Fracking Compromise May Create a Bigger Fight in 2016

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Gov. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Jared Polis, left, at an Aug. 4, 2014, news conference announcing a compromise on fracking measures. (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Jared Polis, left, at an Aug. 4, 2014, news conference announcing a compromise on fracking measures. (credit: CBS)

Dominic Dezzutti By Dominic Dezzutti
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Governor John Hickenlooper earned the headlines and praise he received this week after the compromise he crafted ended the fracking battle on the 2014 Colorado ballot.

Hickenlooper could have turned back many times, but he finally brought together the very motley crew of odd bedfellows that was required to craft this 11th hour compromise.

But while the compromise and its formation are impressive, do not be under the impression that somehow the issue of fracking is going away in Colorado anytime soon.

Yes, four initiatives were taken off the ballot and Mark Udall and Andrew Romanoff, along with John Hickenlooper won’t need to worry about a pro-oil backlash affecting their races this fall.

But, if anyone thinks that the activists that represent the grassroots effort behind the anti-fracking issues are going away, they did not see how fracktivists responded to Rep. Jared Polis on Tuesday. Their collective disgust and feelings of betrayal were palpable.

For activists that are looking to actually restrict fracking in Colorado, and not just provide input on potential legislation, this was not a victory.

As others have eloquently noted, John Hickenlooper did score a major political victory and Jared Polis saved his political future within the Democratic Party with the move.

The Colorado Democratic Party is likely breathing a big sigh of relief at this compromise. However, it may be counting its chickens a bit too early.

Yes, the ballot box in 2014 will not play host to the carnage, but that only means that a future ballot box may see an even more intense fight.

If it’s in 2016, a fierce battle over fracking could bring far more damage to Democrats than it could have in 2014.

It’s a long way off, but I can’t imagine that many people who have been listening to the growing debate feel that this one blue ribbon committee is going to calm things down.

Fracktivists are not looking for deeper set backs for drilling rigs. They are looking for less fracking in Colorado, much, much less, ideally.

Six months ago, those same fracktivists felt like they were masters of their own destiny. They had eleven initiatives heading to the ballot and had motivated oil and gas companies to spend millions in fear that these grassroots believers could really change the world.

Now, these same fracktivists go home feeling betrayed and looking for an outlet for the overwhelming passion for their cause.

One of my favorite movies is Tora! Tora! Tora!. I think the final line of the movie, spoken by the Japanese admiral that just oversaw the Pearl Harbor attack, may possibly fit this situation.

“I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

That sleeping giant today is a growing group of activists who saw its efforts this year lead not to an historic fight at the ballot box, but to a compromise committee.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

About The Blogger

- 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.

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