It is no secret that I have not harbored a tremendous amount of faith in Gov. John Hickenlooper over the years. But I had chosen to believe that he had come a long way from his infamous remarks in 2010 about rural Coloradans displaying “backward thinking,” that he really did understand, to some extent at least, the culture, heritage and economy of Colorado beyond the Denver city limits.
Sadly, this past legislative session has shown that this particular leopard hasn’t changed his spots. The governor has proved, over and over again, his callous disregard for the concerns of rural Coloradans.
The anti-gun bills, which the governor pushed through the Legislature and signed without a moment’s hesitation, were only part of a directed assault on our rural lifestyle, traditions and rights. And for what? Not a single one would have done anything to prevent either of the tragedies Democrats used as an excuse to push a long-restrained gun-control agenda.
Evidently we have a governor who cares more about the thoughts and opinions of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg than he does about the citizens of his own state.
Hickenlooper had an opportunity to protect rural Coloradans from the devastating economic effects of arbitrary and politically motivated mandates being placed on electrical generation. Instead, he again displayed the contempt he has for “backward thinking” rural Americans and signed into law Senate Bill 252, which imposes an unrealistic, unworkable and unnecessary mandate on rural electric associations to get 20 percent of their electricity from so-called “renewable” sources by 2020.
The governor knows it is not feasible for our rural electric cooperatives to meet this unfunded mandate in such a short period of time. He knows that 21st century coal generation is clean and supports the economic backbone of thousands of rural western Coloradans. He knows that coal, natural gas and nuclear power can generate electricity cleanly, more reliably and much more inexpensively than solar and wind power. And yet, with the stroke of a pen, he disregarded all of this and made a conscious decision to throw rural Colorado under the bus for politically calculated reasons.
Hickenlooper has done some good work in generally supporting responsible oil and gas development. He was a geologist, after all, and for him to oppose hydraulic fracturing would be like a cardiologist opposing bypass surgery or low-cholesterol diets. But what is becoming clear is that, in order to placate the extremists whose votes he depends on, he will willingly sell out rural Colorado by supporting ridiculous, expensive and devastating measures like SB252.
His indifference to the hinterlands of Colorado is also shown with his increasing unwillingness to stand up and protect the rural parts of the state from overbearing federal intervention. Western Colorado’s economy has been struggling ever since it received the vicious triple punch of the previous governor’s overly restrictive oil and gas regulations being inflicted precisely when natural gas prices fell and the Great Recession took hold in Colorado.
The Western Slope has not recovered from the devastating job losses, and when an opportunity arose to bring some of those jobs and some economic hope back to this hard-hit region, the governor chose to side with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and the well-financed environmental lobby against the people of western Colorado by opposing the development of natural gas resources in the Thompson Divide.
Additionally, he has been deafeningly silent on the Roan Plateau issue, despite what could be devastating financial repercussions in the event that oil and gas leases in that area are withdrawn due to BLM over-reaction to a court decision.
Hickenlooper has displayed a clear record of contempt for the people of his state who live and work outside the major urban centers. And, if the best he can do is to throw a bone in the form of an expensive school-finance reform bill, that just shows he still does not get it. Rural Coloradans don’t want leveling, in the form of government largesse. They want opportunity.
Most of all, they want a governor who will listen to them, not dismiss them as “backward” and place the wishes of Michael Bloomberg before theirs.
Ray Scott represents House District 55 (Grand Junction and northern Mesa County) in the Colorado General Assembly. This op-ed originally appeared in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.