This year, Gov. John Hickenlooper worked to derail funding that would have added about 30 new oil and gas inspectors in the state.
In fact, Gov. Hickenlooper has a strong track record of siding with industry over the health of Coloradans. Right after the legislative session, an article in the Denver Post described how a “wave of bills in the Colorado legislature to increase oversight of the state’s oil and gas operations has hit a nearly immovable dike in Hickenlooper administration officials and industry lobbyists.”
But that’s not surprising in a state that has more oil and gas industry lobbyists than on-the-ground inspectors. A recent report found that in FY13 there were 28 lobbyist aiding Hickenlooper’s pro-industry agenda and only 17 inspectors that have to cover 52,000 oil and gas wells across the state.
It’s no wonder that spills are out of control in Colorado without inspectors to ensure companies are doing things right. Take a look at the spill by Williams energy companies which dumped toxic chemicals into Parachute Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. It took Williams two weeks to discover the spill and more than two months to report the spill to state authorities.
Despite all that, Gov. Hickenlooper’s administration has yet to issue a fine six months later. It took President Obama’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to step-in and fine Williams before any sort of accountability took place.
More boots-on-the-ground could help prevent accidents before they happen such as the Williams spill at Parachute Creek. Unfortunately, the legislature was only able to add a handful of more inspectors to cover the tens of thousands of wells across the state thanks to opposition by Gov. Hickenlooper’s administration.
Coloradans deserve better. It’s time for Gov. Hickenlooper to put the health of Colorado families on equal ground with the oil and gas industry.
This is the second installment in our blog series “Hickenlooper’s Misdeeds” which shines a spotlight on how Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has put the interests of oil and gas companies ahead of the health of Colorado families and local communities.