Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner in the state Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

The Trump administration hopes state and local law enforcement agencies will do more to enforce the country's immigration laws. In a memo signed Feb. 20, 2017, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls for expansion of a program, known as 287(g), to train officers to "investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain and conduct searches." It specifies that local and state law enforcement would "request to participate" -- and according to Colorado's governor, the State Patrol is unlikely to do so.

"I have talked to State Patrol, I've talked to Department of Public Safety, and that is not their inclination," Gov. John Hickenlooper said in an interview with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

"They have their own priorities and the federal government is not offering any funding on this," he added. "So this would be taking people away from state priorities to do what's essentially a federal mandate."

The governor said he has already been trying to find money for the State Patrol to add 20 to 30 officers to carry out their existing duties. "We're already caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of how to budget for our own pressing needs," Hickenlooper said.

While he said he does not control local law enforcement agencies, the governor thinks it is "probably not" a good idea for their officers to sign up for more training as immigration agents.

"I mean, they're going to have to try to make that decision, 'Does it make their community safer?' And, when you've run a big city police department, a big part of public safety is that relationship between the police force and the community they're trying to protect, and the creation of a sense of trust," Hickenlooper said.

Elsewhere in the wide-ranging interview, the governor answered questions about a lawsuit Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed against Boulder County; advice for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner about federal methane rules that Senate leaders will try to eliminate; the state's progress to ease tensions between oil and gas producers and communities where they drill; and negotiations at the state Capitol for more transportation and infrastructure funding.

Interview Highlights With Gov. John Hickenlooper

On Attorney General Coffman's Decision To Sue Boulder County Over Its Oil & Gas Production Moratorium:

"I think that Boulder's going to have a new set of rules [for oil and gas operators] hopefully in the next set of weeks. And our hope is that those rules are going to be able to both respect and reflect the state constitution and people's private property rights, but also provide more protection or more interchange between the industry and surface property owners ... If they really deliver the new rules, is it worth a lawsuit? ...

"I'm not going to tell the attorney general how to do her job. I think that when you go into court, you spend a lot of money, and I'm not sure you always get a better outcome."

On What The Oil & Gas Industry Says About Colorado's Methane Emissions Rules, As Congress Seeks To Eliminate Similar Federal Rules:

"If you talk to any of the larger operators, people that drill a lot of wells, are recovering a large amount of oil, and dealing with a lot of methane. I think almost without exception, they say to me -- and publicly -- that these methane regulations were a good thing, that they actually improve the social contract between the oil and gas industry and the public; that they are definitely having a material benefit on the quality of air in Colorado ... It is worth pointing out that the cost of [complying with] the methane regulations has come down every single year."

On What Else Could Be Done To Address Concerns About Large-Scale Oil & Gas Operations Near Communities:

"If we really feel as a community that this is so injurious to our neighbors, then we should do what we do with transmission lines: We should use eminent domain. There's a whole legal process. That doesn't appear to be something that Boulder or Broomfield is willing to come up with, to come out of their pockets to pay for this private property that they want to take."

On The Desire By State Republican Leadership To Keep New Transportation, Infrastructure Spending Revenue Neutral:

"I'm open to discuss anything but I don't see how this helps, right? If we're going to lower one source of revenue so that we can add a new source of revenue and we end up with the same amount of money, why aren't we going ahead and using the first source of revenue to build the roads and the infrastructure we need?"

Read The Full Transcript

Ryan Warner: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. I’m Ryan Warner. The Trump Administration hopes state and local law enforcement will do more to enforce immigration laws. In a memo signed this week, the head of Homeland Security calls for the expansion of a program that trains cops to act as immigration officers to, quote, “Investigate, identify, apprehend, detain and conduct searches.” Engaging the state patrol would require Governor John Hickenlooper’s approval. In our regular conversation at the state capitol, we asked the governor what he’d do if the patrol wanted to participate.

Gov. John Hickenlooper: Let me say, I’ve talked to state patrol, I’ve talked to the Department of Public Safety and that is not their inclination. They have their own priorities and the federal government’s not offering any funding for this. So this is – would be taking people away from state priorities to do what’s essentially a federal mandate.

