McInnis lashes out at Colorado governor, rival |

McInnis lashes out at Colorado governor, rival

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Republican Scott McInnis is pledging to revoke an executive order that allowed state employees to form unions and rewrite new oil and gas rules if he is elected governor.

McInnis, speaking at mining conference Tuesday, railed against oil and gas regulations pushed by Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration. The former Colorado congressman and Glenwood Springs native claimed the regulations are to blame for the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the state.

McInnis, the GOP front-runner in the governor’s race, also took aim at Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democratic candidate for governor for saying last week that the recession is driven in part by people’s attitudes. The loss of jobs and business is “real life, not a state of mind,” McInnis said.

Hickenlooper said on a radio show last week that “a recession like this is really driven by people’s mental state.”

When questioned, Hickenlooper acknowledged people’s financial struggles, but said attitudes toward spending and other issues are relevant as the country emerges from the downturn.

McInnis also criticized Hickenlooper, who used to work in the oil and gas industry, for not speaking out against the new energy rules. The revamped rules that took effect last April drove jobs out of Colorado and plunged the state to “rock bottom” among energy producing states, McInnis contended.

“Don’t think for one moment, under the current leadership that we have, if we retain this leadership, that you’re not next in line,” McInnis told the audience at the Colorado Mining Association conference.

Mike Melanson, Hickenlooper’s campaign manager, responded by calling McInnis a “career politician” who was “confusing an opportunity to propose solutions with a reason to attack his opponent.

“John Hickenlooper has actually created thousands of jobs, worked to revitalize downtowns in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, and knows that an important part of being a leader is to provide a positive vision for our state’s businesses and workers,” Melanson said in a written statement.

If elected, McInnis said on “day one” that he would revoke an executive order by Ritter authorizing unions for state employees. Ritter said the groups didn’t allow collective bargaining or force people to pay dues.

McInnis said he would also rewrite oil and gas regulations.

The tougher oil and gas rules enacted 2007 laws intended to give more weight to the environment, wildlife and public health and safety. The laws were passed during record-breaking natural gas drilling in Colorado and have been blamed by some in the industry for the drop in drilling last year.

Ritter, a Democrat who isn’t seeking a second term, has said the national recession and low natural gas prices are behind the drop.

And while the number of drilling permits in Colorado last year dropped to 5,159 from the record 8,027 in 2008, the state led its energy-producing neighbors. Wyoming issued 5,106 permits, New Mexico issued fewer than 2,500 and Utah approved 1,167 permits, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory body.

State regulators said 1,487 new wells were drilled in Colorado last year, compared with 896 in Wyoming and 597 in North Dakota.

“The congressman is reciting old talking points that have been repeatedly debunked, demystified and defanged as pure political fiction,” said Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman. “In reality, the rules strike an important balance that is encouraging responsible drilling and protecting our water, wildlife and communities.”

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