A lobbyist with the Colorado Association of Home Builders resigned last week when the organization voted to support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s request for a special session of the legislature to add regulations to the oil and gas industry.
The move roiled Democrats, as the lobbyist called Colorado Rep. Jared Polis a “terrorist.”
Democrats hope the vote will mollify Polis, who is supporting ballot initiatives that would grant local municipalities much greater leeway in regulating energy companies, including by banning fracking.
If petitioners gather enough valid signatures by August, the initiatives will be on the ballot in November, a scenario Hickenlooper hopes to avoid by passing compromise legislation increasing oversight for oil and gas operations. That will require a special session of the legislature, which adjourned for the year in May.(RELATED: Fracking Fight Could Doom Democrats In Colorado)
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Steve Durham, a 15-year lobbyist with the Colorado Association of Home Builders (CAHB) resigned July 3 after the organization’s legislative committee voted to support Hickenlooper’s request for a special session.
Among his reasons, Durham wrote in a letter that was reprinted in the Colorado Statesman, “Congressman Jared Polis has created this crisis for the Colorado economy and it is clear that there are prominent members in CAHB who wish to help him resolve this crisis. It was clear that there was little desire to hold Polis accountable for what he has done or what he is trying to do to the citizens of Colorado.”
“Governor Hickenlooper has chosen to appease terrorist Polis rather than stating in no uncertain terms that what he is proposing is devastating for Colorado’s economy and should be defeated,” he continued.
Durham also smacked the Denver Post, which suggested in an editorial that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez join with Hickenlooper to support legislation that will encourage Polis to drop the initiatives.
“The responsible legislators who oppose bad policy will be demonized by the media and their supporters and the terrorists will be allowed to proceed without consequences,” he wrote.
Durham is hardly alone in opposing a special session. In late June, 19 oil and gas companies sent Hickenlooper a letter rejecting any attempt to negotiate a compromise.
“Fundamentally, there is no reason to support legislation that would push towards more regulation on the oil and gas industry,” the companies wrote, according to the Denver Post.
Currently, only the state can regulate energy operations, including fracking. Hickenlooper has long supported the status quo, arguing that allowing local governments to ban or suspend the practice creates a patchwork of regulations. Voters in several communities, however, have ignored the edict and passed fracking bans and moratoria.
Durham ended his letter admonishing his former employer for going along with Hickenlooper’s plan in order to preserve their relationship with him.
“It became clear that the strongest motivation for the CAHB to support this legislation was an attempt by several prominent members to preserve their ‘relationship’ with the Governor,” he wrote. “The motive is not good public policy.”
“I hope that you will do everything possible to continue to resist this irresponsible legislation and hold accountable those who are jeopardizing Colorado’s economy,” he wrote.
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