Lawmakers run out of time on fracking local control compromise
DENVER — A long effort to forge a last-minute compromise to cede more control of oil and gas drilling to local communities has come up short.
House Democrats announced Monday morning that they’ve made progress on a compromise around local control legislation — but not enough in time to introduce that bill Monday, the final day that a bill could be introduced in time to pass both the House and Senate by the end of the legislative session on Wednesday night.
“Our conversations have been productive, but we haven’t yet struck an accord with all of the stakeholders, and we’ve run out of time in this session to pass consensus legislation,” said a joint statement from House Majority Leader Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, who led negotiations, and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, who would have been the sponsor of the bill had it been introduced.
“It is of critical importance to people across this state to balance local communities’ ability to act to protect the health, safety and welfare of Colorado families while also creating a consistent and predictable regulatory framework that allows for responsible energy development.”
Without a legislative compromise, it’s all but certain that a series of ballot measures that would allow local communities to ban fracking outright will continue on a path toward the November ballot.
The measures, which are being financed by Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, go much further than the proposed legislation that was in the works, which would have merely allowed cities and counties control over setbacks (how far wells must be set back from homes and schools) and inspections.
Polis had been willing to drop his ballot measures if lawmakers had reached a deal, according to numerous sources involved in the negotiations; although Republicans, many of whom were open to a compromise, didn’t trust that that would have been the case.
“I want to thank Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Representative Su Ryden for the heroic work they have done trying to forge an agreement that would balance community needs with energy development,” Polis said in a statement. “They and partners in industry came very close to brokering a deal that would have given local communities the ability to choose what is best for them. Although in the end an agreement remained elusive, they deserve all our thanks and gratitude for being are true public servants and champions for their constituents.
“We are proud of our state. My constituents and all Coloradans simply want the freedom to live their version of the Colorado dream without interference. Unfortunately, the current law takes away our ability to choose what is best for our communities and families by forcing fracking to happen anywhere, anytime. The people of Colorado are demanding a reasonable balance between energy development and their quality of life. I will not stop fighting for a solution that does just that.”
Many Democrats are concerned that Polis’s ballot measures will cause a torrent of spending by oil and gas companies this fall; conversely, many Republicans, sensing an opportunity to help tip the balance of a big U.S. Senate race in the direction of Republican Cory Gardner, urged lawmakers to scuttle a potential deal that could have helped Democrats avoid the ballot measure fight.