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Colorado Governor: Energy Policy Requires Continuing Search For Balance

Energy policymaking is, and will remain, a continuing balancing act, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday in kicking off the Colorado Energy Forum 2016 in Denver.

Drawing on a history theme as was the forum, Hickenlooper said the state's latest energy dialogue was "grounded in how far we've come, and looking forward to where we need to go." He cited University of Colorado's (UC) Patty Limerick, director of the UC Center of the American West," who has written that "we cannot plan for our future until we face up to our history."

Hickenlooper characterized his leadership as being premised on the need to promote the state's energy industry while also protecting public health and the environment. "They are not mutually exclusive endeavors," he said.

Noting there is still a lot of work to do in this area, Hickenlooper said the balancing act sentiment and belief needs to be carried forward as Colorado responds to the market fluctuations now evidenced in low crude oil commodity prices, creating more jobs by spurring more innovation, and protecting his state's "world class" public health and environmental protection.

"We need to keep coming to the table," said Hickenlooper, referring to listening to others' concerns and points of view and finding alignment of the state's various interests. Ultimately, it is a matter of more collaboration to find the right future paths that will lead to "the greatest good for the state," he opined in kicking off the energy forum.

Hickenlooper quoted broadly from something that the UC's Limerick had written last fall and published in the Denver Post on what she had learned about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the time, following a 2012 award of a $12 million grant to an interdisciplinary UC group from the National Science Foundation Sustainability Research Network. The grant was aimed at what she described as providing the materials for "a more productive, evidence-based consideration of natural gas development."

In examining fracking in a dispassionate manner, Limerick, who tries to remain a neutral analyst of the practice, emphasized that understanding its historical context is also necessary. Hickenlooper quoted Limerick as writing that fracking disputes too often have rested on what she called a "thin veneer of the present," paying little or only selective attention to the history underneath.

Hickenlooper said Colorado has a "rich, extended history" of both natural resource extractions and some of the nation's "highest environmental protection standards."

"While these two components of our [state] identity can inherently lead to conflict, our success as a state has been largely predicated on striking a balance," the governor said.

Hickenlooper called Colorado a "national leader" in bringing stakeholders to the table to forge what he considers "environmentally responsible energy development." Examples are: tough methane emission rules, fracking disclosure rules, and the recently concluded statewide oil/gas task force on local control issues, he said (see Daily GPIFeb. 14, 2014; Shale DailyDec. 14, 2011; Feb. 25, 2015).

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