Rep. Polis debates fracking policy with COGA

KUSA - Amid mounting tensions over how best to regulate oil and gas drilling in Colorado, two heavyweights on both sides of the issue joined 9NEWS for a televised debate that got heated at times.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) debated fracking policy with oil and gas industry leader Tisha Schuller for the 9NEWS political program Balance of Power, set to air Saturday at 6 p.m. on 9NEWS and again at 9:30 p.m. on channel 20.

The interactions between the two gave no hint of a pending compromise and showed some looming animosity between the leaders of both camps.

"It's sort of entitlement that the oil and gas industry feels," Polis said, describing why a more stringent policy is needed to protect landowners.

At one point in the exchange, Schuller stopped Polis from jumping into her line of thought by telling him he was, "on mute Congressman, I'm still talking."

Schuller expressed a deep distrust of proposed ballot questions backed by Polis, some of which aim to give local governments in Colorado the power to ban fracking, others of which would increase the state's "setbacks," the rules which govern how far drilling must be from occupied buildings.

Gov. John Hickenlooper hopes to broker a deal between the two sides of this debate and call a special session of the legislature to enact it as law, thus avoiding a vote on fracking in November.

Currently, the state requires a 500-foot setback from most buildings, and 1000 feet from schools and high-occupancy buildings.

Sources close to the negotiations tell 9NEWS that industry representatives haven't agreed to any expansion of setbacks or language allowing local governments to impose greater setbacks than the state does.

Schuller avoided specifics when asked why the industry sees a setback of 1,500 feet or more as onerous. She did portray all of the ideas Polis is considering as draconian.

"Fundamentally, [the proposed ballot questions are] deceptive. They're about banning oil and gas development," Schuller said. "When we're doing that, we're undermining the investment in the business environment of Colorado and we're also taking away private property rights."

"It's a ridiculous mischaracterization," Polis countered. "First of all, I don't support banning oil and gas development and I don't think many of the proponents of local control or additional setbacks do. It's about allowing the oil and gas industry to get along with the rest of the state, develop in a sustainable way."

While it's technically possible to call a special session and retract ballot questions as late as early September, the Governor's office believes that it may only have weeks to broker a deal.

That's because both sides will begin gearing up for war if it appears a ballot question on the issue is coming.

The campaigns will be focused on beating the other side, not negotiating with them.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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