Hickenlooper had hoped to strike a deal with Polis by passing a compromise bill on hydraulic fracturing in a special session, but the governor was never able to come up with the votes, even though his party controls both houses of the state legislature.
State Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) issued a statement calling for Polis to withdraw his initiatives “to avoid hurting families and devastating our communities.”
“There is one and only one person responsible for putting Colorado families and communities at risk, and that person is the millionaire congressman from Boulder,” said McNulty. “It’s his turn to clean it up, this mess is a wholly-owned subsidiary of millionaire Jared Polis.”
Polis is bankrolling Initiative 88 and 89, measures aimed at cracking down on oil and gas development now in the signature-gathering stage. The congressman’s campaign, Safe.Clean.Colorado, has until Aug. 4 to gather 86,105 valid signatures for each initiative in order to qualify them for the Nov. 4 ballot.
If they reach the ballot, the initiatives are expected to unleash enormous opposition from the oil and gas industry, as well as the state’s business community.
“Unfortunately, one person refused to make any concessions and held Coloradans hostage for weeks with his ‘my way or the highway’ ultimatum,” said Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for the industry-backed group Protecting Colorado. “If these measures make the ballot, we have confidence that Colorado voters will see them for that they are: arbitrary and irresponsible initiatives that jeopardize Colorado’s economy and threaten private property rights across the state.”
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman said he worried that “Jared Polis’s fracking ban initiatives would undermine Colorado’s contribution to the nation’s energy policy.”
“There are plenty of things for Republicans and Democrats to fight about this November. Energy independence shouldn’t be one,” said Coffman in a statement. “Polis should walk away from the initiatives.”
Polis hasn’t indicated whether he’s changed his mind on pushing Initiatives 88 and 89, but he did release a statement to the Denver Post lauding “all parties” for offering “a legitimate solution to the fracking debate.”
“My one goal is to find a solution that will allow my constituents to live safely in their homes, free from the fear of declining property values or unnecessary health risks, but also that will allow our state to continue to benefit from the oil and gas boom,” said Polis.
Debate over the initiatives is expected to spill into the hotly contested gubernatorial and Senate race. Republican Rep. Cory Gardner called Wednesday on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to take a position on the anti-fracking measures.
“Now that a special session is no longer a possibility, Senator Udall’s refusal to stand against an energy ban is more concerning than ever,” Gardner said in a statement. “If Senator Udall truly cared about protecting Colorado’s economy, he would oppose these harmful ballot measures.”
A favorite of environmental groups, Udall has said little about the fracking debate, but shortly after Gardner’s statement, he issued a press release to KDVR-TV saying that he opposes the Polis initiatives.
“I believe that Colorado can and must do better, which is why I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions,” said Udall.
A separate anti-fracking measure, Initiative 75, was pulled by organizers Monday after failing to keep pace with signature-gathering, leaving Polis’s measures as the only anti-fracking game in town.
Hickenlooper worked for months on the special session, but his proposed compromise bill had divided the oil and gas industry as well as business interests. No Republican legislator supported the bill, and at least two Democratic senators were on the fence.
“Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners, we have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session,” said Hickenlooper in a statement.
With Democrats controlling the Senate 18-17, the loss of even one Democrat would have sunk the bill.
“Why did the special session fail?” said McNulty. “The Polis proposal was a half-baked political fix that would have tied in knots energy production outside of Weld County, and many of the key insiders clamoring for the special session were partisan liberals more interested in saving Democratic political hides than making good public policy.”