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How Fracking Could Break Colorado Democrats
Politico Magazine ^ | April 15, 2014 | ELI STOKOLS

Posted on 04/16/2014 7:36:57 AM PDT by thackney

Jaared Polis really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. If you saw the Colorado congressman speaking on the House floor last month wearing a clip-on bowtie with a polo shirt under his blazer, you know what I’m talking about. He’s been this way since he first emerged on the scene.

About 10 years ago, when he was just 28, Polis was one of four wealthy Colorado Democrats who pooled their considerable personal resources to create a state-of-the-art political machine that was ruthlessly effective in turning this once-red heartland state a stunning shade of blue.

But Polis wouldn’t run with that pack for very long.

In 2008, just a few months before Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in Denver, Polis stood in a hotel ballroom near his hometown of Boulder and basked in the glow of his own victory: a difficult primary win over a long-time state lawmaker favored by his former cohorts and the Democratic establishment. It was a win that cost the self-made millionaire some $5 million and all but assured him a safe seat in Congress.

Openly gay and outspoken, Polis came to Congress having made his fortune turning his parents’ greeting card company into a couple of e-card websites and an online florist company. He’s stood out in Washington from day one, painting his office walls neon yellow and snaring more than the usual share of headlines with his deft use of social media and unexpected policy positions: embracing marijuana legalization, pushing the government to stop minting dollar bills and, just last December, breaking House rules during a floor speech to recognize undocumented immigrants in the gallery above and shouting over the gaveling that Congress was “tearing their families apart.”

But none of that’s as ballsy—or as consequential—as what he’s doing now: Polis is quietly financing a series of statewide ballot measures to allow Colorado cities and counties to regulate, zone and even ban fracking, the commonly used process in which a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep below the surface of the earth to loosen natural gas deposits for extraction. As a drilling boom has pushed many wells closer to houses and schools, concerns about possible long- and short-term health effects of air and water contamination and radiation exposure have prompted five Colorado cities to approve municipal bans. But it remains unclear whether the authority to limit oil and gas development resides with the state or with local governments. Polis is pushing to settle that matter once and for all.

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.

“This is a huge fucking deal,” says Ted Trimpa, a Denver power lawyer and strategist once dubbed “the Democrats’ Karl Rove,” talking to me while in Washington last week. Trimpa 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’s 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.”

Hickenlooper is Polis’s opposite in one important way: He cares what everyone thinks.

I’ve covered him since he was first elected Denver mayor in 2003 after having worked as a geologist in the oil and gas industry before opening a chain of brewpubs—and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard him frame his political M.O. around his time in the restaurant industry: “There’s no margin in making people unhappy,” he’s fond of saying.

Hickenlooper has made a career of endearing himself to the public by pursuing consensus, imbuing policy positions with a salesman’s innate optimism and embracing his personal quirks and natural, affable awkwardness. In a press conference, he once accidentally referred to his lieutenant governor as a “rising sex star.” His staffers often hold their breath when the governor’s at the mic: “It’s like watching a baby cross a highway,” one told me once—even though the politically charmed Hickenlooper always manages to get through it unscathed.

He jumped out of an airplane in support of a 2006 ballot measure; running for governor four years later, he disavowed negative ads by taking a shower in an ad of his own to illustrate how dirty he feels after watching them. In 2011, he raised eyebrows when he told Congress that he once drank a glass of Halliburton’s finest fracking fluid, trying to underscore how advances in technology have made drilling safer.

That one didn’t go over so well.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Colorado
KEYWORDS: alreadyposted; colorado; energy; hydrofrac; searchisourfriend

1 posted on 04/16/2014 7:36:57 AM PDT by thackney
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To: thackney

Not sure this is the wisest course of action for Polis.

2 posted on 04/16/2014 7:47:33 AM PDT by Oberon (John 12:5-6)
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To: Oberon

“Not sure this is the wisest course of action for Polis.”

let’s hope not.

3 posted on 04/16/2014 7:56:51 AM PDT by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)
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To: thackney

“minting” dollar bills???

4 posted on 04/16/2014 7:58:46 AM PDT by ken5050 ("One useless man is a shame, two are a law firm, three or more are a Congress".. John Adams)
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To: ken5050
"“minting” dollar bills???"

Maybe Gay politicians prefer a more present odor drifting from the piles of cash?

5 posted on 04/16/2014 8:06:38 AM PDT by Paladin2
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To: thackney

“Hickenlooper has made a career of endearing himself to the public by pursuing consensus, imbuing policy positions with a salesman’s innate optimism and embracing his personal quirks and natural, affable awkwardness.”

That’s why he signed those anti-gun bills that got his fellow demoncraps recalled and driven from office.

Politically sharp as a bowling ball, that one.

6 posted on 04/16/2014 8:11:24 AM PDT by Beagle8U (Unions are an Affirmative Action program for Slackers! .)
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To: thackney

Natural gas extraction is about the only industry left in Colorado with high-paying jobs. They’ve shut down coal, mining and ranching, and half the gas companies have already left. Four firearms manufacturers have left, and construction is dead.

Question: do Democrats want there to be ANY jobs left around here? Or just in Boulder?. The rest of us can just serve them when they come over here to ski and mountain bike.

7 posted on 04/16/2014 8:15:16 AM PDT by Red Boots
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To: thackney

Local fracking shutdowns are not a problem. 90% of all new wells have to be fracked, so the practice is not going away.

Any product not produced as a result of bans will simply be produced later when the bans are removed out of necessity.

In the meantime fracking bans support prices.

Which sounds good if you are a mineral rights holder.

8 posted on 04/16/2014 9:22:34 AM PDT by SaxxonWoods (....Let It Burn...)
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To: thackney
9 posted on 04/16/2014 9:24:18 AM PDT by Hoodat (Democrats - Opposing Equal Protection since 1828)
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To: Hoodat

Thanks, I missed that one last night.

10 posted on 04/16/2014 9:56:00 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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