Colorado Capitol Report

The Colorado Chamber’s Energy & Environment Council Hears from Governor’s Chief Strategy Officer

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CACI’s Energy & Environment Council Hears from Governor’s Chief Strategy Officer

Thursday, CACI’s Energy & Environment Council convened its second meeting of the 2015 year and legislative session.  Early 2015, has brought some legislative attention to energy and environmental issues, however, the February 27 deadline for submission of recommendations from the Task Force regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations to Governor Hickenlooper could potentially lead to a wave of new legislative and or regulatory efforts.  It remains to be seen which of 56 recommendations being reviewed and debated will ultimately gain the support of the task force.   At least two-thirds of the 21 member task force must vote to support recommendations that will be included in the majority report that will be submitted to the governor for further action.

Alan Salazar

Alan Salazar

The status of Oil & Gas Task Force efforts was the focus of CACI’s Energy & Environment Council meeting guest speaker, Alan Salazar. Mr. Salazar is Governor Hickenlooper’s Chief Strategy Officer, and has been leading the Hickenlooper administration’s engagement with the Oil & Gas Task Force process.  While unable to go into great detail about the still uncertain outcome of the task force, Mr. Salazar discussed a number of the proposals currently being considered by the task force.  At the task force’s early February meetings, a straw poll was held to gauge support for the various proposed recommendations, and to determine which recommendations should receive more thorough discussion and debate before the task force must vote to finalize its majority report.

Proposals regarding a range of issues pertaining to the appropriate levels of both state regulation and local government control over oil and gas activities were advanced for final consideration by the task force.  Recommendations regarding local government coordination with industry in the planning, preparation, and location of oil and gas activities and the development of plans to mitigate the impact of oil and gas activities on nearby communities were also among the recommendations selected by task force members to receive final consideration, however, some surviving recommendations were certainly met with some opposition among task force members and advanced with only 14 votes, the minimum number of votes needed to reach the two-thirds threshold.

The work of the Oil & Task Force is occurring within a constantly evolving set of political and economic conditions. Since the Governor created the Oil & Gas Task Force via executive order in September, 2014, last November’s elections delivered a split legislature, after republicans won a slim one-seat majority in the Colorado State Senate, and narrowed the democratic majority in the House to just three seats.  Furthermore, the recent and steep decreases in the price of oil, while delivering a windfall boost to the broader Colorado and US economies, has created uncertainty for the oil and gas industry in Colorado and beyond, as questions remain regarding how long lower prices will be sustained and what the short- and long-term impacts depressed oil and gas prices could generate. The Oil & Gas Task Force will hold its final meeting on February 24.

The Energy & Environment Council also maintained or established formal CACI positions on the following legislation:

  • SB-046 – (Grantham) – Re: Distributed Generation Standards for Rural Electric Associations
    • This bill attempts to give more flexibility to rural electric associations in how they comply with state renewable energy standard (RES) requirements and what types of electricity generation are eligible to count towards their RES compliance efforts.
  • SB-120 – (Jones/Winter) – Re: Electric Grid Modernization Bill
    • This bill would mandate the implementation and integration of new technologies, including the optimization of both demand- & supply-side management, advanced metering, and increased grid reliability via increased integration of distributed generation technologies.
  • SB-15-093 (Sonnenberg) – Just compensation for mineral rights holders of interests that are limited by regulatory restrictions
    • This bill would establish that any form of local government rule, regulation, or other public policy that has the result of reducing the market value of a mineral rights holders interests by 60% or more would constitutes a government taking for which just compensation is required. Local governments that do not compensate impacted mineral rights holders are precluded from enforcing the rules in question.
  • HB-1119 (Buck) – Local Govs Liable for Mineral Rights Royalties Encumbered by Fracking Ban
    • This bill specifies that a local government that bans hydraulic fracturing of an oil and gas well is liable to the royalty owner for the value of lost royalties.

Colorado oil, gas task force votes yes on increased local control,” by Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, February 3rd.

Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force has ‘plenty to digest’ after2-day meeting,” By Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, February 3rd.

Colorado oil, gas task force winnows 57 ideas for easing drilling woes,” by Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, February 2nd.

Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force to review 56 recommendations,” by Cathy Proctor, The Denver Business Journal, February 2nd.

Lang Sias Replaces Libby Szabo to Represent House District 27

Lang Sias

Lang Sias

Although “Top Gun” is the easy label that the news media have bestowed on Lang Sias, the former Navy pilot, perseverance should be his middle name.

Twice endorsed by CACI when he unsuccessfully ran for the Colorado General Assembly in 2012 and 2014, Lang Sias last Saturday was elected by a 14-member House District 27 vacancy committee to replace Representative Libby Szabo (R-Arvada).  Szabo resigned Thursday of last week and was sworn in the following day as a Jefferson County Commissioner.  In 2010, Sias ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for the 7th Congressional District election.

“We have greatly enjoyed working with Representative Libby Szabo and wish her the best in her new political career as a Jefferson County Commissioner,” said Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Local Relations.  “We also warmly welcome, at long last, Lang Sias, to the Colorado General Assembly.  Lang is solidly pro-business, and CACI endorsed and supported him when he ran in 2012 and last year.  We look forward to working with Lang to improve Colorado’s business climate,” Loren added.

