Rep. Polis Drawing Attention for Anti-Fracking Push in Colorado

By | May 16, 2014

Maybe he'll support it if they add fracking as a technology in "Civilization."Democratic Colorado Rep. Jared
Polis has gotten some attention here at Reason for the
extent to which his political views align with common libertarian
philosophies. We have a big profile of him in June’s issue of
Reason magazine, which can be read here
and watched here.

But a big political fight going on in Colorado is a good
reminder that a chunk of his political philosophy is at odds with
what many libertarians stand for. Fracking has become contentious
subject in the Centennial State, and Polis is using his influence
and money (he’s one of the richest congressmen) in a fight to let
communities regulate (and therefore ban) fracking in their
neighborhoods. Politico has published a
couple
of
stories
laying out the conflicts within the state and suggests
that Polis’ activism may be disrupting the Democratic establishment
in Colorado, as environmental activism butts heads with economic
development:

His move isn’t just an existential threat to what’s now a $29
billion annual industry in the state. It’s a brazen political power
play that’s likely to release a torrent of outside spending in
swing-state Colorado, jeopardizing the reelection of two fellow
Democrats whose names will appear above his own on the November
ballot: Gov. John Hickenlooper, an oft-mentioned presidential
contender, and Mark Udall, whose reelection bid could determine
control of the U.S. Senate.

Ted Trimpa, a Denver power lawyer and strategist once dubbed
“the Democrats’ Karl Rove,” was instrumental in helping Polis and
the three other millionaires build Colorado’s progressive
infrastructure and consolidate power over the last decade. Now he
finds himself trying to hold it all together.

He worries that the ballot initiative would splinter a
progressive coalition in Colorado that’s been so successful that
it’s now seen as a blueprint for Democrats and Republicans in other
states—its many successes attributable to an unusual and lasting
harmony, an ability to avoid sticky policy fights that distract
from the shared goal: winning.

Resolving Colorado’s fracking fight quickly may yet provide
other states with a blueprint of how to deal with local control
issues around oil and gas, a national example of how compromise and
consensus can be achieved even in our polarized times. But if
Polis’ measures move toward the November ballot, the country may
find out that Colorado isn’t such a model after all, that coalition
politics aren’t as easy as this state has made them seem.

“We’re a state known for the two sides working together,” Trimpa
tells me, “but if this initiative makes the ballot, the age of that
will be gone for a very long time.”

I contacted Polis’ office in D.C. on Tuesday to see if they
wanted to comment about the congressman’s involvement in fracking
regulation measures, but they haven’t responded as yet.

The group Polis’ name is being attached to, Coloradans for Local
Control, has a bare-bones site here. Its ad,
apparently running now in Colorado, can be watched on YouTube
here.
There is also a group called Local Control
Colorado
 whose site that seems like it could or
should be connected as well, but it’s not clear. According to
Politico, Polis is ready to push for several ballot
initiatives that regulate fracking to be put on the November
ballot.

Local Control Colorado does offer wording on a ballot
initiative. Their proposal goes beyond just fracking and includes
all forms of oil and gas development: “Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, local governments may restrict the time, place or
manner of oil and gas development, including but not limited to
prohibitions or moratoria.” It also says municipalities cannot
enact rules that are less restrictive than state or federal
laws.

It’s a “local control” proposal that only goes one way—to
restrict.

Last summer Reason‘s science correspondent, Ron
Bailey, debunked
some of the fearmongering around the fracking process. He also
noted how fracking is
reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the
atmosphere
, an important discovery if we’re actually serious
about fighting man-made climate change. Any potential health
hazards around fracking should be treated like any other industrial
process—with a strong respect for property rights (of both the
frackers and the neighbors) and legal liability for any
destructive outcomes.

UPDATE: Rep. Polis has responded in the
comments below and linked to some of his arguments in favor of
fracking regulations. Take a read and see if he makes a compelling
case for you.

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One thought on “Rep. Polis Drawing Attention for Anti-Fracking Push in Colorado

  1. Energy Citizens

    Polis’s anti-energy position clearly threatens private property rights and the free market. The outcome of the fracking debate in Colorado also has profound national implications. Colorado has become an important domestic supplier of natural gas and oil. If the state withdraws from energy development as a result of Polis’s crusade, we could see energy costs increase and our national energy security weakened.
    -Renee

    Reply

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