On the day of the harvest moon, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper late yesterday evening released the names and the general mandate for his “blue ribbon” commission on oil and gas drilling. Formed to avoid ballot issues this fall that would have allowed communities to determine if, and how, they would host oil and gas operations, the commission is formally tasked with addressing the siting of oil and gas facilities so as “to ensure that Colorado’s economy and environment remain healthy and robust.” Hardly a mandate to inspire, it represents the continuation of the state and fossil fuel industry collaboration that has brought us to the current state of political affairs.
A state court in New York issued two unanimous decisions last week upholding local bans on oil and gas activity. The court found that having a state policy on the efficient development of oil and gas resources – a policy which many states have - does not equate to an intention to require oil and gas drilling operations to occur in each and every location where the resources are present, regardless of existing land uses.
These decisions in favor of local governance – the heart of our democracy – will send earthquakes through the oil and gas industry, as they represent the biggest fissure yet in the industry’s long efforts to wall off oil and gas regulation at the state level.
In a time when we might hope that the wave of extremists in elected office has peaked, it is disappointing to see a governor who has moved into the ‘anti-democracy’ camp of politicians. Such seems to be the case with Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the governor that led off with “despite what you might have heard, I much prefer drinking beer to frack fluid.” Oh really? You think that this statement will calm my nerves after you spend your time testifying before a U.S. Senate committee about frack fluid being safe to drink?