Our View: Hick Plays Oil and Gas Politics. But When Will He lead?

February 29, 2012
By

Anyone that has cracked open a newspaper or clicked their radio on in the past week or so has no doubt encountered the ads featuring Governor John Hickenlooper extolling the virtues of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.  At least that’s what the green lobby that sent him to the Governor’s Mansion perceives.

However, typical of everything else Teflon John does, he has cleverly figured out a way to come off as being pro-energy while the bureaucrats working underneath him continue their quest to chase extractive industry investment out of Colorado.

While we can hardly blame the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) for hitching their wagon to the Hickenlooper popularity train, we wonder just how “pro-industry” this governor really is.  The governor may be starring in COGA’s ads, but what are his so called “civil servants” over at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment doing to the oil and gas industry when it comes to the details – details like small engine emission standards on pad locations?

How often is the Colorado Department of Natural Resources using their platform as a cooperating agency to tout the socioeconomic benefits of the many jobs created by exploration and development projects occurring on federal lands in Western Colorado?

What is the Governor’s Energy Office doing to promote the development of oil, gas, coal, oil shale, uranium, rare-earth minerals and the like?  Further, what are they doing to prove that they have a reason to exist in the first place?

Don’t get us wrong.  It’s great that the Governor of Colorado is willing to lend his voice and his image to promote a process in fracking that has unlocked untold energy reserves in Colorado, the United States and, indeed, the rest of the world.  But lip service is only lip service.  If the governor is truly committed to a policy of growth in the energy sector, that means instructing the bureaucracy to promote and advocate for responsible development in every corner of Colorado.

He found a lane on hydraulic fracturing but what is he doing to move forward on the Roan Plateau, the Vermillion Basin, the HD Mountains, the West Elk Mine, the Oil Shale Programmatic EIS, and so many other potential projects that remain in a perpetual state of bureaucratic gridlock?  Is the Governor willing to risk real political capital to challenge President Obama, Interior Secretary Salazar, and the green lobby to release them?

Slick newspaper and radio ads aside for a minute, what will the Governor’s criteria be for selecting the new Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission?  More than any other position in state government, this person will be the face of the State of Colorado to oil and gas companies looking to expand or initiate operations here.  Will Hickenlooper walk the same failed path of his obstructionist predecessor and choose a 17th Street lawyer – or will he seek out someone with actual expertise in the oil and gas industry that knows the difference between an APD and a PDF?

Time will tell, but we can be forgiven for assuming that John Hickenlooper will continue to find ways to appease one group by making another one slightly uncomfortable.  After all, he’s the most popular governor in America.  Just ask him.

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