At least seven and as many as 10 counties have started seriously considering secession following the passage of new laws including strong gun control and a new energy regulations that raises rates for rural residents.
Disgruntled citizens are looking to create their own new state of “North Colorado,” because their representatives in Denver don’t have their interests in mind when drafting policy. Even counties in neighboring states are talking about seceding to North Colorado if it becomes its own state.
“We’ve had citizens coming to our hearings for months asking us to please do something. This is for real,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway.
“They treat us as if we don’t exist,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t try to engage the legislature — it’s that we were ignored over and over again.”
“[House majority leader] Dickey Lee Hullinghorst told us, ‘If you liked this legislative session, you’re going to love the next one,’” Conway said. “We were like, ‘Holy moley.’ People were literally gasping.”
“The people of rural Colorado are mad, and they have every right to be,” said state Rep. Cory Gardner (R). “The governor and his Democrat colleagues in the statehouse have assaulted our way of life, and I don’t blame these people one bit for feeling attacked and unrepresented by the leaders of our state.”
“We’re actually going to pursue it,” said Weld county commissioner Douglas Rademacher , a farmer whose jurisdiction is spearheading the effort. “Frankly, we’ve been ignored in northeastern Colorado now for the last, going on eight years with the current administration in Denver.”
“Frankly, we see no option,” he said. “We are going to move forward.”
The new gun control laws include magazine capacity limits, mandatory background checks for all firearm transfers and a tax on gun ownership.
But the energy bill is what has served as the last little push. Promoted heavily by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) as well as the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, the bill doubles the amount of energy required to be generated by renewable sources to 20 percent across the majority of the state by 2020, regardless of geography.
This is double the amount of energy, 10 percent, that is already required to come from “green” sources. To add insult to injury, the bill includes an exemption for urban manufacturers, which are not required to comply with the higher standard.
“Now we’re changing the standard on them, we’re changing the rules mid-stream and that’s not fair,” said Mark Waller, Colorado Republican house minority leader.
“This bill will help clean our air while providing rural jobs,” said senate president John Morse (D), the bill’s sponsor. “Renewable energy prices are dropping consistently, while the cost of fossil fuels is unstable. We need to make this investment now to ensure that energy prices stay steady, and we are not relying on dirty fossil fuels.”
Morse is currently facing a recall election after pushing for increased gun control in Colorado.
“This bill hurts the poor, the farmers, the elderly and those on fixed incomes,” said sen. Steve King (R). “By dictating to utilities and customer-owned cooperatives in rural Colorado that they must increase their renewable standard, middle-class families who can’t afford another $20 increase in their monthly utility bills get hurt.”
“It’s a death by a thousand cuts, but the straw that finally broke the back was the governor signed 252 [last week], which puts another huge impact on rural Colorado to meet these unrealistic deadlines and mandates for renewable energy,” said Rademacher. “And yet, the major population centers don’t have to abide by it. There’s a hypocrisy going on in Denver that’s just driving us crazy.”
The last time a state successfully seceded was 150 years ago, when West Virginia broke from Virginia in 1863.