RW: What do you base that assertion on, that they wouldn’t provide money?

JH: Well that – generally, when the federal government makes – puts out a memo like this, they say, “The funding will be from A, B, C.” That funding would almost certainly have to come through Congress and obviously, I think what’s being discussed now is the lack of any funding or any statement of support implies that there’s not going to be any. They don’t think they can get it through Congress.

RW: So you’ve had specific conversations about what’s known as the 287(g) program with the head of the state patrol?

JH: I’ve talked to the head of public safety, talked to the head of state patrol.

RW: OK and there does not seem to be interest in this immediately?

JH: Yeah. I mean right now, we’ve been trying to figure out a way in our budget, “Do we want to add another twenty or thirty state patrol officers?” right, just to do the traffic safety, to do the – all the priorities they already have. I mean, we’re already caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of how to budget for our own pressing needs. Here’s a case where the federal government comes in and says they want us to start going door to door and collecting people, taking them out of their homes, something that in many senses, some people think, would make our ability to keep communities safe more difficult.

RW: Let me say the memos are not as explicit as saying that these agents would knock on doors and arrest people.

JH: Well, but we certainly don't know what they intend these agents to be doing. If it’s looking for violent criminals, we’re already doing that. So what specifically do they want us to do beyond that?

RW: Just some history here: this program had bipartisan support in Colorado about a decade ago, but went out of favor here. El Paso County was the last in Colorado to bow out in 2015, but what of local departments? So if a county sheriff’s office or if a city or town’s police force were interested in pursuing this deputizing, would you stop them?

JH: Well A, the way our system works, I don’t have the power to stop them, but do I think it’s a good idea? Probably not. I mean, they’re going to have to try and make that decision; does it make their community safer and when you run a big city police department, a big part of public safety is that relationship between the police force and the community they’re trying to protect and the creation of a sense of trust. And however you look at this, it’s hard to imagine you’re going to improve the trust relationship between the community and the police force if you’re going into people’s homes and taking people out solely because they’re undocumented. Now let me be very clear. When undocumented individuals go out and rob a store, create a violent crime or are part of a gang, we are the first to say they should be arrested. I think every police chief in the state would support that and turn them immediately over to ICE so that they can go through the deportation process. That makes a lot – no one’s arguing with that.

RW: Though I think there is some argument that that doesn’t happen as often as it could.

JH: And I think that’s fair, right. If you’ve got violent criminals who happen to be undocumented, we should be much more effective in making sure they are arrested, detained, processed and deported. If they really committed violent crimes, they should be the priority in terms of any kind of a deportation process.

RW: You have heard from constituents across the political spectrum on the immigration issue. We reviewed comments that came into your governor’s website, people who’d OK’d them to public. Jodee Hankins in Pueblo County wrote in December, “I support President-Elect Donald Trump in his efforts to protect American citizens. I do not support sanctuary cities and ignorance towards immigrants.” On the other side, Alice Gustafson wrote in to your website from Garfield County to say, “Governor Cuomo has taken a bold step in declaring New York a safe zone for all people. Doing so in Colorado would alleviate some fears and help deter any hateful reactions by a citizen.” I’m just curious. How often, when there are calls and emails from constituents, do you actually see them?

JH: Well I – there are so many on this issue, so many that come in, but we do keep a record of them all and kind of sum them up of how many people are for it, how many people are against it.

RW: So you get a digest or…?

JH: Yeah, there’s a log that is done on a daily basis and I do look at that log. However, I think it’s worth pointing out that in something like this where there is so much emotional energy and so much divisive rhetoric, sometimes that blocks possible compromise and solutions. One solution I would suggest, maybe the time is right now for Congress finally to step up under this new heightened awareness and say what are the comprises so we can finally resolve this immigration problem that’s been going on for over twenty years now? Obviously, securing the border is a part of that. I’m not sure a wall is the most cost-effective way of doing that, but why don’t we have a national ID system that works? Why can’t we hold businesses accountable, maybe increase the penalties if they’re hiring people undocumented? Look at the industries where we can’t find sufficient workers even now with undocumented workers in the mix. So agriculture is a big example of that; construction. You talk to people in town and they’re offering construction workers – third-year, you could be making $60,000 a year and they can’t find enough people that’ll come every day and show up and work hard. This is an issue that sooner or later, Congress has to step up and say, “All right, how many work permits do we need in these different industries and how do we make sure that they are – we’re not holding back the economic growth of our country, the job creation that would naturally occur if we weren’t impeding it?”

