Colorado CD-6 Debate Night: Where do the Candidates Stand on Fracking?
Against a backdrop of recently leaked emails showing that the Clinton campaign saw opposition to fracking as a losing issue with Colorado voters, incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman is scheduled to appear with his Democratic challenger for Colorado’s 6th congressional district, Morgan Carroll, tonight in a closely watched debate for what is widely considered to be one of the most competitive races in the country.
If the previous debate hosted by Denver’s 9 News for the U.S. Senate candidates is any indication, Coffman and Carroll will likely be asked where they stand on fracking.
Here is what we know:
Republican Mike Coffman
When it comes to oil and natural gas development, Coffman has a record of joining bipartisan opposition to ballot initiatives that would ban fracking in Colorado. For example, in 2014, when a pair of initiatives backed by Congressman Jared Polis threatened to ban fracking in the state, Coffman joined Democrats like then-U.S. Senator Mark Udall and even Andrew Romanoff, his Democrat challenger in speaking out against the measures. As Fox 31 reports:
“Breakthrough advances in energy development have America racing toward energy independence,” said Coffman in a statement. “As a combat veteran myself, I know that means we’ll need fewer combat veterans in the future. I fear Jared Polis’s fracking ban initiatives would undermine Colorado’s contribution to the nation’s energy policy.
Democrat Morgan Carroll
Carroll has taken a hawkish stance against oil and natural gas development. As a state Senator, Carroll teamed up with Conservation Colorado to roll-out their “Coming Soon Arapahoe” campaign launched to turn public opinion, in and around CD-6, against oil and natural gas development. The environmental group’s scare tactics drew a strong rebuke from Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe:
“Following the collapse of the Don’t Frack Denver campaign, Arapahoe County appears to be the next victim of the anti-fracking movement. Another group, Conservation Colorado, targeted our county by releasing a map aimed at scaring Arapahoe County residents into thinking drilling was arriving in their backyard at any moment.”
More recently, Carroll sponsored a bill in the Colorado legislature that “would hold oil and gas drillers liable for any earthquakes.” The measure ultimately failed, but not before a coalition representing economic development and public policy interests published a letter in the Denver Business Journal, raising serious issues with the proposal. From the letter:
“The premise of the bill, that energy development triggers earthquakes, has not been scientifically proven.”
The group went on:
“Colorado does not and has not experienced frequent earthquakes; this legislation plays on unfounded fears to the express detriment of an environmentally-conscious industry that employs tens of thousands of our fellow Coloradans. By singling out this industry, it chills the business environment at a time when the industry already is shedding jobs.”
Top Colorado and National Democrats Reject Calls for Banning Fracking
Fracking has certainly been a key issue in Colorado’s political contests. During a recent debate between the state’s Democrat senator Michael Bennet and his Republican challenger, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, 9 News moderators asked for a yes or no answer to the question “Should local governments in Colorado be able to ban fracking with voter approval?”
As video of the debate shows, Bennet answered unequivocally:
Bennet’s opposition to local fracking bans comes on the heels of recently leaked emails revealing that Hillary Clinton’s campaign viewed primary election ads running in Colorado that highlighted Bernie Sanders’ ban-fracking agenda, as “extreme,” “unfeasible” and “irresponsible.” In other words, the Clinton campaign clearly recognized that an anti-fracking platform will not sell with Colorado voters. From the emails:
“What does that mean? A complete 100% fracking ban. There is no elected dem and I believe no enviro group that takes this position. In fact, such an extreme position threatens the progress of common-sense safety measures like frack fluid disclosure and methane capture/air quality regulations.”
Those points were reiterated in what is apparently a draft statement highlighting the economic and climate benefits of fracking proposed as a response to Sander’s ad:
“Bernie’s call for banning all hydraulic fracturing is, extreme, unfeasible and ignores the contribution natural gas has made to our economy and our efforts to reduce carbon pollution.”
Back in Colorado, the state’s leading Democrats have long-recognized the importance of energy development. Colorado’s Democrat governor, John Hickenlooper has been a stalwart supporter of oil and natural gas development, and a leader against ballot initiatives aimed at driving fracking out of the state.
So with the candidates for CD-6 set to appear in a televised debate later this evening, it is certain that the district’s residents, many of whom work in the energy industry, will want to know whether the candidates stand with fracking supporters like Hillary Clinton and Michael Bennet, or with the extreme “Keep It In The Ground” agenda of Bernie Sanders.