Group of 100 CEOs, Democratic officeholders back Hickenlooper’s local control bill

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DENVER — After a few days where it seemed that every organization weighing in on the governor’s proposed local control bill was weighing in against it, what backers of the proposal call the “reasonable middle” is expected to emerge.

That process began Wednesday as several local elected officials, most of them Democrats, reiterated their support to Gov. John Hickenlooper for a compromise to let local communities extend setbacks and impose additional noise ordinances on oil and gas operations as a means toward preventing ballot initiatives, which include a measure to let cities ban fracking altogether, funded by Boulder Congressman Jared Polis from making the November ballot.

“This bill would be a step in the right direction in balancing the health and safety of communities with the needs of oil and gas operations,” said Eva Henry, an Adams County Commissioner. “Local officials need to feel confident they can use their authority to ensure the health and safety of residents and I believe this bill articulates that we can.”

Colorado Concern, a group of more than 100 CEOs, moved later Wednesday afternoon to support a legislative solution to the local control issue and the concept within the governor’s draft bill.

“We applaud Governor Hickenlooper and all those who have been working to forge a meaningful, bipartisan legislative solution on oil and gas development that will forestall a statewide initiative election this fall,” said the group’s chairman, Pat Hamill. “The governor’s leadership in bringing widely divergent interests together has been invaluable. Compromise is never easy to achieve but we encourage all parties to keep at it.

“As an organization of more than 100 CEOs focused on fostering economic growth in Colorado, we believe that the enactment of any of the current crop of proposed initiatives would be devastating to our economy and result in a massive loss of jobs. It would set Colorado’s economic development and job creation efforts back decades.

“In contrast, a bipartisan legislative solution could be enacted soon and could be amended in future legislative sessions if necessary. A Constitutional amendment, such as are being discussed for this year’s ballot, would be virtually impossible to amend much less repeal. We urge negotiations to continue, and a Colorado compromise to emerge.”

The group’s support is somewhat of a shot in the arm for the proposal and the chances of a special legislative session next week where lawmakers would take action on it.

Already, a coalition of business organizations and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association have informed the governor that they oppose his proposal.

But, the biggest hurdle continues to be the state senate, where Democrats hold a slim 18-17 majority.

All 17 Republicans are unlikely to support the compromise, which Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, has called an effort “to buy off Polis”, which means all 18 Democrats will have to vote yes on the bill to pass it.

At this point, there are at least “six to eight Democrats who are having a really hard time with this”, according to a source close to the process.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez opposes Hickenlooper’s draft bill, but said during a debate that he does believe local communities can and should have some control over setbacks and zoning.

In a 9News debate back in April, the three of the four candidates who participated were asked about the local control compromise and what, if any, additional control should be ceded to Colorado cities and counties.

“They shouldn’t be able to ban fracking; they can certainly establish some of their own zoning and setback requirements, but banning fracking would be a taking,” Beauprez said in the April 24 debate, more than a month before the draft bill compromise allowing for just the kind of additional oversight he suggested emerged.

On Wednesday, Beauprez slammed Hickenlooper for what he calls a failure to lead and made clear he does not support the governor’s proposed compromise.

“Instead of actually leading our state, he has allowed extreme interest groups to set Colorado’s energy policy,” Beauprez said. “He has let radical liberals in his own party hold lawmakers hostage. He has threatened Colorado’s energy sector to go along with his backroom deals or else.

“The recent ‘compromise’ that Hickenlooper is attempting to shove down the throats of Coloradans is nothing more than a poorly disguised surrender of individual property rights, natural resource development, and Colorado’s economic security to Jared Polis and his radical environmentalist allies in Washington.”

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