Enviros, sportsmen drill home role of oil and gas politics in Ritter decision

Sportsmen, outdoor recreation and environmental groups have been effusive in their praise for the accomplishments of lame-duck Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, issuing statements lauding his push to reform the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and pass environmentally tougher oil and gas drilling regulations.

Gov. Bill Ritter
Gov. Bill Ritter

Wildlife advocates, in interviews with the Associated Press, also signaled concern that Ritter’s exit could lead to a rollback of the gains made in the last year in better balancing environmental concerns with industry demands in the next natural gas boom.

Both former congressman Scott McInnis and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes – the two remaining Republicans vying for the GOP nomination – have promised a highly critical review of the new regulations, which have yet to be truly tested because of the recessionary plunge in gas prices and subsequent Western Slope drilling permit slowdown.

Some Western Slope observers have speculated industry pressure on the drilling regs issue may have contributed to Ritter’s decision not to seek a second term. And Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who now tops the Democratic list of gubernatorial hopefuls, won’t have to defend his nonexistent record on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Republican who dropped out of the governor’s race while Ritter was still in it and has been most vocal on the need for a Palin-esque “Drill, baby, drill!” platform – lame-duck state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry — compared Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s reform of BLM oil and gas lease sales to Ritter’s Colorado rules.

Apples to oranges really (or solar to coal, if you will), since the new DOI rules really deal with how public lands are divvied up for drilling, not how the actual drilling is regulated, but that’s never stopped industry shill Penry in the past.

Not surprisingly, the same enviro, hunting and fishing groups praising Ritter are also pouring it on for Salazar, who yesterday said he won’t seek Ritter’s office and gave the nod to Hickenlooper. The restaurateur turned mayor likely knows more about vegetable oil than oil shale, but presumably he’s been coached on the party line. And New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, according to the Associated Press, also is onboard with Salazar’s reforms.

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