Mountain States

As Activists Retreat on Anti-Fracking Initiatives, Where do Colorado’s Elected Officials Stand?

As Colorado activists retreat from two anti-fracking ballot initiatives admitting that they have “a pretty tough path to victory,” it’s curious that most of the state’s elected officials have been pretty silent on the issue.

Of course, there have been prominent state Democrats like former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former United States Senator and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar who have been vocal in their opposition to the initiatives. Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has also been speaking out against them. Colorado’s business community has said they will be economically devastating for the state.

On the other side, recent campaign finance disclosures show that millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis is putting resources into the ballot initiative campaign. Democratic State Reps. Joe Salazar of Thornton and Mike Foote who represents parts of Boulder County have officially endorsed the measures.

But many of Colorado’s current elected officials and candidates have yet to take a side.

Maybe that’s because anti-fracking measures have frequently been a divisive issue for the state’s Democrats. In 2014, Boulder Congressman Jared Polis backed a similar pair of statewide initiatives but pulled his support after Gov. Hickenlooper described them as “radical” and “extreme measures that would drive oil and gas out of Colorado.” Facing opposition from his fellow Democrats, and a large swath of the state’s business community, Polis withdrew his support of those measures in exchange for creating a task force to study the issue and craft recommendations.

It looks like Democrats’ intra-party division on energy issues has not has gone away. As one source for an in-depth Politico story explains, the ballot proposals create big problems for candidates running in many of the state’s competitive congressional and state legislative districts. Politico reports:

“These fracking measures are a game changer for the election in Colorado. It puts Colorado right back in play and exposes a rift in the Democratic Party on energy issues,” said one oil industry consultant in the state. “This is the last thing Hillary Clinton and Sen. [Michael] Bennet [D-Colo.] want to have happen going into the fall.”

Heightening concern over the initiatives is the involvement of out-of-state activist organizations that are calling the campaign “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year.”

Green Rift on Initiatives

Further complicating the issue are members of Colorado’s environmental community who are not only betting against a pair of anti-fracking measures making the November ballot, they’re also admitting that even if they did manage to collect the required amount of signatures, they’ll have very little chance of winning.  As Politico reports quoting an anonymous activist,

“If I were a betting person, I would not bet they would get on the ballot,” one Colorado environmentalist said of the anti-fracking initiatives, insisting on anonymity to speak candidly. (emphasis added)

Another activist put it more bluntly. As Politico also reports,

“Another environmental advocate in the state agreed that the initiatives have “a pretty tough path to victory” if they do make it on the ballot, adding: “I’d rather not see the measures crushed at the ballot box.””

But the national groups that have descended on Colorado clearly want keep pushing this forward.  For instance, state chapter of the Sierra Club has announced that it has made a sizable donation to the campaign.

Now the big question is: will Colorado elected officials answer mounting questions on whether they stand with their constituents who earn a living developing the state’s energy resources, along with the environmental and economic benefits that come along with it? Or will they remain silent as national activist groups push a damaging anti-energy agenda on the state?


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