Fracking Stance Puts Hick at Odds With Green Lobby, Salazar

March 12, 2012

(Interior Dept. Image)

DENVER, CO – Gov. John Hickenlooper once more veered into a head on collision course with a key power player in his own party over oil and gas development. This time it’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who is taking the brunt of Hickenlooper’s independent streak on energy.

The Colorado Governor announced Thursday that he is opposed to the federal government regulating hydraulic fracturing, a direct shot at the Bureau of Land Management which, under the leadership of Salazar, is drafting a controversial new set of federal hydraulic fracturing requirements that industry groups have decried.

Yesterday, Hickenlooper joined energy producers in arguing that state regulation of hydraulic fracturing is more than enough.

“Most governors are going to argue that it should be a state responsibility,” Hickenlooper said Wednesday at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “We can create regulations that are less onerous but more effective than blanket regulations that come out of Washington.”

Hickenlooper’s tough talk against another federal incursion runs smack dab into the Obama Administration’s big plans for new federal regulations.

“Current regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing – or stimulation operations – are in many ways outdated; they were written in 1982; and they reflect neither the significant technological advances in hydraulic fracturing nor the tremendous growth in its use that has occurred in the last 30 years,” Salazar said.

Salazar and the BLM’s draft rules were leaked to a number of media sources in the last month.  Industry groups hammered the new federal rules, saying they represented one more barrier for domestic energy producers and one more foothold for litigation by environmental plaintiffs.  National environmental groups, meanwhile, are demanding tough federal sanctions from the both the BLM and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For Hickenlooper, this is the second time in as many weeks that he has stared down a key constituency over oil and gas regulation.  Last week, a dozen environmental groups hammered the first term Governor for participating in a radio advertisement produced and paid for by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).  In the ad, Hickenlooper praised Colorado’s approach to regulating hydraulic fracturing, and poignantly underlined a critical fact that is usually missing for the fracking debate: there is no evidence of a single incidence of groundwater contamination from the practice.

While environmental groups signed off on Hickenlooper’s hydraulic fracturing rules last year, they were nonetheless incensed over Hickenlooper’s marketing partnership with the oil and gas industry.

Hickenlooper later apologized to green groups, but COGA says the pro-fracking radio ads will stay on the air.

His tough talk against a federal hydraulic fracturing rule is something of a double-down, putting the popular swing state Governor at logger-heads with the Obama Administration, an Interior Secretary who calls Colorado home, as well as a key Democratic Party constituency in the powerful and deep-pocketed environmental lobby.

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