Friction over the environment and the use of natural resources, from forests to oil, only seems to increase in the West.
Take the Endangered Species Act. Signed into law by President Nixon in 1973, it’s never ceased to be controversial. Forty-five years later, it’s under new and fierce attacks by politicians and industry that hope to lock in reductions to the act before possible setbacks for their cause in midterm elections.
At the federal level, this can be a lot of political sound and fury that signifies little about whether our drinking water will be safe tomorrow. At the state level, at least in Colorado, sometimes it’s a different story.
Governor John Hickenlooper, for example, has been working to address the hazards posed by the state’s abandoned oil and gas wells.
He just took another step in that direction, ordering state regulators to accelerate well cleanups and study whether the bonds that oil and gas producers now must post are big enough to cover future costs of plugging wells, should that be necessary.
It’s a sound initiative for Southwest Colorado, where there are numerous abandoned wells.
Just because we’re talking about action at the state rather than the national level doesn’t guarantee that politics won’t keep us from doing the right thing. In this case, however, we see a common-sensical consensus.
Hickenlooper will be leaving office soon. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Walker Stapleton, a Republican, are vying to replace him in what should be a lively contest. The race, The New York Times noted yesterday in a profile of Stapleton, “has turned into a nationally watched contest that is largely viewed as a test of the political direction of one of the purplest states in the nation.”
Unfortunately, that doesn’t do a lot for us and our backyard issues. So we asked both campaigns where the candidates stand on efforts to clean up wells.
Specifically, we told each candidate that we wanted to know “whether as governor, you would support and extend Hickenlooper’s executive order to prioritize the cleanup of orphaned oil and gas wells; whether you would seek the means to pay the approximately $25 million Hickenlooper says it will take now to clean up those wells; and whether you would toughen or increase the bonding requirements for oil and gas producers.”
We also said we would be asking his opponent the same questions.
“Jared supports Gov. Hickenlooper’s executive order and will continue to implement it if he is elected,” Polis’ spokesperson, Mara Sheldon, told us. “This is exactly the kind of sensible policy to strengthen health and safety that we all should be able to agree on and get done.”
In a statement provided by Stapleton’s spokesperson, he said, “I commend the effort to clean up orphan wells in order to protect our environment and I will continue to pursue this policy as governor. This is a great example where different stakeholders came together to craft a workable solution.”
What this means is that no matter who our next governor is, the good work continues – in at least this one area.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t give Hickenlooper at least some of the credit for that, for the example he’s set of quiet competence straight through the end of his final term.