DENVER — A group of Colorado business leaders is ramping up pressure on Boulder Congressman Jared Polis, asking the Democrat in a letter Tuesday to stop funding an effort to get two initiatives on November’s ballot that seek to limit and give local communities more control over oil and gas drilling.
While a number of the groups signing onto the letter have been publicly opposed to the ballot measures from the outset, the letter from Vital for Colorado is the first time representatives of business and industry have asked Polis point-blank to drop the initiatives.
The letter comes roughly a week after Gov. John Hickenlooper pulled the plug on the possibility of a special legislative session this summer in which he’d hoped lawmakers could have passed a legislative compromise on local control that would have been enough for Polis to stand down.
“We are writing to respectfully ask that you withdraw your support for all proposed ballot initiatives that would add language to our state constitution which will overly restrict the practice of hydraulic fracturing, limit energy development in Colorado and, as a result, create devastating consequences for our state,” the letter begins. “We do not believe using the serious and permanent mechanism of constitutional amendment is an appropriate approach to regulating the energy industry.
“Colorado has among the most rigorous energy rules and regulations in the nation. In the last several years, stakeholders have been working hard to strengthen our oil and gas regulations the Colorado way — thoughtfully, collaboratively and pragmatically. And as a result, our state is considered a best practice both nationally and internationally for our energy regulations. A constitutional amendment bypasses this regulatory regime.”
The letter is signed by Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Tamra Ward, CEO of Colorado Concern, a group of more than 100 area CEOs, Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, and Kristin Strohm, representing the Colorado Common Sense Policy Roundtable.
Vital for Colorado also represents the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the National Federation of Independent Business, Action 22, Club 20, Progressive 15, Colorado Contractors Association, the Colorado Bankers Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Association of Realtors, the Farm Bureau of Colorado as well as by regional chambers of commerce in Grand Junction and Loveland.
“Please reconsider your approach to this debate and let the democratic process, both at the Capitol and at the ballot box, serve its purpose free from interference of a heavy hand,” the letter concludes.
Last week, a day after announcing that there would be no special legislative session, Hickenlooper stood with business groups in opposition to the measures.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who is facing a tough reelection challenge, also moved quickly last week to announce his opposition to the measures, which he called a “one-size-fits-all approach”, as did Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff.
The oil and gas industry is already in the midst of a campaign to persuade voters that fracking is safe and that the initiatives will be harmful to Colorado’s economy.
“Everyone on both sides of the political aisle and in the business community agree on one thing: these ballot initiatives destroy private property rights and are disastrous for Colorado,” said Karen Crummy with Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, the group of local oil and gas operators formed to fight the initiatives. “For the good of the state, Congressman Polis should withdraw them.”
Many Democrats are also concerned about the impact of the industry’s campaign on the November election, believing the influx of spending to defeat Polis’ initiatives will spill into other races, helping the GOP’s turnout effort in what’s already a challenging year for Democrats.
Polis has until Aug. 4 to turn in the 86,000 signatures needed to get each initiative on the ballot.
Last week, he told FOX31 Denver that the initiatives “will be on the ballot if enough Coloradans want them on the ballot.”