DENVER — The Colorado Democratic Party added to its platform Saturday a resolution opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, a victory for the anti-fracking camp that could further alienate the party’s pro-business wing.
The resolution, approved on a two-thirds voice vote at the Colorado Democratic State Assembly, calls on President Barack Obama to “prohibit development of the Keystone XL pipeline.”
“Colorado Democrats believe our leaders must provide for the long-term protection of our people, our communities, nature and our environment, over and above the interests of short-term corporate greed and profit,” said the resolution’s first clause.
Even as party leaders and elected officials stressed the importance of maintaining unity during the 2014 election cycle, friction over oil and gas development was evident throughout Saturday’s assembly at the Colorado Convention Center.
Few Democratic speakers made mention of state’s oil and gas boom, but when they did, they were loudly interrupted by anti-fracking activists.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s speech accepting the party’s gubernatorial nomination had barely begun when he was shouted down by an anti-fracking activist, who was cheered as he yelled, “Don’t frack Colorado!”
“Hold on, hold on, we can talk about that outside.” said Hickenlooper, the party’s most prominent supporter of the oil and gas industry.
Sen. Mark Udall tried to temper his position on energy by stating that instead of an “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” he now favors a “best-of-the-above energy strategy.”
But Udall was met with anti-fracking shouts from delegates after saying, “Clean burning natural gas, renewables. You know these energy sources don’t just power homes and our businesses in our communities, they power our economy.”
On the other end was Rep. Jared Polis, a fracking foe who surprised some delegates by placing Hickenlooper’s name in nomination.
“What’s important to show as Democrats door to door in our communities is that we are a united Democratic Party,” said Polis. “There will be forces that try to divide us, but together we will ensure that our state will continue the kind of continued leadership that John Hickenlooper offers.”
Minutes earlier, however, Polis drew applause as he took shots at the oil and gas industry. He called for “protecting our environment across the world in [reducing] our carbon emissions and making sure that America can play a leadership role in addressing global warming.”
“Or here at home, to make sure that natural gas and fracking doesn’t threaten jobs in our state and [the] health of Colorado citizens,” said Polis.
Party leaders have attempted to broker a peace between its economic-development and environmental wings by pushing for tougher regulations on fossil-fuel development, but that compromise is crumbling under pressure from the state’s rising anti-fracking movement.
Democrats are under pressure to choose sides as environmental groups move to place anti-fracking initiatives on the November ballot. If Saturday’s assembly was any indication, the sympathies of the party’s rank-and-file appear to lie with fracking opponents, not industry supporters.
Still, Polis said the party could still maintain unity even if members aren’t in agreement on all issues.
“None of us in this room, none of your delegation, are ever going to agree on every single issue,” said Polis. “Nor should we expect to.”
A recent poll found that a majority of Colorado voters favor the Keystone XL pipeline, and that they would be less likely to vote for candidates who oppose it.