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Colo. candidates dip toe in fracking debate

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

Editor’s note: This is the Herald’s weekly roundup of campaign news.

DENVER – The candidates for Congress in Western Colorado crossed paths at the state Capitol this week.

The occasion, a congressional field hearing about whether the federal government should regulate hydraulic fracturing in gas and oil drilling, gave the candidates a chance to air their views.

But both men – incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and his challenger, state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo – remained vague about whether the gas and oil industry needs more federal oversight.

Although Republicans at the hearing opposed federal regulation, Tipton said he trusts federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management to make sure fracking does not pollute water.

“I assure you, they are looking aggressively at the science when it comes to drilling around water sources,” Tipton said.

But he also said federal agencies take too long to approve environmental plans to protect water.

Pace said he believes in local control and likes Colorado’s regulations on hydraulic fracturing, which were drafted in negotiations between the industry and environmentalists. But he does not want to close the door on a federal role.

“I do think there is a point to be made that consistency across state lines is better for the safety of our drinking water, our clean air. And I think the industry would appreciate consistency across state lines,” Pace said in an interview.

Tipton later visited the House floor, where he served as the District 58 representative in 2009 and 2010. Pace made a joking introduction of his rival.

“I know he had so much fun here, so in a couple of years if he wants to come back, I’m sure you’d welcome him,” Pace said.

Romney names state staff: Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign got a face in Colorado this week, when Romney hired veteran politico James Garcia to run his state operation.

Garcia has served as executive director of the Colorado Republican Party and Romney’s national field director since 2011. In 2008, he helped run the Republican National Committee’s get-out-the-vote operation in Colorado.

In February, President Barack Obama named Carrie Doyle as his Colorado campaign manager. Doyle is an environmentalist who worked for the Western Conservation Foundation.

Countdown: 52 days until the primary election. 185 days until the November election.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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