Democratic State House Rep. Joe Salazar has been waging a 24-hour social media attack against those who back fellow Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s support of fracking.
Salazar threw his first punch Thursday, a few hours before the House debated the annual budget bill.
The Adams County representative announced via Facebook that he intended to ask for an amendment to hire more inspectors to investigate oil and gas operations.
He could have chosen thousands of areas to cover the $370,000 cost. But he went directly after Hickenlooper’s budget.
“I think the Governor has swallowed too much of the fracking fluid Kool Aid,” Salazar wrote. “I am prepared to send a message to the Governor that his comments are ill-founded and we are tired of his attempts to minimize what Coloradans are feeling about oil and gas operations.”
The post drew more than 150 positive responses and comments. It also drew a couple of criticisms, beginning with Butch Montoya, a former safety manager for the city of Denver.
That’s when things started to heat up.
Montoya told Salazar he supported the governor’s position, and pointed out that a trillion cars and trucks on the roads won’t go away overnight, and that dependence on oil for heating won’t disappear for those who live on the East Coast.
Salazar responded in part that it’s “easy to be for fracking when it isn’t in your backyard.”
That wasn’t the end of it.
Alan Salazar, Hickenlooper’s chief strategist, got into the act, too.
During the debate on the budget bill, Rep. Salazar did indeed introduce an amendment to take $370,000 out of the governor’s budget to fund the four full-time oil and gas inspectors. And the amendment passed, with support from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Salazar danced a little, with a big grin on his face, as he walked away from the podium.
The amendment was challenged when the budget bill came up for its final action of the night, and just as quickly as it had been adopted, it was killed. Rep. Salazar admitted when the vote came up that he wasn’t serious — that the amendment was designed to send the governor a message.
The plan worked.
The governor’s strategist Alan Salazar sent this reporter a tweet swiping at Rep. Salazar’s amendment.
This morning, Alan Salazar responded directly to the representative via the Facebook post, calling the stunt unproductive and a “gratuitous and ungracious critique.”
Alan Salazar said the Governor had offered to sit down with the representative to work through the problems the Department of Natural Resources had with a bill Salazar offered that referred to earthquakes allegedly caused by fracking.
“Had you an interest in passing effective legislation, indeed, something that might solve a problem, instead of sending a vitriolic message, you would not have rebuffed the offer,” Alan Salazar wrote.
Rep. Salazar fired back shortly after 11 a.m. this morning. He admitted the tactic might have been unflattering, but he also finds it unflattering that the governor goes on public radio or other media to “minimize the concerns of Coloradans by using oil and gas talking points (i.e. Fracking is safe, there are no problems, it’s going to drive business away, we have the most stringent regulations, etc.).”
The Governor refuses to listen to his constituents, Joe Salazar continued, as evidenced by the nearly two dozen anti-fracking initiatives that were filed on the November ballot.
Eight of those measures still await petition approval.
Rep. Salazar also said his constituents worry about earthquakes, property value damage, air and water quality, accidents and explosions. He noted a report last week said there had been more than 600 spills, along with other safety problems, including loss of life for oil workers.
He finished by asking Hickenlooper to come to Adams County and talk to anxious residents about the impact of drilling. But he also said the Governor has refused to talk to him, pointing out that on other issues, Hickenlooper’s door has been open.
“On oil and gas issues, my concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” Rep. Salazar wrote.
“My actions, yesterday, as much as it makes you mad/disappointed got the attention of the Governor and we are now communicating. I am open to continued communication. Is the Governor?”
Clarification: comments from Alan Salazar clarified to reference a bill, not Rep. Salazar’s amendment.