State Regulator Is at the Center of the Fracking Boom

Mike King
National Journal
Amy Harder
Add to Briefcase
Amy Harder
Nov. 19, 2013, 4:08 p.m.

DEN­VER — Mike King is Demo­crat­ic Gov. John Hick­en­loop­er’s right-hand man when it comes to one of his state’s most con­ten­tious is­sues: frack­ing. As ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Col­or­ado De­part­ment of Nat­ur­al Re­sources, King over­sees the state’s oil and gas reg­u­lat­ory re­gime, which is fa­cing push­back from en­vir­on­ment­al­ists and res­id­ents alike as its oil and gas in­dustry booms. The state, which has al­ways been among the coun­try’s top 10 oil-and-gas-pro­du­cing states, has more than doubled its oil pro­duc­tion and ex­per­i­enced a 30 per­cent in­crease in nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion since 2005.

Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily vis­ited King’s of­fice, next door to the Cap­it­ol build­ing, a day after the Nov. 5 elec­tion to get his take on the anti-frack­ing res­ults, the broad­er fight over en­ergy pro­duc­tion, and why it mat­ters bey­ond Col­or­ado’s bor­ders. Ed­ited ex­cerpts of the in­ter­view with King fol­low.

What’s your re­ac­tion to the elec­tion’s out­come re­gard­ing the anti-frack­ing meas­ures, where four cit­ies — Fort Collins, Boulder, La­fay­ette, and Broom­field — voted on anti-frack­ing meas­ures?

I think ob­vi­ously we have some work to do. It con­tin­ues to be an in­dustry that is strug­gling to get in­teg­rated in­to some com­munit­ies along the Front Range. We ob­vi­ously have to un­der­stand that it’s an in­dus­tri­al activ­ity and these are people’s homes and com­munit­ies.

What’s your take on the po­ten­tial ef­forts to get a statewide ban on frack­ing?

A statewide ban would be dev­ast­at­ing for the state’s eco­nomy. If we were to lose the oil and gas jobs that we have, it would be just cata­stroph­ic for our eco­nomy…. The idea of a statewide ban on frack­ing — that is such a dra­coni­an re­sponse, be­cause there are a lot of areas, the vast ma­jor­ity of areas, where oil and gas de­vel­op­ment is tak­ing place across the state that people are pretty happy with it.

What do you think these vari­ous fights over frack­ing bans mean about the de­bate over oil and nat­ur­al-gas de­vel­op­ment?

Where in­dustry has had an op­por­tun­ity to par­ti­cip­ate as cor­por­ate cit­izens, in­ev­it­ably and without ex­cep­tion those com­munit­ies have come to ac­cept be­ne­fits of those activ­it­ies along with the im­pacts, and de­term­ined that they’re com­fort­able with that trade-off. But what we’re ex­per­i­en­cing now … is that we have mul­tiple com­munit­ies all wrest­ling with this is­sue at the same time … which makes it very, very dif­fi­cult for us as reg­u­lat­ors to en­gage the way we would like to with all of those com­munit­ies at the same time.

Anti-frack­ing act­iv­ists come armed with data that re­portedly shows that sick­nesses in­crease dir­ectly be­cause of nearby oil and gas de­vel­op­ment.

The way Col­or­ado is go­ing to re­spond is with what is the best air-qual­ity rule in the coun­try, and we’ll have that in place by Feb­ru­ary. The air we breathe and the wa­ter we drink is fun­da­ment­al to our qual­ity of our lives and our health. And we take that very ser­i­ously. I think we have the best ground­wa­ter rule in the coun­try, and we’re go­ing to have the best air-qual­ity rule.

How do you think the de­bate over frack­ing has evolved in your state?

