Colorado Democrats deeply divided over energy issues

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Democrats in Colorado are deeply split over energy issues, particularly how to regulate the drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing.

These divisions were on display at the party assembly Saturday, where the Colorado Democratic Party officially opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, while anti-fracking protesters interrupted a speech by Gov. John Hickenlooper, questioning his support of the oil and gas industry.

The pipeline resolution was adopted on a two-thirds voice vote, according to the Colorado Observer. It encourages President Obama to oppose construction of the pipeline, even though a Democratic polling organization found that most Coloradans support it.

The poll, done by Hickman Analytics in late February, also found that 52 percent of respondents would be less willing to support incumbent Democrats if the president denies construction. A plurality of those who support Sen. Mark Udall said they also wanted to see the pipeline built.

By opposing it, Colorado Dems are also running counter to other Democratic senators, 11 of whom sent a letter to Obama last week demanding that he make the “right” decision and find “that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.” Five of those who signed the letter are facing tough re-elections, but Udall wasn’t among them.

Udall is trying hard to play both sides of the energy equation, by promising to fight climate change on one hand, while labeling himself “champion of Colorado’s natural gas industry” on the other.

At least some delegates at Saturday’s assembly aren’t pleased with the fence-straddling. When Udall mentioned “clean-burning natural gas” as essential to “power[ing] our economy,” he was met with shouts and jeers from those who are opposed to fracking, the Observer reported.

Likewise, Hickenlooper — whose administration is suing the city of Longmont for banning fracking — was interrupted  during his speech. An activist shouting “Don’t frack Colorado!” during Hickenlooper’s remarks was cheered by others in the crowd, the Observer reported.

The divide was further illuminated when Rep. Jared Polis, a Democratic congressman who supports a ballot measure that would allow communities to ban or otherwise regulate fracking within local jurisdictions, said it’s important that the drilling technique isn’t allowed to threaten Coloradans’ health.

He called for “protecting our environment across the world in [reducing] our carbon emissions and making sure that America can play a leadership role in addressing global warming,” the Observer quoted him as saying. “Or here at home, to make sure that natural gas and fracking doesn’t threaten jobs in our state and [the] health of Colorado citizens.”

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