Tuesday, April 22, 2008

To Colorado's Detriment, Mark Udall Trying to Take Both Sides on Roan Plateau

Last year, Mark Udall followed his Sierra Club buddies in outright opposition to drilling on the Roan Plateau. Then Gov. Bill Ritter came up with a compromise plan that would slowly phase in drilling leases while still leaving some of the areas of the Plateau under government protection.

Some were surprised to see Bob Schaffer join Udall in support of Ritter's Roan proposal:
Schaffer's campaign points out that Udall first supported a moratorium on drilling on the Roan before getting on board Ritter's compromise plan, which allows some drilling on the environmentally sensitive plateau but calls for phased leasing over time and expands the size of protected areas.

"Boulder liberal Udall opposed any kind of activity on the Roan Plateau and reluctantly supported the Ritter proposal when Gov. Ritter announced it," said Dick Wadhams, Schaffer's campaign manager.

That may not be exactly fair, given the fact that the year-long moratorium wasn't a plan in itself but only a call to hold off on drilling until a better plan was developed. And Ritter's idea, Udall's aides say, counts as that better plan. [emphasis added]
Now, as the Rocky Mountain News points out, Mark Udall has flip-flopped back, working to stall out the clock to prevent even Ritter's modest "better plan" from going into effect:
Like it or not, the clock may run out before energy companies gain access to the massive natural gas supplies beneath federal lands on the Roan Plateau.

Unfortunately, the proposal introduced Thursday by Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar and Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall would place new development on the Roan on hold. It would jeopardize a financial bonanza for the state that could reach $1 billion.

At this point, delaying new development may be the same as denying it. Whether the next president is Hillary Clinton, John McCain or Barack Obama, domestic fossil-fuel production is likely to have a lower priority than it has under President Bush. And in the case of Clinton and Obama, probably much lower.

Regulators could impose procedural delays that make drilling financially unattractive to energy companies. Investors who have no guarantee where, whether or how soon they can drill on the Roan are likely to sink their capital in locations that are more welcoming to energy production.

In theory, the bill would enact the outline for the Roan offered by Gov. Bill Ritter in December, for which we had kind words. In fact, though, it would impose many more restrictions. It could place much of the estimated 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath federally controlled areas of the Roan out of reach.

Not only could that gas heat every home in Colorado for 20 years; leases and royalties from the wells could also secure essential funding for impacted communities and higher education. That money won't materialize if drilling isn't economically viable.
[emphases added]
To echo what one of my colleagues here wrote nearly six months ago:
...[I]s Mark Udall going to continue to represent out-of-state environmental interests, or at what point is he going to try to represent Colorado's interests?
Looking back, Mark Udall's strategy must be to give the impression of willingness to make a reasonable compromise that would benefit Colorado's interests, while working feverishly behind the scenes to tack on unreasonable restrictions that cater to out-of-state environmental interests.

If Mark Udall gets his way, Colorado will see potential new jobs and economic growth, more affordable energy, and even funding for public colleges and universities all will be headed down the drain. Will Udall later act as if there is nothing he could have done to stop it, when he and fellow Democrats Ken Salazar and John Salazar were the ones busy working to pull out the plug?

You can almost picture Mark Udall's aides last month telling reporters that Ritter's compromise was a "better plan," with their fingers crossed behind their backs. Udall's super-secret "even better plan" is to follow lock-step with the Sierra Club agenda while ignoring Colorado's balanced needs.

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