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Colorado’s pending environmental legislation leads counties to consider secession

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Colorado’s largest conservation organization applauded state Democrats for advancing several pieces of legislation concerning environmental and energy issues while giving the minority Republicans an overall thumbs down on the same topics.

As reported by the Denver Post, the group’s scorecard gave 47 of 57 state Democrats perfect scores of 100, while none of the legislature’s 43 Republicans scored higher than 50.

Conservation Colorado releases an annual scorecard that rates how well it believes lawmakers dealt with its priorities in clean energy, transportation and resource preservation. The group called the 2013 session, which was controlled by Democrats in both chambers and the governor’s mansion, one of “profound legislation.”

At the top of its list of important accomplishments was the passage of Senate Bill 252, which doubled the amount of renewable energy required of rural electrical cooperatives, the same new law cited as the final straw for several rural counties that are now exploring ways to leave Colorado and form their own state.

Opponents to the bill say the expense of complying with the new requirement will raise electricity rates for rural customers.

Under the heading of “Dirty Energy,” which refers to proposed legislation to tighten controls on the state’s oil and gas industry, Conservation Colorado said it was “disappointing” that all but two of more than 10 bills that had been introduced were killed.

“Aside from a small increase in inspectors and a modest improvement in spill reporting, the oil and gas industry’s well-funded lobby succeeded in killing all the proposed reforms,” the report read.

Among those that died were bills that raised minimum fines for oil and gas violations, made groundwater testing for a major natural gas field more stringent and amended the state regulator agency’s mission to make it more about protecting the environment than promoting energy development.

“While seeing these bills die this session is disappointing, it is not the last word on this subject,” the Conservation Colorado report said.

Indeed, the belief that Democrats will revive attempts to further clamp down on oil and gas producers is among the many reasons why at least 10 counties are trying to move quickly to form their own state.

“We’re hanging by our fingernails, folks,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway at a meeting of the so-called North Colorado 51st State Initiative on Monday.

While recognizing some Democrats who voted against the oil and gas bills that “would have shut us down,” Conway warned that the legislature wasn’t done targeting the industry, which contributes substantially to the state’s revenue.

“The very things that are leading to economic prosperity, most of which are coming out of right here, they want to go after,” he said, noting that eight of the 10 counties looking to secede are in the top 10 oil and gas producing counties in Colorado.

“When you talk about our very way of life being under assault,” he said, “it’s the constant drumbeat of rules and regulations from the state legislature and frankly, they’re not hearing us out here.”

Conservation Colorado vowed to continue the drumbeat, especially with oil and gas regulations, in a conference call with reporters.

“There were bills that did not pass, and they need to pass in the future as we work for stronger protections in our community,” director Peter Maysmith is quoted as saying in the Denver Post.

The next meeting of the 51st State Initiative will be July 8 and it will be expanded to include other counties that have shown an interest in forming a new state, including counties in Kansas and Nebraska.

Conway told the Daily Caller News Foundation that as many as 20 counties could be represented.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.