RW: Do you ever find yourself being swayed on a particular policy given the emails or how they’re breaking on a particular issue?

JH: I try to keep an awareness of public sentiment on all these difficult issues because in a funny way, you don’t want to get too far out ahead of public sentiment, even if you’re on what you believe in your heart and soul is the right direction. Abraham Lincoln said it; he said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed,” but you have to balance how an issue is evolving to figure out exactly when you can have the best effect.

RW: Otherwise put, could that be called spinelessness that you don’t take the lead because -

JH: Certainly, Lincoln was called spineless frequently.

RW: Even in the capitol, you have wildly differing views on immigration. A Republican bill would punish cities and even particular public officials who create sanctuary jurisdictions, and a Democratic bill would limit how law enforcement resources can be used for immigration enforcement. Is legislative action at the state level required in your mind or do you see this purely now as a federal issue?

JH: Well I’ve always seen it largely as a federal issue and I think – I mean, this nation is -

RW: So is that just political maneuvering as you see it on lawmakers’ behalf?

JH: No, I think it can have a role, but I think it’s primarily a federal issue.

RW: You’re listening to Colorado Matters, I’m Ryan Warner, and we’re back at the state capitol for our regular conversation with Governor John Hickenlooper. I’d like to focus on energy now. You wrote a letter asking President Trump for more federal funding of clean energy and later this week, you head to Washington for the National Governors Association meeting. You told us that you expect a visit with President Trump, for the first time, there. What’s the top thing you plan to raise? Is it energy? Is it something else?

JH: Well again, that all depends on the context of where and how our discussion unfolds, but certainly issues that I would expect he would bring up and that I would want to at least make sure he understood our side of it would be immigration, would be clean energy and how kind of all of the above stance on energy really pays dividends long-term. I would talk to him about healthcare. There are now five or six or seven Republican governors that are saying, “Hey, we expanded Medicaid based on a social contract with the federal government. Don’t pull the rug out from under us because we’re finally getting a higher percentage of people with good basic healthcare.”

RW: Is your sense that you’ll have one on one time with President Trump?

JH: Well, I think – I doubt that. That’s why I’m saying it depends on the context in which I talk to him, but I think the – it’s generally a fair assumption that as a – not a Republican that I won’t be seated next to him and I probably won’t have even a minute of conversation time.

RW: On the energy question, methane is one of the byproducts of oil and gas development, and it contributes to climate change. The Obama Administration tried to cut methane emissions from drilling on public lands by requiring companies to look for and fix leaks in their equipment. That effort was based on rules Colorado adopted in 2014. Now Republican leaders in Congress are working to repeal the federal rule. The U.S. Senate’s going to vote soon. Republicans and some industry groups argue the methane rules amount to bureaucratic red tape, that they hurt business. What have you heard from business leaders in Colorado about the rules here?

JH: It depends on who you talk to. If you talk to any of the larger operators that – people that drill a lot of wells, that are recovering a large amount of oil and dealing with a lot of methane, I think almost without exception, they say to me and publically that these methane regulations were a good thing, that they actually improved the social contract between the oil and gas industry and the public, that they are definitely having a material benefit on the quality of air in Colorado.

RW: But the smaller operators are struggling to meet it, do you think?

JH: I’m not so much sure it’s that so much as they resent the imposition of another set of rules and regulations, and they’re tired of that, what they perceive as a constant sequence, one after another, higher hurdles for them to get over in running their businesses. It is worth pointing out that the cost of the methane regulations has come down every single year. So originally, they were saying that it was going to be sixty million dollars a year to – again, remember this is a multi, multi, multibillion dollar, tens of billions of dollar industry in Colorado. So sixty million dollars, while a lot of money, is not the end of the world. The large operators that were paying the vast majority of that have dramatically reduced the cost. In other words, they found innovations so they can harvest that methane, reuse it and get back some of their cost of doing so much more quickly than we originally thought. So some estimates are as low as – there’s twenty million dollars a year and it’s going to keep going lower. So I think by almost any measure, the methane rules have been a success.

