Colorado, New Mexico oil and gas lobby groups tread rocky political road

New Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) President Tisha Conoly Schuller need look no farther away than New Mexico for an example of what can happen to the head of a state’s powerful industry lobby if they stray too far from the party line.

Last week, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association President Bob Gallagher said he was fired for taking too hard of a line in support of the industry, drawing the wrath of members who say they need to be able to work with the state under tougher new regulations.

Tisha Conoly Schuller
Tisha Conoly Schuller

Conoly Schuller stepped into a dustup between state Senate minority leader Josh Penry and Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently when she invited the gubernatorial candidate to speak at a COGA meeting that the GOP frontrunner for the governor’s office, Scott McInnis, was unable to attend.

Hickenlooper, a former petroleum geologist turned Denver restaurant mogul, has been portraying himself as more open to oil and gas industry concerns than Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who last spring shepherded through environmentally stricter drilling regulations that have become a rallying cry for Republicans seeking the governor’s mansion this fall.

Penry, a former congressional staffer for McInnis, bristled at the notion that Hickenlooper will more readily embrace the industry and called Conoly Schuller out for including Hickelooper.

In fact, more oversight continues to be the trend ahead of the next natural gas drilling boom. In places like Pennsylvania, where McInnis has lauded a state regulatory environment encouraging more drilling in the Marcellus Shale — which he alleges is costing Colorado high-paying industry jobs – Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently announced the state’s Department of Environmental Protection will beef up staffing and regulations to better protect water quality.

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