Catching Up With Former Gov. Bill Ritter On Fracking, Energy Policy
Since 2011, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has traveled the country advising about clean energy policy as director of Colorado State University's Center for the New Energy Economy.
Ritter regularly meets with policy makers, governors, planners and other decision makers. In the coming months he’s expecting to do a lot of work around new Clean Air Act proposed rules that will be released in June by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Section 111(d) will be hotly debated and deals with existing carbon emissions released by power plants.
“It would give each state a number that says ‘This is the amount of emissions you can emit by such-and-such a date.’” Ritter said. “States that have a lot of coal could well have to transition out of coal to things like more solar, more wind, more natural gas. I suspect that the rule is going to be viewed with some controversy when it’s announced.”
Briefly entering the spotlight in Dec. 2012, Ritter was on President Obama’s shortlist for U.S. Energy Secretary. While he didn’t make the final cut, Ritter did help the White House sketch out energy priorities that could be accomplished with executive powers.
The end product was the 207-page Powering Forward report compiling recommendations on five priorities like doubling energy productivity and alternative fuels. Included is a suggestion giving states latitude for rulemaking on natural gas.
“State legislators and governors are doing a variety of important things to establish the best practices in regulation,” he said. “I personally believe that strong regulations, a willingness to comply on industry — and where there’s not willingness then strong enforcement — is absolutely essential to getting this social license to operate for industry.”
Gaining the public trust in Colorado seems to be a rocky road.
In February, industry officials had hoped that new methane emission rules would provide more of a ‘license to operate.’ Instead the industry faces a potential statewide ballot limiting hydraulic fracturing, indicating a weary public. Five communities along the Front Range have already placed restrictions on fracking.
Ritter thinks one mistake for oil and gas operators was not disclosing the chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids earlier. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conversation Commission approved comprehensive rules in 2011.
“I think the industry now wishes they hadn’t done that,” Ritter said. “Because that lack of transparency about what they were putting in the ground created a sense on the part of the public that there was something wrong here. That there was a reason not to trust.”