On Monday, Congressman Scott Tipton organized a hearing in Grand Junction for the House Small Business Committee to hear about ways to help create jobs from business owners and local residents concerned about the effect over-regulation is having on the local employment sector. From County Commissioners to energy workers, those testifying complained of unnecessary regulatory burdens that were stifling growth and job creation in the one of the most energy-rich states in the country.
House Speaker John Boehner's blog included a few highlights from the testimony, including that of Montrose County Commissioner David White. From Boehner's blog:
David White, County Commissioner of Montrose, CO said red tape and misguided ‘stimulus’ policies have delayed the building of a new energy mill and hampered the local businesses that will support its operation – preventing “1,300 high paying jobs” from being created “in a county with a workforce of just over 15,000 people.” As Commissioner White put it, “[e]xcessive government regulations and poorly planned policies are preventing our nation from reaching vitally important energy independence, killing existing jobs and hampering new job creation.” (Testimony, 9/19/11)
Energy policies could end up becoming a major campaign issue in the 3rd CD race this cycle. Massive growth in available and economically accessible natural gas and oil supplies has signaled the potential for equally massive job growth in a region hard hit by the Great Recession.
With Grand Junction seeing the biggest drop in personal income of any metro area in the country in 2010, job growth in the strongest sector on the West Slope is not far from anyone's mind.
Tipton has held a number of hearings now in the 3rd CD directly related to creating good paying energy jobs, staking out a position that provides a stark contrast to his leading potential challenger, Sal "Piss Boy" Pace. Pace, when not getting arrested for public urination outside the Capitol, backed former Governor Bill Ritter's despised job-killing oil and gas rules.
Flashback to 2009 from the GJ Sentinel:
"Ritter has quarreled with the natural gas industry over new drilling rules adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which he reconstituted soon after he was elected in 2006.
More than 2,000 people packed a hearing in Grand Junction, most of them to protest the new rules."
Suffice it to say Pace is on the wrong side of the continental divide here.
Pace also stands opposed to his own Party's Governor, John Hickenloooper, who told The New York Times in January:
“I think we should drill the living daylights out of natural gas and cut regulation.”
Keep an eye on Pace's attempts to move to the middle on energy issues. If he wants an ice cube's chance in hell of winning, he'll have to find a way to re-brand his record as one of support for an industry that is one the largest employers in the district.
The big question is will Republicans let Pace get away with a campaign season shift and whether Tipton can continue to own the issue with high profile hearings and actual legislative results.