RIFLE - A conservation group has thrown some fuel on the fires of the energy debate between Colorado's two candidates for governor.The nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) on Wednesday named Republican candidate Bob Beauprez to its "Dirty Dozen" list, which the group says highlights some of the worst environmental records in Congress.The LCV addressed the issue with the Colorado Conservation Voters at a press conference in Rifle Wednesday. The two groups chose the location because Beauprez and Democratic candidate Bill Ritter are scheduled to hold a debate on energy there next Wednesday. Rifle and surrounding western Garfield County are in the midst of a natural gas development boom, and the city is at the base of the Roan Plateau, which the U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to open up to drilling despite concerns that have been raised by local governments. The region also is seeing new interest in oil shale development.This is the first time in the LCV's 36-year history that it has named a candidate for governor to its list. It based Beauprez's inclusion on his votes over the last four years while in Congress. He has cast votes in favor of the environment just 5 percent of the time, the group contends."In four years he's voted three times for pro-environment, which is low, exceedingly low," Tony Massaro, the LCV's vice president of political affairs, said in an interview.Conservationists accuse Beauprez of voting to exempt some oil and gas activities from water-protection laws, reduce royalty revenues going to Colorado communities to manage energy development impacts, subsidize oil companies at a time of record-breaking profits and oppose energy conservation measures such as increasing miles-per-gallon standards of new cars.New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin and outfitter Jeff Mead also attended Wednesday's news conference."I believe people care generally about land, water and clean air, if for no other reason than it's a big part of our economy," Breslin said.Mead, whose outfitting business has been affected by energy development south of Rifle, criticized Beauprez's plan to create a fund to improve wildlife habitat elsewhere as mitigation for impacts where energy development occurs."Asking elk to change migration patterns is not a sound idea, and certainly points to Bob Beauprez's willingness to bend the laws of nature in an effort to further serve special interests," Mead said in a prepared statement.In an e-mail, Beauprez spokesman John Marshall responded, "Bob is the only candidate for governor who has put forward a plan to protect wildlife habitat in energy impacted areas and balance the needs of energy-impacted communities."Carrie Doyle, director of the Colorado Conservation Voters Campaign Fund, agreed that there is a need for balanced development but believes Beauprez's voting record shows he supports energy development at the expense of the environment. "He's out of step with Colorado values on what makes sense for Colorado on energy development," she said.Said Massaro, "We're real concerned that he's going to do in Colorado what his record says he did in Washington, and not what he's saying he's going to do."Marshall characterized Beauprez's critics on environmental issues as "Denver Democrats" and people "who every once in a while put on their blue jeans and try to pretend they're not big-city liberals."But Massaro, who works in Washington, D.C., notes that he grew up in Glenwood Springs."I spent more time in western Colorado than Bob Beauprez has," he said.Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said Beauprez has made the "Dirty Dozen" list before, and the fact that he is on it again speaks for itself."It's also confirmation that he is no friend of the environment and environmental protection ... one of the things that is most important to the citizens of Colorado," Dreyer said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Candidates Bob Beauprez and Bill Ritter are scheduled to debate energy-related issues at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Rifle High School auditorium.Only a handful of tickets to get into the auditorium for the free event remain; to reserve tickets call the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado at 625-1723. However, the event also will be televised in the school gym and there should be plenty of room for people to watch there, said the AGNC's Aron Diaz.