Hickenlooper brokers local control compromise between Polis, industry; now working to gauge support

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DENVER — Congressman Jared Polis appears to have reached an agreement with Gov. John Hickenlooper and industry members including the state’s two largest oil and gas operators over legislation that will cede more control of drilling to local communities.

The question now is whether those stakeholders can get broader support, from the industry and from state lawmakers needed to pass a draft bill now being circulated in a special session later this month.

The proposal itself would allow local communities to pass their own laws related to extended setbacks for wells (beyond the state’s current 500 foot requirement) and noise ordinances but not to go as far as banning fracking outright, according to sources close to the process.

In exchange, Polis, D-Boulder, has agreed not to pursue ballot initiatives related to local control of oil and gas operations through the 2018 election.

The Hickenlooper administration, along with Anadarko and Noble and those who have agreed to the draft bill, will work through the weekend to try to broaden the coalition of supporters within the industry and to gauge whether they have the votes needed to pass the bill in a special session.

The deal is the result of almost two months of difficult negotiations led by Hickenlooper’s office that saw both sides attempting to balance real-world consequences on Colorado homeowners and the state’s booming energy sector with very real political implications in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Polis, who represents four of the five Colorado cities that have already voted to ban fracking, decided earlier this year to put his significant personal wealth behind a handful of ballot initiatives that sought to impose longer setbacks and to give local communities the right to control and even ban fracking outright.

That outraged the oil and gas industry along with a number of Democrats, who worried that Sen. Mark Udall, up for reelection this fall, could be collateral damage as a result of the forthcoming campaign spending–estimates put the total around $50 million–by the industry and business-backed groups to defeat Polis’s measures.

While many Republicans, motivated by an opportunity to hurt Udall or resentment of Polis, who some likened to a hostage taker, were reluctant to negotiate, the two largest operators in the state, Noble and Anadarko, came to the table in part out of loyalty to the Hickenlooper administration and largely out of fear that Polis’s measures, should they pass, could seriously impact the industry’s bottom line.

Negotiations were long and difficult and the legislative session came to an end last month without enough progress to rush through a bill in its final days.

Even after Hickenlooper’s office put its own policy proposal on the table last week, neither the industry nor Polis’s team were quick to embrace it, neither side wanting to blink first.

But with a tentative time frame making Monday, June 9 the target date for a special legislative session to begin, the stalemate finally started to soften this week.

One source tells FOX31 Denver that it was Polis who finally agreed to Anadarko’s proposed language.

“I’m happy with the latest draft of the local control bill and with the good faith efforts of stakeholders including representatives of the Hickenlooper administration, the oil and gas community, the conservation community, local governments and others,” said House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, the state lawmaker most closely involved in the ongoing negotiations.

“As we continue our outreach to stakeholders, I’m optimistic that these extended negotiations will come to a successful conclusion.”

Any deal agreed to by Hickenlooper, Polis, Andarko and Noble must, of course, pass the House and Senate; and the Senate, where Democrats hold just an 18-17 majority, is the trickier task.

“I sure hope they’ve made sure that Cheri [Jahn], Mary [Hodge] and Lois [Tochtrop] will vote for this,” said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, alluding to the three Democratic swing votes in the chamber who are strong supporters of the oil and gas industry and aren’t afraid to vote against senate Democratic leadership’s wishes.

“Because I don’t think any Senate Republican is going to vote for a deal to buy off Jared Polis.”

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9 comments

  • Hammer time

    It’s not a compromise when communities still get FRACKED. Missing in all these so-called lock control measures is the legal authority to say no to the fracking companies and state agencies that support them. Messes Polis, Hickenlooper et al are merely moving the furniture on the good ship Fracktanic trying to distract the public into believing they’re working on their behalf while sendin them to 10,000 feet to the bottom of a frack well. Big deal, their proposal lets people choose how far the well sits from their home’s front door or kid’s school, but they still can’t say no to fracking. Don’t fall for their fracking scam

  • jakebrake77

    Polis and the Hickster. Two nescient liberal buffoons who are piecemeal destroying our once great state! Considering Polis’s district, and his low information voting demographic he has a seat in Congress for life. However, Hick is a bad apple we can rid ourselves of in November.

    DR. BEN CARSON in 2016!

    • NativeColoRN

      AMEN. Get the vote out and DEFEAT Udall and Chickenlooper! Remember; Nathan Dunlop…Chuck E Cheese Murder that had his death sentenced commuted to life by Chickenlooper. Then there is the Great Colorado Gun Grab. Changing how we vote in this stste as well as recall elections after Chickenlooper’s gun buddies(Giron and Morse) were recalled. Udall: voted for and still supports Obama Care. Has NOTHINHG, done nothing and so, all he can do is hurl birth control ads at Corey Garner. And while we are at it, run lunch box liberal, Eli Stokols out of town with KDVR.

  • Kris Love

    Fracking is SAFE! Thay have been doing it in Colorado since 1948. I have lookes at all the anti-fracking information and they never mention that in there reports. Go to http://www.studyfracking.com.
    Now if a town or county wants to ban freacking and votes to do so, that’s fine. However, if thay do then they should not be allowed to ahve access to the severance taxew generated by fracking. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • Anonymous

    In 2005 fracking was removed from the federal Clear Air Act and Clean Water Act. The removal is named the “Halliburton Loophole.” Preserving safe air and water is not a county-by-county battle. Return fracking to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts where it belongs.

  • Mark Richardson

    And nary a mention of climate change or the need to leave 75-80% of world fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we want our own grandchildren to have a viable planet to live their lives out on, according to the findings of the recent US National Climate Assessment, a March, 2014 study by Michael Mann, and a June, 2014 study by David Spratt which finds that we have no carbon budget remaining to hold warming below 2.5 degrees Celsius or 4.5 Fahrenheit by 2050-2055?

    This alleged compromise is a complete sellout to the fossil fuel industry and Governor Hickenlooper will very likely lose many urban Democrats over his rush to strip Colorado citizens of their legal rights to vote to change our State Constitution and ignore zoning law in-favor of drilling in urban neighborhoods. What happened to the outcome of last fall’s local elections banning or delaying fracking in urban neighborhoods? Taken away by Hickenlooper, what good is that?

    Why vote Democrat when big money is on the line the Democrats are no better than conservatives are at protecting the rights of the little guy?

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