“On the other hand, CACI warmly welcomes, at long last, Lang Sias, to the Colorado General Assembly,” Loren continued, “because Lang is solidly pro-business, and CACI endorsed and supported him when he ran in 2012 and last year.  We look forward to working with Lang to improve Colorado’s business climate.”

Sias, a Federal Express pilot, was sworn in Wednesday morning by Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder).  According to The Denver Post, Sias then told the House that he is focused on keeping taxes low, ensuring that regulations are reasonable, advocating a pro-growth energy policy, ensuring that the Colorado health exchange (Connect for Health Colorado) is held accountable and supporting education.

Sias earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a J.S. from the University of Michigan of Law School.  During his naval aviator service, Sias, a decorated combat veteran of both Gulf conflicts, served as an instructor at the famous “Top Gun” U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School.  In 2008, he was the national director for the John McCain Veterans Organization.  He also has served as a Distinguished Lecturer at the U.S. Military Academy.  Sias is a Lt. Colonel in the Colorado Air National Guard.  Sias and his wife, Rene, have three children and live in Arvada.

In 2010, Sias ran in the GOP primary for the nomination to Congress for the Seventh Congressional District but lost to Ryan Frazier, an Aurora City Councilman.  Frazier then lost in the General Election to incumbent Democrat Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who still holds the seat.

Last June 24th, Sias lost the hotly-contested GOP primary race in SD-19 to Laura Woods by a margin of 55.4 percent-to 44.6 percent, or 1,329 votes.

Woods went on to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Rachel Zenzinger in last November’s General Election.  Woods won 47.61 percent of the total vote, or 29,907 votes.  Zenzinger won 46.56 percent of the vote, or 29,244 votes.  The difference between the two, major-party candidates was 663 votes.  Libertarian candidate Gregg Miller, meanwhile, won 5.83 percent of the total vote, or 3,664 votes.

In 2012, Sias might have won the SD-19 seat in a tight race against incumbent Democrat Senator Evie Hudak–but for the votes siphoned off by a Libertarian candidate.  Hudak won 34,359 votes, or 46.9 percent of the total votes cast.  Sias won 34,027 votes, or 46.4 percent of the total votes cast.  In other words, the difference between the two major-party candidates was only 332 votes.

The Libertarian Party candidate, Lloyd Sweeny, however, earned 4,823 votes, or 6.5 percent of the total votes.  Since Libertarians generally favor less government, personal freedom and lower taxes, political analysts believe that many of the votes that went to Sweeny would have gone to Sias if Sweeny had not been in the race.

Senator Hudak resigned in November 2013 during an attempt by pro-gun forces, most notably the controversial Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, to force a recall election because of her votes on the gun bills during the 2013 legislative session.  Political observers at the time believed that Hudak’s resignation was motivated by the Senate Democrats’ fear that Hudak would lose a recall election with a Republican being elected to replace her.  If that happened, the Republicans would have taken over the Senate by an 18-17 margin.  Zenzinger, a Democrat and Arvada City Councilwoman, was then elected by the District’s vacancy committee to take the seat.  CACI endorsed and supported Zenzinger last year.

For more information on Sias, read:

Lang Sias of Arvada joins Colorado House to replace Libby Szabo,” by Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, February 5th.

Sias is top gun in House vacancy election” by Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman, February 2nd.

Lang Sias, former Top Gun pilot, picked to fill open state House seat,” The Denver Post, January 31st.

Businesswoman, former Top Gun pilot vie for Libby Szabo’s seat,” by Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, January 31st.

Rep. Libby Szabo leaving to become a Jeffco commissioner,” by Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, January 16th.

Woods ‘regrets’ sharing post comparing Sias to abortion doctor Gosnell,” by John Aguilar, The Denver Post, June 12, 2014.

Libertarian influences outcome of Senate race,” by Tim Hoover, The Denver Post, November 10, 2012.

CACI Creates Reference List for EPA Timelines, Asks For Ozone Rule Comments

The last two years of President Obama’s term will see the EPA moving forward on monumental environmental policy and regulatory changes meant to rein in carbon use, curb emissions and focus on renewable/alternative energies.  However, to date, CACI is not satisfied that economic impacts for these proposed regulations have been properly considered and we are communicating your concerns directly with the agencies and our Colorado Congressional delegation.

CACI has submitted comments to the EPA on behalf of our members for regulations affecting our energy suppliers (111(d) & SSM emissions), on Waters of the U.S. & we are looking ahead to the EPA’s March 16 deadline for comment on proposed ozone regulations.

We encourage all members to read up on the costs of proposed ozone regs for the U.S. and Colorado, and to prepare individual comments to submit to the EPA, referencing Docket#: EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0699.  Comments do not need to be lengthy to be effective.  Individual and/or anecdotal stories are also quite helpful in illustrating to the EPA the effects proposed regulations might have on your business.

CACI Staff Meets With Commerce Department on International Trade

Leah Curtsinger, CACI Federal Affairs Representative, joined a small group of business leaders for a discussion with Commerce Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Trade, Matt Erskine.  The group talked about the importance of Export-Import Bank reauthorization to ensuring overseas companies and nations have the financing they need to buy U.S. products, of Colorado manufacturing’s increasingly important role within U.S. trade, and our nation’s infrastructure needs to ensure U.S. products reach overseas markets given strains on our rail system and disputes plaguing Northwest ports.