Polis helping fund anti-fracking initiative push

Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, showing the fracking operation across the street from his home near Berthoud last summer.

Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, showing the fracking operation across the street from his home near Berthoud last summer.

DENVER — Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, is putting his own money behind a series of possible ballot measures aimed at allowing local communities to ban fracking, which is likely to make this an even more difficult election season for his party’s two top officeholders, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall.

FOX31 Denver has confirmed that Polis is closely aligned with the group “Coloradans for Local Control,” which announced Monday that it has introduced language on nine potential anti-fracking ballot measures for the state to approve.

The group is looking to protect the right of local communities to enact bans on oil and gas drilling.

Hickenlooper, a former geologist seeking a second term in November, has angered many citizens who oppose fracking — mostly Democrats, it stands to reason — by touting the benefits of oil and gas development and by responding to the five cities that have voted to ban fracking by suing two of them.

Polis, who’s made millions from investments in the oil and gas energy, made a lot of noise last August after he was unable to stop a well from being drilled just across the street from his property near Berthoud.

“Literally, overnight a 100-foot tower goes up right at the foot of our driveway,” Polis complained. “This part of our Colorado dream is over.”

Since then, Polis has joined with Hollywood celebrities opposing fracking almost absolutely, also slamming the state’s new air quality rules for the oil and gas industry that Hickenlooper, energy executives and environmental groups have all hailed as a new national standard.

Multiple high-level Democratic sources tell FOX31 Denver that Polis is aligned with the local control group behind the ballot measure push, paying for research and polling on the issue, and that he and his network of anti-fracking donors are considering putting even more money behind the a fall campaign, should a ballot measure be certified.

When asked directly about the congressman’s involvement, his office was coy.

“While Congressman Polis believes that hydraulic fracturing is an important part of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, he has long believed that homeowners lack sufficient avenues to protect their health, property, and communities from the negative impacts that can sometimes accompany fracking,” said Scott Overland, Polis’s communications director.

“He hopes that there will be a legislative fix to address this issue, but if that is unsuccessful he will be supportive of a ballot initiative that protects communities and homeowners.”

A campaign to gather signatures to put a measure on the November ballot is likely cost more than $300,000; and the television ads that’ll be necessary to combat the inevitable industry-financed campaign opposing the measure will put the tab for the overall effort somewhere in the millions.

But Polis’s move, which amounts to planting even more mines in what is already a minefield of an issue for Hickenlooper and an increasingly vulnerable Sen. Mark Udall,  could come at some cost, further alienating the financially and politically independent congressman from the Democratic power base in the state.