly on the side of industry. Hickenlooper became prominent in Colorado as a brew-pub pioneer in Denver. But before that, he was a petroleum geologist.

Hickenlooper did a radio ad earlier this year for COGA, asserting the industry talking point that since rules were created in 2008, the state hadn’t “had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”

But oil and gas commission spill records show 255 incidents in which groundwater was “impacted” during 2009, 2010 and 2011.

And before the new rules, Colorado was already the scene of a few of the nation’s highest-profile groundwater contamination cases.

‘Once they invade, they’re here’

Laura Amos of Silt, Colo., blamed hydraulic fracturing chemicals for the rare tumor she developed after a well near her home blew out in 2001 during the fracturing process. State regulators concluded fracturing was not to blame for the problems but fined the operator $99,400 because gas was found in her well.

Nearby in 2004, a drilling crew poured a faulty cement seal around another well in 2004 that allowed gas and benzene to seep into a nearby stream, called West Divide Creek. The state hit Encana Corp. with a fine and declared a drilling moratorium in the area for several years.

People complained in 2009 that gas was once again seeping into the creek, but the state rejected the claims. The residents’ complaints were detailed in the 2010 anti-drilling documentary “Gasland.”

In 2008, COGCC asked gas drilling companies to investigate whether they had contaminated the drinking water at Ned Prather’s hunting cabin near DeBeque, Colo. (Greenwire, Oct. 12, 2009). Tests showed the water had benzene and related chemicals at a concentration 20 times the safety limit. The companies determined they had not caused the contamination. The state went back, hired its own consultants and fined the lead company more than $400,000.

Through a spokesman, Hickenlooper declined to comment beyond what he’d already said publicly.

In Longmont, groundwater around a well 360 feet from a middle school has been contaminated with carcinogens such as benzene, which was measured at almost 100 times the state limit.

Underscoring some of the dangers of drilling, the same day Fissinger pointed out the tank batteries in Firestone, a well blew up and killed a 60-year-old well worker not far away in the Fort Lupton area of Weld County (Greenwire, Aug. 17).

State and industry officials say that Colorado has some of the most comprehensive state rules in the country. Even if that is true, state oil and gas regulation across the country is looser than regulation of other industries and is characterized by minimal fines and built-in conflicts of interest (Greenwire, Nov. 19, 2011).

Industry is guaranteed three seats on Colorado’s nine-member commission, down from five of seven in 2007 (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2011). And its mission is to “foster” development while also protecting health. To Finley, whose day job is with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, something of a state chamber of commerce, that makes sense.

“You want people who know what best practices and safe practices are, and those are the people from the industry,” she said.

But it leaves Fissinger and her colleagues with little faith that the state will protect residents from the ills of drilling. She and her fellow drilling opponents say the state agency is interfering with rights granted in the state constitution, including residents’ right of “seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”

Camouflaged with beige paint against the arid, drought-darkened landscape, the tank batteries at Union Reservoir don’t leap out like a neon sign for a strip club or car wash. Even if they’re not that hard on the eyes, she said, they can still be rough on the lungs and the rest of the body.

She added that Colorado has only 17 full-time field inspectors; state officials note that an additional 20 people conduct oil and gas inspections as part of their work.

“Air pollution, fugitive gases, spills,” Fissinger said. “By the time they get around to looking at it, the damage is done. Once they invade, they’re here.”

Click here to see Longmont’s final zoning rules.

Click here to see the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s comments on Longmont’s proposed oil and gas zoning rules.

Click here to see the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s lawsuit against Longmont.

 
The City of Longmont’s answer to the COGCC complaint can be found here.

The curtains are sheers

Who is that man behind the curtain trying to fool?  I suppose it’s the “uninformed voter.”  Or perhaps it’s those who believe television and radio commercials. Or maybe it’s piggybacking on the groundwork that has been so tirelessly laid by Republicans to scare the bejesus out of the population.

We’re going to have gasoline that costs $10 a gallon.  My shower is going to run cold.  I’m going to need a half dozen blankets to stay warm in the winter.  I’m going to cook in my home in the hot summer.  No.  No.  NO NO NO NO NO!

Or maybe he doesn’t even care if we’re fooled.  Maybe it’s a matter of creating a political trail for additional campaign contributions.  Or maybe its groundwork for higher office.  Just think of the power of the presidency, especially if you have a like-minded, bought-and-paid-for Congress who won’t stand in your way.  Mighty stimulating, wouldn’t you say?

Heads-up, Governor Hickenlooper, there is enough of us out here in Colorado and along the Front Range who will make it a mission to see to it that you are not successful – regardless of your motive.  We value our rights to health, safety and welfare; and we intend to protect them.  Make no mistake, our call is clarion.

 ~

How often has your phone rung over the last five or six months?  And who was on the other end of those calls?  Let me guess.  Tisha Schuller (Executive Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association)?  Stan Dempsey (President of the Colorado Petroleum Association).  David Neslin (Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) or his newly-appointed clone.  Any number of CEO’s from the major oil and gas companies that are drilling and fracking throughout Colorado.

