Legislature should not be called upon to rubberstamp Hickenlooper’s deal

The legislative session has been out for little more than a month, and it’s terrific to be home. I’ve already been to lots of meetings and activities in the district to catch up with what’s being going on since last winter, and I’ve spoken to a number of groups to provide an overview of what occurred in this year’s session.

Recently, there has been talk of a special session on the topic of gas and oil issues, particularly as those issues intertwine at the local government level. So far, all there has been is talk, and I’ve not been included in any of the discussions being held by Gov. John Hickenlooper. What little I know of the discussions is that they’re aimed at getting U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, to withdraw a number of ballot initiatives on this topic that he is funding, yet he doesn’t seem to have the support of the environmental groups seeking the new limitations on gas and oil development.

I’ve been told that a deal that was worked out between the governor and Polis, but that if we legislators are called back to pass a bill that contained “the deal,” we would not be able to amend any part of that bill but are to pass it as drafted by those two parties. That approach to legislating, which amounts to being a mere rubberstamp for the governor and a congressman who doesn’t even live in my district, is unacceptable to me on the proposed process alone.

My job, as your legislator, is to consider each bill on its merits and to weigh whether to seek amendments to the bill after hearing the pros and the cons of the bill. Only after that, and after receiving feedback from my district, would I be able to determine if I would vote for or against the bill.

The gas-and-oil industry has been the subject of much legislative and regulatory changes in the last several years. I sat on the committee that oversaw the regulatory rule changes, and I remember well the bills changing the composition of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as providing better protection of the rights of surface owners. Much of the current debate focuses on the new development of resources in a different region of our state and in areas more densely populated, yet little time has passed since the comprehensive set of new rules and laws were adopted.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of national energy independence and have voted for development of traditional energy resources such as gas and oil, but also for hydropower, solar, geothermal, biomass and other renewable energy. Like the governor, I’m concerned about these proposed constitutional initiatives headed for the ballot. If not an orchestrated production, a special session may provide a needed airing of concerns as well as getting factual information to the public about gas and oil development in Colorado.

I can’t return to Denver for a special session only to rubberstamp a predetermined bill. There needs to be sufficient time for public testimony and meaningful deliberation. If a special session is called, it is my obligation to return to the Capitol. However, I’ll weigh any proposal on its merits and only after the opportunity for due consideration of any bill.

Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Call Roberts at (303) 866-4884 or email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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