Governor Ritter makes the grade

Governor Bill Ritter, who has staked his claim on making Colorado a leader in the “green economy,” got his report card yesterday and he did OK.

Colorado Conservation Voters graded the governor in seven subjects, with grades ranging from C+ to A+, with an overall average of a high B.

“No one would dispute that the governor has led the way on the new energy economy in Colorado. He easily warrants the A+ that we proudly give him in that category,” writes CCV Executive Director Pete Maysmith in the report’s introduction.

Actually, though, in the political season that this one has become, of course someone disputes that Ritter has led the way on the new energy economy.

In this case, we bring you the words of American Constitution Party candidate for governor Tom Tancredo, speaking Saturday in Colorado Springs:

“The governor has driven coal and gas businesses out of the state because he wants a green economy. Well, you know what? Green economy is a nice phrase, but it doesn’t mean anything, either in terms of providing the green energy we are going to need or in terms of providing jobs. There are no jobs in the green economy. There are plenty of jobs in taking oil and gas out of the ground. And you can do it without leaving a footprint that harms the land, to the extent possible. It is always going to be a trade-off to one extent or another. You can have a pristine economy or you can have a lot of jobs in this state. You have to have a different attitude about business. The governor of this state and the mayor of Denver have had an anti-business attitude if it is a business they don’t like and in this case they… didn’t like oil and gas, and that has got to change.”

“Tancredo’s comments very clearly show how little he understands about Colorado’s New Energy Economy, about the great work Mayor Hickenlooper has done around green energy, and about the economics of energy in general,” said the governor’s communications director, Evan Dreyer.

“The New Energy Economy is all about balance. It’s about sun and wind and natural gas and clean coal. It’s about creating jobs and protecting our air, land, water and wildlife. Colorado now has the fourth-highest concentration of clean-energy workers in the country. We are recognized around the globe as a clean-energy leader, as a place where new and innovative technologies are born, as a place where clean-tech is helping to drive the economy forward. It sounds very much like Tancredo doesn’t have any clue about this issue, or he just wants to go backwards. Either way, it’s bad,” continued Dreyer.

Dreyer added that Ritter has worked hard on environmental issues and was pleased to be recognized in this way.

CCV disagreed with Tancredo not just on the green economy, but on oil and gas as well, giving Ritter an A on “responsible oil and gas development.”

“Gov. Ritter’s most important executive action was shepherding the development of the amended oil and gas rules in 2007-2008,” the report says. It goes on to tout Ritter for working with industry representatives as well as conservationists and community groups to develop rules that it touts as being fair and balanced while offering more protection to wildlife and surface owners.

“Westerners have a different relationship with the land, the water, the rivers, the openness, and because of that I think we forge compromises a little easier,” Ritter told a lunch crowd hosted by CCV Tuesday.

“I am proud of the new oil and gas rules—the press pitted us one against the other, and you do get in big fights. But at the end of the day, we succeeded in revising the oil and gas rules with input from industry.

“There are people in the business world, there are people in this room today who have fought me on this or that but at the end of the day, if the natural gas companies hadn’t been with us, we wouldn’t have gotten things done. They have been with us through some difficult things, and they understand not just what is good for the natural gas business but they understand that our future depends on thinking differently than we thought in the 60s and 70s.”

It should be noted that CCV’s annual lunch was attended by dozens of elected officials from around the state, but also by many natural gas industry executives as well. Besides, Ritter, billionaire entrepreneur Ted Turner also spoke at the luncheon. He blasted U.S. environmental policy, but also got lots of laughs.

On global warming, CCV gave Ritter an A-. They lauded the governor for creating a Climate Action Plan and appointing the state’s first Climate Change advisor. They praised him, as well, for testifying in Congress on the matter.

Ritter got his worst mark on “smart growth and transportation,” a C+. The report said Colorado has added 1.8 million residents since 1990 and is expected to gain another 1.6 million by 2025. They said he has done too little to plan for such growth.

On water, the governor received an A-.

“Protecting our rivers and streams is one of the biggest policy challenges in Colorado. Ensuring adequate water supplies for growing communities is an issue that affects the daily lives of all Coloradans,” CCV wrote in introducing the subject.

CCV praised Ritter for championing stream protection and also for signing conservation and efficiency legislation.

On mining, CCV gave Ritter a B+. They praised the governor for his work on reforming mining regulation, especially to protect groundwater, but criticized the administration for a lack of transparency on some matters and for his support of a new uranium processing facility despite a number of unresolved issues.

On “open spaces and wild places,” CCV gave Ritter a B. “Overall, the governor signaled a new direction by insisting on being a part of discussions regarding the management and protection of Colorado’s vast wealth of federal public lands.”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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