Empowered by their recent sweep of the state Legislature and governor’s mansion, Colorado Democrats are showing their true stripes.
Based on their recent legislative actions, it’s clear the state’s Democratic leadership is either beholden to out-of-state political interests or that it’s composed of overbearing paternalists who believe they know better than the Coloradans who elected them.
For example, consider the far-reaching energy bill Democrats recently snuck through the state’s Senate, Senate Bill 181. The bill would, among other things, remove the existing caps on drilling permit application fees; require companies to provide drilling permitting information to any town claiming to be “affected” by the siting of the drilling location, a provision that would allow town governments to obtain this important information even if the operation isn’t within its town borders; and allows localities that object to oil and gas production to ask the state to impose restrictions on neighboring jurisdictions’ ability to allow energy development — restrictions that can then be used to establish statewide air and water quality permitting standards that are stricter than current state requirements.
To be clear, despite claims the bill was supposed to be about establishing greater local control over energy production, localities are not allowed to set laxer standards than the state allows, and the bill, in fact, results in giving power over local energy decisions to anti-fossil fuel interests outside of a particular city’s or county’s jurisdiction. So much for local control.
By passing the bill in the middle of the night, Democrats were trying to pull a fast one on voters. On the same day Coloradans voted Democrats into power, they also overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 112, a measure that would have effectively banned oil and gas development on more than 85 percent of Colorado’s nonfederal lands.
Opponents of Prop 112 rightfully pointed out that every credible scientific study to date shows fracking, the process used to extract diffuse natural gas and oil deposits situated deep beneath the Earth’s surface in shale rock formations, does not cause air or water pollution. They also noted a 2018 study by the Consumer Energy Alliance found Coloradans enjoy lower natural gas prices, due in large part to fracking. This saved residents and businesses almost $12.4 billion from 2006 to 2016.
According to the report, “The economic benefits of the oil and gas industry can be felt across the state — supporting jobs in 50 of Colorado’s 64 counties.
In 2014, Colorado producers contributed almost $1.2 billion to the state’s coffers via property, income and severance taxes in addition to public land leases and royalties.”
Similarly, another study determined Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry supported approximately 232,000 jobs in the state in 2015 and produced more than $31 billion in economic impact.
Voters evidently found this information very persuasive, because despite a multimillion-dollar campaign by out-of-state environmental groups in favor of Prop. 112, Colorado voters rejected further oil and gas restrictions by a margin of 14 percentage points — a landslide by today’s standards when elections are often decided by 1 or 2 percentage points.
Evidently, none of this matters to Colorado Democrats, who now wield unchecked power. When running for governor, Democrat Jared Polis opposed Prop. 112, saying it would strangle an important industry in the state. However, now that Polis is governor, the wolf has shed his sheepskin. Polis supports the legislation passed by the Senate, even though it’s much more restrictive than Prop. 112.
Any way you slice it, Coloradans’ votes just don’t matter to the state’s Democratic political leaders, a truly sad state of affairs. The Democrat-controlled Legislature and governor should be ashamed of themselves for putting special-interest groups desires before the will of their constituents, but elites typically have no shame when it comes to lording over those whom they believe they are superior to.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (email@example.com) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Arlington Heights, Ill.