Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 7, 20174min11900

Broomfield voters gave a 57 percent edge to giving local government more say-so on whether oil-and-gas wells are safety and healthy. At the very least it was a major moral victory for opponents of the oil-and-gas industry in the fast-developing countryside north of Denver.

Industry and business coalitions on the right, and environmental groups on the left together spent and estimated $500,000 in direct campaign spending and community organizing around Question 301.

And now both sides are bound to spend more money on legal fees once the ballots and victory party festivities are packed away.

Broomfield residents made a statement about how they feel about oil-and-gas development close to homes and businesses, but it the win could come with costly results for taxpayers. If history is any guide, industry will follow through on threats to take the city to court.

In June, city attorney Bill Tuthill warned proponents that the amendment would be difficult to defend, and now it’s job to defend it. He read from a statute that said the city charter couldn’t repeal vested property or contract rights, such as those that accompany wells and mineral rights.

“In the simplest terms, this statute says you can’t undo a contract by passing a city charter amendment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Monday night the Lafayette City Council passed a six-month moratorium that’s likely headed to court at taxpayers’ expense.

Fracking has fought and won before in these parts before.

Fort Collins, Longmont and (in 1992) Greeley have tried to regulate or ban oil-and-gas drilling, but the State Supreme Court turned them back. Lower courts thwarted Boulder and Larimer counties’ attempts.

Jim Alexee, executive director of the Colorado Sierra Club, noted on Election night that his side was outspent 10 to 1 in the fracking fight in Broomfield.

“Voters saw through the oil and gas industry’s corrosive, corrupt influence on our politics,” he said. “Together, individuals from across the political spectrum voted to stand with scientists and Colorado families by voting for a commonsense, bipartisan fracking solution.”

He called the win “a shot across the bow” for the oil and gas industry.

“Over the past several years, the oil and gas industry has spent over $80 million dollars to influence public opinion,” he said of the amount oil-and-gas interests have invested in public outreach in Colorado. “It’s clear that Coloradans have grown tired of their deception.”

Vital for Colorado, a broad business coalition that supports energy development, indicated litigation is inevitable.

“Question 301 was the fourth political fight in Broomfield just this year, and anti-oil and gas groups lost the first three contests,” Vital for Colorado chairman and CEO Peter Moore said. “They pushed a temporary oil and gas ban, organized a recall election, and tried to derail a new agreement that allows continued energy development in Broomfield – and all these efforts failed.

“At best, Question 301 — which flies in the face of state law by declaring ‘plenary authority’ over oil and gas permitting decisions — will trigger lawsuits and force Broomfield taxpayers to waste large sums of public money on litigation.”


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 11, 20173min10410

You know the war over Broomfield’s anti-fracking proposal — or any pending ballot issue, for that matter — is heating up when a former governor steps into the fray. Republican Bill Owens, who served as Colorado’s chief exec until 2007, took to the airwaves and digital media this week with a video denouncing Question 301 on Broomfield’s November ballot.

In the video, Owens calls 301 “a deceiving measure” and a “cynical power play focused on blocking energy development.” The former two-term guv also assures viewers “Colorado already has the toughest oil and gas regulations in the U.S.”

The proposal would grant the combined city-county municipality “plenary authority to regulate all aspects of oil and gas development, including land use and all necessary police powers.” Plenary means absolute (we had to look it up), and there’s a problem with that: It’s a power that the state government contends local governments don’t have.

If it passes, the ballot measure probably would set Broomfield on a collision course with the state as the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the state government, via the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, holds ultimate authority over oil and gas exploration.

That likely showdown prompted some residents to band together under the slogan, “Don’t let them divide Broomfield” in opposition to 301. They say they’re tired of their community serving as a jousting green over oil and gas politics.  In 2013, voters there OK’d a five-year drilling moratorium, but it was mooted by the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling. Earlier this year, voters turned back an attempt by anti-drilling resident-activists to recall a city council member perceived to be too soft on oil and gas exploration.

In siding with the No on 301 campaign, Owens — who before his time in elective office ran the Colorado Petroleum Association — appeals to war-weary Broomfielders in his video:

“National outside groups are trying to turn Broomfield into a political battleground over oil and gas development — again,” he says as the video opens. “Well enough is enough.”