I do think this is one area where we’ve turned a corner and [are] hav­ing a more ra­tion­al dis­cus­sion about the real im­pacts of oil and gas. We’ve moved away in Col­or­ado from the flam­ing faucet and un­der­stand that when you sink a wa­ter well in­to a coal-bed seam you’re prob­ably go­ing to have some meth­ane in your wa­ter and the fact that it lights on fire it may or may not — in fact 99 per­cent of the cir­cum­stances has noth­ing to do with oil and gas de­vel­op­ment. But the im­pacts that are real — the truck traffic, the noise, the smells — those are real im­pacts that a com­munity has to deal with, and we have to be able to have our own set of stand­ards. We’ve moved the dis­cus­sion from the boo­gey­man from [anti-frack­ing film] Gasland to a more ra­tion­al dis­cus­sion about real im­pacts of oil and gas.

I un­der­stand you have three chil­dren. Would you want your chil­dren play­ing in a play­ground next door to an oil and gas op­er­a­tion?

No.

So how can you al­low that to hap­pen to oth­er people’s fam­il­ies?

It is not my choice. And I can’t tell someone that I don’t want them to ex­er­cise their prop­erty right just be­cause I don’t want them there. And the fact that I don’t want them there means I would not pre­clude them from do­ing it.

We have a cab­in up in the moun­tains. We went up there one nice Fri­day af­ter­noon and I looked out in­to the basin [in] front of us and we have a drilling rig in front of us. It was one of those mo­ments: “So this is how it feels.” I didn’t buy the cab­in to look at a pro­du­cing oil and gas fa­cil­ity, but on the oth­er hand, I didn’t own the min­er­als, and they have the right to do that.

How does cli­mate change factor in­to this de­bate?

It’s a double-edged sword. Be­cause nat­ur­al gas is clearly a far-clean­er product than coal when it comes to cre­at­ing en­ergy, but with some in the en­vir­on­ment­al com­munity, the idea of us­ing a fossil fuel to ad­dress cli­mate change is something that is just un­ac­cept­able. It’s this real­ity-based en­vir­on­ment­al­ism. Yeah, we have to move to­ward re­new­ables, but we’re not there, and we’re not go­ing to get there for a peri­od of 10, 15, 30 years be­fore those re­new­ables can be a part of the base­load.

How do you re­spond to the ac­cus­a­tions from en­vir­on­ment­al­ists that your ad­min­is­tra­tion is in the pock­et of in­dustry?

With the three rule-mak­ings that we’ve done, with the air-qual­ity rule-mak­ing we have com­ing up in Feb­ru­ary, I think that severely un­der­cuts that al­leg­a­tion. I don’t think in­dustry feels like we have been easy on them at all.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
Bannon Still Collecting Royalties from ‘Seinfeld’
54 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at a little-known intersection of politics and entertainment, in which Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon is still raking in residuals from Seinfeld. Here's the digest version: When Seinfeld was in its infancy, Ted Turner was in the process of acquiring its production company, Castle Rock, but he was under-capitalized. Bannon's fledgling media company put up the remaining funds, and he agreed to "participation rights" instead of a fee. "Seinfeld has reaped more than $3 billion in its post-network afterlife through syndication deals." Meanwhile, Bannon is "still cashing checks from Seinfeld, and observers say he has made nearly 25 times more off the Castle Rock deal than he had anticipated."

Source:
IT’S ALL CLINTON
Reliable Poll Data Coming in RE: Debate #1
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
NEXT THURSDAY
Trump Transition Team Meeting with Silicon Valley VIPs
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump's "transition team will meet next week with representatives of the tech industry, multiple sources confirmed, even as their candidate largely has been largely shunned by Silicon Valley. The meeting, scheduled for next Thursday at the offices of law and lobbying firm BakerHostetler, will include trade groups like the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association that represent major Silicon Valley companies."

Source:
WHAT WILL PASS?
McConnell Doubts Criminal Justice Reform Can Pass This Year
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
ALSO FIRED UNATTRACTIVE WAITRESSES
Trump Did Business with Cuba
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Today in bad news for Donald Trump:

  • Newsweek found that a company he controlled did business with Cuba under Fidel Castro "despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings." In 1998, he spent at least $68,000 there, which was funneled through a consluting company "to make it appear legal."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that at a golf club he owns in California, Trump ordered that unattractive female staff be fired and replaced with prettier women.
×