Leaders of Coloradans for Responsible Reform announced the formation of Citizens Brigade, a campaign aimed at fighting the dozen anti-fracking proposals attempting to qualify for the November ballot.
Heading up the campaign are a pair of pro-business Democrats, former Sen. Ken Salazar and ex-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, along with Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce chief Kelly Brough and Colorado Concern CEO Tamra Ward, and a Republican, Greeley Mayor Tom Norton.
“These wrongheaded measures effectively ban oil and gas development in Colorado and will cripple Colorado’s economy,” said Salazar in the press release.
As Republicans were quick to note, however, Udall is not participating in the alliance, which includes 55 labor, agriculture and health groups, along with chambers of commerce, Club 20 and Action 22.
“Today over 55 business, labor, and health organizations are rising in opposition of measures to ban fracking in Colorado. But Senator Udall refuses to come out against these job-killing measures,” said GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in a statement.
“While Senator Udall ignores calls to protect good Colorado jobs and clean natural gas production, leaders from across the state are standing up for Colorado,” Gardner said.
Udall, who’s facing a challenge from Gardner in this year’s Senate contest, is seen as vulnerable on economic and energy issues, given his strong ties to the environmental movement.
Udall has insisted that he supports natural-gas development as part of a “best-of-the-above” energy strategy, but he hasn’t taken a public position on the anti-fracking measures.
Asked by CBS4’s Shaun Boyd last week whether communities should be allowed to ban fracking, he demurred, saying, “That’s not really a discussion that’s been had. What I think communities want is to have a say.”
A longtime favorite of the environmental movement, Udall is already receiving financial backing from green groups like the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which recently announced a $1 million advertising campaign to air attacks on Gardner’s support for “big oil.”
The LCV says on its website that it supports “preserving communities’ rights to restrict fracking within their jurisdictions,” which would seem to dovetail with the language contained in the most prominent anti-fracking proposals.
Democrats like Gov. John Hickenlooper have argued in favor of a statewide standard on hydraulic fracturing, instead of a patchwork of local regulations. Brough served as chief of staff to Hickenlooper while he was Denver mayor.
Udall’s absence from the coalition comes as another indicator of the Colorado Democratic Party’s schism over oil and gas development. While Hickenlooper is a strong industry supporter, Rep. Jared Polis has criticized development near his vacation home in Weld County and is reportedly funding some of the anti-fracking proposals.
“This is a no brainer,” Colorado Republican Committee chairman Ryan Call said in a statement. “Anyone who cares about our state’s economic future and responsible energy development should oppose these radical ballot initiatives. Unfortunately, Sen. Mark Udall has repeatedly refused to stand up for Colorado jobs and responsible energy development.”
Meanwhile, the state Senate Appropriations Committee shot down a bill Wednesday from state Rep. Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins) for a study on the health effects of fracking. Critics had argued that the study was an attempt to demonize the industry, and even Ginal admitted that the make-up of the oversight committee was “political.”