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 27, 20173min1642
The perennial face-off over fracking is of course a four-way fight: While the oil and gas industry has been duking it out with activists opposed to drilling, the state of Colorado has been going toe-to-toe with local governments over who has the power to regulate drilling in the first place. It is the latter clash […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 12, 20175min1280

… A group of anti-fracking protesters in Boulder (OK, so that’s redundant; everyone in Boulder is against fracking) converged on what they thought was the residence of Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones over the weekend. The fracktivists’ planned stunt — donning HAZMAT gear and presenting a “Green Washing Award” to Jones at her house — went off without a hitch except one: She wasn’t home. Because she doesn’t actually live at the Marine Street residence where the pickets gathered.

As the Boulder Daily Camera reported Monday, Jones is a co-owner of record for the house but rents the place out. That evidently confused the 50 or so fracktivists who showed up:

In a news release, an organization identifying itself as Boulder County Protectors said about 50 community members had marched “on a home of politically compromised Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones asking her to resign.”

After being sent a copy of the news release, however, Jones — who now lives in the 1100 block of Sixth Street in Boulder — said in a Sunday night email that the protesters “went to a house I haven’t lived in for almost five years.

“Happily, no one was at home, but as you might imagine, the current residents were very confused when they came home to find an oil drum in the driveway and threatening chalk messages drawn up and down the sidewalk and the steps to the house,” Jones wrote.

The protest was a bit over-the-top, to be sure — but what really illustrated how extreme the fury over fracking has gotten was the demonstrators’ choice of target: A member of the Boulder County Commission.

That’s the same elected body that had stared down Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman earlier this year over the county’s moratorium on drilling permits while it revised its regulations on the subject. As county commissions go, Boulder’s has been in the forefront of the fracking fracas.

And why Elise Jones, in particular? From 1999 to 2012, she was executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition — which made her one of the state’s most prominent voices in the environmental movement. Wouldn’t that make her the protesters’ ally?

So what’s the beef? The Camera explains:

Anti-fracking groups have criticized Jones and her fellow county commissioners for not adopting a “Climate Bill of Rights” or advancing such a measure to county voters’ ballots.

Among its other provisions, the proposed Climate Bill of Rights would assert that county residents have “a right to a healthy climate, which shall include the right to be free from all activities that interfere with that right, including the extraction of coal, oil or gas, or disposal of drilling waste within the County of Boulder.”

Boulder County commissioners, however, have said they have no legal standing to ignore state laws and Colorado Supreme Court decisions prohibiting local governments from banning oil and gas exploration within those governments’ jurisdiction — and that a Climate Bill of Rights would not give the county authority to do so.

A statement read outside Jones’s home — well, the home protesters thought was her home— accused Jones of having “built a career out of collaborating with extraction.”

That likely would come as news to the extractive industry — which long has viewed Jones as an adversary.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanSeptember 8, 20174min2210

A recent poll conducted by Chris Keating of Keating Research, a polling and survey firm that consults primarily for Democrats including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, reveals that Colorado’s political environment parallels the nation’s, but preferences on energy issues are distinctly Coloradan.  The results come from 605 active voters, with a margin of error at 4 percent, plus or minus.

As with the country as a whole, Coloradans hold President Donald Trump at 40% favorable to 58% unfavorable, and give Gov. John Hickenlooper a 60% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating.  Numbers are more contrasting at the Very Unfavorable level, with 51% Very Unfavorable for Trump and 19% Very Unfavorable for Hickenlooper.

Since Keating works mostly for the left side of the aisle, it’s important to look at his call list.  He called 48% men and 52% women.  His age range was 18-24 at 10% up to 70+ at 15%.  Voters with children age 18 or younger comprised 27% of the sample and the split by party affiliation was 25% Democrat, 26% Republican, and 45% Independent. Colorado’s active voter registration actually divides almost equally at 32% Dem to 32% GOP to 36% Unaffiliated.

Happily, the survey shows that 64% of Coloradans think the state is headed in the “right direction” with 28% favoring the down side.

The poll’s main purpose was to explore voter commitment to four energy types as sources for development: coal, wind, solar and natural gas.  It sought especially to pinpoint voters’ views on what energy sources should increase or decrease in use.  Coloradans now have a dim view of coal, with 57% of respondents saying its use should decrease and only 18% choosing to increase its use.  Wind (+76%) and especially solar (+84%) showed the most support for increased use, with natural gas at +36%.

