Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with the two largest gas and oil operators in Colorado, is shopping a new compromise to avoid potential fracking initiatives from appearing on the November ballot.
Like any compromise, selling the idea to both sides of the aisle is difficult. But that is a political reality that is true for almost any significant compromise.
But the real problem facing the governor and his allies on this issue is the fact that even if this elaborate and fragile compromise can pass the legislature through a special session, very motivated environmentalists are more than happy to take up the issue themselves.
I realize that eliminating Rep. Jared Polis’ money from the equation is a major part of this compromise, but the fact of the matter is that he is not the only wealthy person interested in this fight.
While Polis may walk away from the fight this year, many grassroots environmental organizations will be more than happy to step up. And while they may not be able to raise the kind of money that Polis brings to the situation, the money won’t really matter.
Once the ballot issues are on the ballot, the game is on and oil and gas companies will not risk any issue passing by taking it lightly. The fight will bring candidates and other organizations into the battle as well.
I commend the governor for doing what he can to craft a compromise and avoid this fight. I am confident that his fellow Democrats are grateful for his efforts.
However, Democrats are learning a hard lesson that Republicans have been learning to deal with since 2010. A motivated wing of your party can cause trouble for elections and easy answers are very hard to come by.
The fight over fracking puts moderate Democrats at odds with a growing and dedicated environmental wing of the party. For this wing, it’s not just about setback rules and noise reduction guidelines. It’s about having the right to eliminate oil and gas drilling from our communities.
I’m not saying that sentiment is right or wrong. But what I am saying is that a compromise between political and business groups is going to do nothing to quell that spirit.
Democrats will need to get used to the reality of living with an angry and potentially unsupportive wing of their party. Democrats will also need to get used to the idea that some in their own party, like Polis, will have no problem siding with this wing, even if it causes problems.
It would be great if all big problems could be solved with compromises hatched by our elected officials. But sometimes the problems are too big for a conference room or even a Senate chamber. Sometimes, the problems need something as big as a ballot to finally see some resolution.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.