The fracking ban deal seemed to appear out of nowhere on Monday, but the one thing stopping Rep. Jared Polis and his cadre of radical environmentalists was initiative 121, which would have prevented local communities that banned energy development from receiving state tax dollars from energy development. This initiative was a firewall that prevented radical environmentalists from seriously damaging Colorado’s economy.
We’re taking you behind the scenes with Republican Representative Jerry Sonnenberg to see how it all went down. If anyone deserves major props in this battle its Sonnenberg as well as his partner in crime on this issue, Rep. Frank McNulty. Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) head Tisha Schuller also praised their efforts in the fight to save Colorado’s oil and gas industry:
“This is a victory for bipartisan common sense and common ground. I thank state Representatives Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg for their leadership and unwavering support. Despite the great intent of initiative 121, their decision to pull the measure means initiatives 88 and 89 won’t be on the ballot, which could have put Colorado’s economic future at risk. We thank Representative McNulty and Representative Sonnenberg for their stalwart support of this vital industry.”
So this has been a whirlwind week. As you and Rep. McNulty said in a statement, Polis caved, Colorado won. How are you feeling about it all?
We eliminated a risky situation, so I am happy to be helpful to create that stability that oil and gas obviously needed. I had hoped to not pull the initiative immediately, as we still had roughly a month to see how the initiatives and the signatures played out. I believe Polis was under so much pressure to pull this from his own party, I think he would have done so, but our friends within energy wanted the stability of no initiatives immediately.
When did it first occur to you that your initiative – which would have prohibited cities that ban drilling from receiving energy revenues – was such a major source of leverage in fighting Polis?
We actually filed it to combat and create leverage as well as an alternative to what Polis was doing, so we knew from the beginning that we would be able to, at a minimum, provide help to the industry on the ballot.
Do you plan to push the proposal again?
I indeed plan to bring it back, either again through legislation, as I have done in a couple of different legislation sessions or in 2016 to combat another fractivist set of initiatives.
How much do you think the decision of Polis to withdrawal was driven by concerns that his initiative would jeopardize the re-election of Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper?
I think that was the whole driving force for him to withdraw. He was under so much pressure from within his own party.
The Boulder fractivists are pissed off at Jared Polis. Do you feel bad for Polis?
I indeed did feel bad for him…for possibly a second when I may have been weak.
One conservative group ran a TV ad ridiculing the anti-fracking crowd as “flat earthers” and, well, freaks. Agree?
I don’t know if I would go that far, but I indeed view them as people not in touch with reality. There were a number of folks that said my initiative should have said that if a community prohibits oil and gas production, we shut off their energy supply so no natural gas or electric heat and no car. These anti-fracking folks want their cake, and eat it too, which is not right.
Tell us about this task force that Hick appointed to look at the state’ oil and gas regulations. are you worried it is a stalking horse for Polis to come back in 2016 with a similar ban?
That is always a concern, but I have already had a number of conversations with the Governor’s office to make sure this is a balanced commission. Although I don’t believe it will be balanced, my hope is to have enough input on members that I can move the discussion at least a little. A commission is the standard path for this Governor. Whether it is S.B. 252 when they pass a bill and then create a task force to fix it, which was a total failure, or this commission where they put forward an initiative and then create a task force to fix it. It is governing by extortion.
Do you think Polis’ retreat is evidence that the Sierra Club and environmentalists lost the frack wars?
I don’t think there is any question they lost, but will the voters remember this conversation 90 days from now? Will those voters remember that our Governor didn’t stand up to Polis months ago and tell him that his initiatives are damaging to the economy instead of negotiating with, what I consider, an eco-terrorist in Polis. This was a mess and not handled well by the administration or by Polis. Understand that the Governor called me and said we have a deal to remove the Polis initiatives which included my initiative. I asked “who was we” as this was the first I had heard of it. My fear is that oil and gas will not do everything they can to elect Republicans so that we have a new Governor or control of the Senate and House, and that if this commission comes up with a hair-brained suggestion, there will be no back stop when the legislation moves forward.