The survey suggests that Coloradans from both political parties want public utilities to collaborate on reducing carbon emissions: 89% agree/11% disagree.  Voters want the state to work with utilities to increase the use of clean renewable energy at 95% agree/5% disagree.  Almost 50% of voters support increasing the state’s 30% renewable energy standard to over 50%.  Most Coloradans (83%) want to take control of their energy future without waiting for the federal government to jump in.

The polling numbers indicate that Xcel’s recent decisions to add more renewable energy to its portfolio makes sense.  Closing coal plants is apparently generally acceptable to Coloradans.

Clearly, renewable solar and wind power are popular. Natural gas is holding its own despite opposition to drilling from some cities along the northern Front Range.

These results have implications for the 2018 governor and legislator races on both Democratic and Republican sides.  Democratic candidates can feel comfortable promoting more renewables.  The effect of fracking vs. anti-fracking positions on voter preference is less clear.

Republicans face a different picture in the primaries and general election.  Anti-climate change Republicans may be in sync with a majority in their party during the primary season.  But that position is deeply out of sync with a majority of voters who will cast ballots in the general election.

One other interesting set of data.  While 45% of the polled population identified as independent voters, only 25% viewed themselves as moderates.  These individuals were outnumbered by liberals at 34% and conservatives at 38%. It appears there’s a muddy middle spectrum of voters, a minority, who support reduced-carbon energy policy.  They will make a difference in how the general election turns out.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanSeptember 1, 20175min1200
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Two interesting questions arise for the Democratic primary race for governor:  How much money will the races attract, and how much money will it take to gain the number of votes to win the race?  The first question affects both primaries and the general election.  The second question concerns mostly the general election.

Money had to be a significant factor in U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s decision to drop out of the governor’s race.  He was outraised by all the major candidates, with Cary Kennedy, former State Treasurer, matching the congressman’s pot in just one quarter of fundraising.

Polis will get dollars out of his own money-market account.  Former state Sen. Michael Johnston has probably raised more than $1 million already, since his current report shows over $930,000.  Kennedy has $330,000-plus.  Donna Lynne won’t report until October, but her long reach into the Colorado business community should get her to a million pretty quickly. If she doesn’t get close to that early in 2018, she’s in trouble. The Democratic governor’s primary will require well over $1 million per candidate. It could easily pass $8 million total.

The breakout of Dem primary votes is anybody’s guess.  Since primaries bring out the most active voters, candidates will jockey for the 1,046,832 registered Dems considered active voters plus some share of the 1,187,916 voters registered as unaffiliated.  Dem candidates will look to individuals who’ve voted in multiple even-year elections and especially those Dems and unaffiliateds in predominantly Democratic counties who voted in off-year school board and mill and bond elections.

On an “issue” basis, fracking may be the most important.  Over 580,000 Democratic voters live in Front Range counties where an anti-fracking position may be definitive: Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Larimer.  That’s over half of the state’s active Democratic voters, which means candidates will have to take a direct position that could turn problematic in the general election.

Gov. John Hickenlooper finessed anti-fracking votes due to weak Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2010 and 2014 and his support of some regulation on the industry.  As many have noted, however, the ongoing drilling in northern Front Range counties has upped the pressure.

Polis has established a solid record on the anti-fracking side, though activist Democrats and environmentalists objected to the deal he cut with the governor to keep oil and gas initiatives off the ballot in 2014.  Lynne’s candidacy may be most vulnerable to activist Democratic voters based on her moderately pro-business orientation and the governor’s oil and gas record.

But that’s the rub for Democrats.  If Polis wins the primary, many business interests, and especially extraction industries, will pour money directly to Republicans and indirectly to “issue” advertising to defeat him. An offset may come from renewable energy and technology enterprises that the congressman has consistently supported.

One other issue could potentially hurt Polis and Johnston: their strong support of charter schools.  Polis funds his own charter and Johnston sponsored bills on public teacher evaluation and school finance.  Teacher evaluation has been significantly modified and school finance was defeated at the polls. Both candidates may experience tepid financial and voter support among traditional public school teachers, a significant proportion of active Democratic voters.

The interests that have beefs with the various Democratic candidates have lots of money that can hurt in both primary and general elections.  Republicans have their own problems, so they shouldn’t lick their chops.  But the Democratic primary winner may come out of the primary with more than bumps and bruises.