And just why might they have pressed the panic button?  Could it be that several Colorado counties, towns and cities have said, “Hold on now.  Wait just a @#$%^&* minute! We don’t want no damned drillin’ and frackin’ by our homes, our schools, our parks, our reservoirs.  Just who the hell do you guys think you are?”

 ~

Senator Ted Harvey’s bill (SB12-088) which would have removed all local control over oil and gas drilling fell flat on its hideous face in the Local Government Committee of the Senate with the help of a packed room full of Colorado citizens who were furious, disgusted and legitimately fearful.

Your buddies in the House—yes, the REPUBLICAN House and YOU a Democrat – slapped down local-control efforts and reaffirmations and even killed severance disclosure.  All this even though the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is already nothing more than a shill for the oil and gas industry.   That still wasn’t good enough.

You had to make damned sure that a rowdy public – growing in numbers by the hours, days and months –  didn’t get any traction, much less results.

 ~

Frackenlooper digs in against communities

So along comes your Executive Order, Governor John Hickenlooper, an order to create a “Task Force on Cooperative Strategies Regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development.”

You remind us in your order of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act and its authority, but never mention that the COGCC’s main mission is to facilitate oil and gas development in the state with barely an afterthought to the subservient portion of public health, safety and welfare.

You speak to case law as if we are to accept that matters of rulemaking are essentially settled law.  But you give away a secret.  The industry doesn’t want to go to court and litigate, on a case-by-case basis, what is or is not a local regulation that is in “operational conflict” with state regulations.  As you state, “Parties hesitate to pursue resolution in court because proving operational conflict is an adversarial, cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive process.” (Readers, take note where the burden lies in the above quote.)

So you want everyone to play nice on the playground and work “collaboratively.”  We know how to read that, Governor Hickenlooper.  You’re going to have the task force pretend to listen, pretend to accommodate the public, and to delay, delay, delay while the COGCC diddles around over process and the development of the role of the Local Government Designee until the operators get as many drills in the ground as they can and then the entire issue becomes MOOT.

 ~

And then there’s the matter of the make-up of your Task Force.  Kangaroo Court is the phrase that comes to mind.  It goes well beyond the balance, or rather imbalance, of the categories themselves to the biases of the actual appointees.  And I see a stacked jury.  I see two, maybe three, at the most four, of the chosen ones who actually will represent the people, local communities and the environment.  And here might be a good place to insert the comment made by Department of Natural Resources Director Mike King, the task force chair, that there is not enough time to work through everything and come to a consensus.  Translation:  The answers will be by majority and the majority is predetermined.

I’ll give you this much, Governor Hickenlooper, the scope of the task force as outlined in your Executive Order is admirable.  You’ve got Mission.  You’ve got Substance.  You’ve got Process.

Some pretty important stuff is delineated under the substance portion of the order.  Things like setbacks and other restrictions on location of oil and gas wells and production facilities.  Things like floodplain restrictions, noise abatement and dust management.  Things like protection of wildlife and livestock.  And air quality.  And then there are operational methods, perhaps like closed-loop systems.  And traffic.  And financial assurances.  And there’s also inspection and fees.

Oh, but there’s a hitch in this git-along.  We’ve already got jury instructions and they’ve pretty much skipped right over that substancy thing.  So, no, Governor Hickenlooper, it’s not working for us.

Mr. King, as with any good bureaucrat, is most interested in process not substance.  He’ll leave that stuff to the big boys over at COGCC.  He’s already predetermined that there will be two subcommittees:  one on “development of a process for local concerns to be brought to the COGCC through the Local Government Designee,” and the second on protocols and training for local inspectors (though not enforcers).

And then there’s King’s Part 3.  He admits that the reason the matter of oil and gas drilling has such visibility throughout Colorado is the issue of jurisdiction.  He admits that it is likely to be the most controversial.  Oh, but wait.  He says that “maybe it’s the least important.”  How can that be, you might ask.  Well you see, he’s already figured out that the first two will provide the itty bitty local governments an opportunity to request (not necessarily be granted) a VARIANCE from state standards.   These variance requests will be neatly, pat-on-the-head neatly, “considered” by the COGCC.

And with that, and only an hour into the meeting,  Mr. King set up weekly meetings for Thursdays, between 9 AM and Noon and postponed subcommittee selection until the next meeting on March 15.  Go figure.  All this foot-draggin’ and the the task force is supposed to report back to Governor Hickenlooper in a mere six weeks.

And then there’s this.  There may a glitch on audio streaming of the meetings.  If the full task force has to meet in a different room, it probably will have audio streaming.  But the same cannot be said of the subcommittee meetings.  Well, golly gee, isn’t that special.  Whatever guts and glory there might be in these proceedings may actually be conducted behind closed doors at least for those who are unable to trek all the way into Denver to sit and listen.

Governor Hickenlooper, you’re off to a very poor start.  But then you didn’t mean for this effort to be genuine in the first place.  Now did you?