By Aileen Yeung, EnergyInDepth
“Ban fracking” and “keep it in the ground” groups are desperately trying to stay relevant in Colorado politics in 2017.
But a rally at the State Capitol last week drew a single lawmaker, State Rep. Joe Salazar (D), rumored candidate for governorship in 2018 and the same politician who stood with Bill McKibben last year in support of anti-oil and gas measures that ultimately failed to garner sufficient public support to make the ballot.
At the rally, Salazar pledged to ban fracking, to “bring bills to go after the oil and gas companies” and to “support those who bring bills to go after the oil and gas companies,” because if he did not, “that would relegate me to the depths of hell”:
“I don’t want to be in the spirit world thinking to myself that I did absolutely nothing to … help clean up this planet. … That would be something that would relegate me to the depths of hell, and I don’t want to be relegated to that.”
He encouraged the crowd to ask elected representatives whether they “stand with mother earth,” and if they don’t give an “unequivocal answer,” then “you got to get them out of office,” he said:
“You have to get them to answer your question: ‘Where do you stand with mother earth?’ And if they can’t give you an unequivocal answer that ‘I stand with mother earth,’ then find someone to run against them if you don’t do it yourself. You got to get them out of office.”
If standing with mother earth means banning fracking, as Salazar suggests, it may very well cost Colorado hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in lost economic activity.
According to a 2016 economic assessment by the Business Research Division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, a measure that would bar oil and natural gas production on 90 percent of the state’s surface acreage would lower the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $7.1 billion and cost over 100,000 jobs:
“Given a 90.2% reduction in new production beginning in 2017, the compounding economic consequence would result in a lower real GDP by an average of $7.1 billion and 54,000 fewer jobs in the first five years, and a lower GDP by an average of $14.5 billion and 104,000 fewer jobs between 2017 and 2031.”
No wonder leaders on both sides of the aisle in the state oppose measures to ban oil and natural gas development. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has called anti-energy ballot measures “extreme,” described them as “radical ideas that have no place in our state Constitution,” and voiced his commitment to “doing whatever it takes to defeat them.”
Last October, during a debate between U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and his Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, the moderator asked, “Should local governments in Colorado be able to ban fracking with voter approval?”
Bennet answered, “No.” Last August, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R) called leaders who support “keep it in the ground” initiatives “irresponsible.” “I think anybody who refuses to reject statements like that are not fit for statewide office in Colorado or not fit for federal office in Washington, D.C.,” he continued.
For his rallying cry, Salazar advised the crowd to “demand better from your current legislators.” But one has to wonder if jettisoning “one of the two or three top economic engines driving Colorado’s economy” – how state Sen. John Cooke (R) described energy – is the “better” that Coloradans should demand.