Prospects are not looking good for a special legislative session this summer to consider stricter gas and oil regulations. The governor has worked hard to get both sides to the table but faces enormous hurdles with time running out.
First, he has to get consensus in the gas and oil community, which is currently split into two camps. One group is willing to accept the compromise language proposed by the governor as the lesser of two evils. The other group does not support the Governor’s compromise language and is more confident that the industry would win at the ballot box. This faction doesn’t want to negotiate with Congressman Polis who is leading the charge to create more regulation.
Polis is promoting several ballot initiatives and has the financial resources to gather the 86,000 plus signatures necessary to put the questions on the November ballot if stricter regulations are not passed in a special session. But he has stipulated that language introduced in a special session could not be amended by the legislature, which would extremely unusual. He says he will not engage in the issue again until 2018 if the compromise language is passed in a special session.
The Colorado Association of REALTORS and the Colorado Home Builders Association are also involved in the discussion. The big issue for both groups is Polis’s 2,000 foot setback ballot initiative. The setback measure would not only dramatically reduce potential drilling opportunities by as much as 40 – 50 percent, but would restrict new residential development as well.
Note: According to an article in the July 8 edition of the Denver Business Journal, a decision by the Colorado Home Builder’s Association (CAHB) on July 3rd to support the Governor’s draft compromise legislation led to the resignation of several CAHB lobbyists as well as multiple board members. This further demonstrates the difficulties and divisiveness of the issue.
Observers wonder if Congressman Polis’s strategies will backfire on him. The oil and gas industry, backed by the business community, is furious with him. If he pushes the Governor too far he could harm his standing with his fellow Democrats at the state level. And if he doesn’t go far enough his environmentalist allies could become disenchanted.