DENVER– Addressing the fifth annual Sustainable Opportunities Summit here yesterday, candidate for governor and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper noted the political tensions that have risen around the natural gas industry and the environmental community over the past years but said the two sides have more in common than they might think. Making sidelong reference to the back and forth on energy policy between Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, Hickenlooper said that as governor he would bring environmentalists and oil and gas industry representatives together to create consensus.
Hickenlooper praised Governor Bill Ritter but said he would do things differently when it comes to regulating the natural gas business on the Western Slope.
“I would certainly go about it in a different way. You know, I grew up a skinny kid with thick glasses and acne. My dad told us as little kids that if we couldn’t talk our way out of a fight we deserved to get whipped, so I spent most of my time learning how to bring people together.”
He said Ritter has been a good governor but that his style sometimes creates conflict where there shouldn’t be any.
“Governor Ritter was a prosecutor. He likes to hear both sides of an argument, think, and then do what he thinks is right, and he does that. He always does what he thinks is right. He doesn’t compromise on that.
“My style, though, is to get everyone in the room at the same time.”
Talking to the groups separately, Hickenlooper said, creates suspicion as neither group knows what is being said to the other group, and both imagine the worst. Too often, he said environmentalists paint the natural gas people as the enemy, and vice-versa.
“I was a geologist,” he pointed out. “Almost every geologist I know is an environmentalist. They became geologists because they love being outdoors in the mountains.”
Hickenlooper said that about 95 percent of the natural gas in Colorado could be extracted with little or no environmental impact beyond the impacts that have already occurred.
He said that natural gas is a perfect transition energy to bridge the gap between coal and renewables. “The environmental difference in burning natural gas versus coal is significant. The natural gas business and environmentalists should form a natural alliance.
“The things these different constituencies have in common far outweigh their differences yet for some reason they both seem to focus on the extremes that divide them instead of on the commonalities that should unite them.
“This state has always had a strong respect for natural resources, and has also always had a strong extraction industry and I don’t see a conflict between them,” he told the crowd of more than 300 people gathered to explore issues of sustainability in business.
Ritter was scheduled to speak today, the last day of the conference, but couldn’t make it due to injuries suffered in a bike accident.
Former Congressman Scott McInnis worked as an oil and gas industry lobbyist and consultant for years and staunchly opposes environmental regulations on the industry as “job killers.”