RW: And so do you hope to sway, say, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner – a Republican from Colorado – on this issue, given the upcoming vote. Have you spoken with him about this?

JH: Yes, I have.

RW: And what have you told him, that he could be a key swing vote?

JH: Well, I’ve given him my opinion. Senator Gardner, I talk to him every couple weeks and he gives me his opinion, I give him my opinion.

RW: Does he seem to be vacillating on this question or do you think he’s made up his mind?

JH: I wouldn’t say vacillating. I think he’s collecting the information and trying to figure out what is a – it’s a difficult question. Given that there is a new Secretary of the Interior, who is going to be perhaps more cautious about where to and how much to impose methane regulations on public lands, wouldn’t it make sense to go and change these rules through the normal rulemaking process rather than to exercise what some people view as a nuclear option, right, this CRA.

RW: So in this case –

JH: It’s really the methodology.

RW: CRA, the Congressional Review Act. So that there is a question of whether he thinks the Senate is the right place to do this or it should just happen administratively.

JH: Yes, but if they use the CRA, this congressional review, what it means is that the Department of the Interior can never add any regulations on any of these areas without going through Congress and as we all know, Congress is hard to get anything through in most cases.

RW: The state sued Boulder County last week over its temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling, which it has repeatedly extended. Boulder County insists its moratorium does not violate the law. The suit came from the state Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, who said, quoting, “The Colorado Supreme Court has made clear that local governments do not have the authority to ban oil and gas development.” Did you consult with her before she sued or did she consult with you?

JH: We were aware that she was filing suit.

RW: You were and do you think that she made the right choice?

JH: Well I think that there’s – Boulder’s going to have a new set of rules, hopefully, in the next several weeks and our hope is that those rules are going to be able to both respect and reflect the state constitution and people’s private property rights, but also provide more protection or more interchange between the industry, and surface property owners.

RW: So do I hear you saying that she might have jumped the gun on this? It sounds like you’re very confident Boulder will come up with those rules as opposed to continuing the moratorium.

JH: Yeah. I mean, Boulder has said to us that they are very close to getting these rules. We haven’t seen the rules. So again, the first question is, “Do they get those rules in the next few weeks?” So they have gone past that five-year deadline, but if they really deliver the new rules, is it worth a lawsuit. Then the next question is going to be, “Do those rules conform with what’s in our state constitution?”

RW: So do you think she was premature in filing the suit?

JH: Again, I’m not going to tell the Attorney General how to do her job. I think that I’m somebody who – when I was in the private sector, I never sued anybody and I was never sued. I tried to work everything out. I think when you go into court, you spend a lot of money and I’m not sure you always get a better outcome.

RW: Boulder County Commissioners say there is really a bigger problem here and that’s relations between the industry and some local governments. Here’s Commissioner Elise Jones.

Elise Jones (on tape): Our state has not yet solved the problem and that’s one of the reasons we’re in the state that we’re in right now.

RW: Your oil and gas taskforce produced new rules in 2016 to address this friction and give more local control. We reported this month on the first two communities to test these rules. One’s in Weld County, the other on the West Slope. Groups of citizens in each say that the rules don’t reflect common sense since they still allow companies to drill within 500 feet of their homes with dozens of wells on a single pad. The rules have made companies do more to limit noise, dust, lights, monitor air and water quality, but accidents still happen. After hearing our reports, I wonder how you feel about these large developments what some citizens say is industrial scale activity in their neighborhoods.

JH: Well these wells are drilled, nowadays what used to take six months is drilled in six days. So the wells are drilled very rapidly one after another and by putting them on one pad, you may have several months of industrial activity, but you’re not having it spread all over the county, and that was the original idea behind using directional drilling to – from a single pad, be able to drill a couple square miles worth of area without having to be in conflict with more houses.

RW: And yet for those who live next to or near that pad with so much activity going on, they’re seeing it as concentrated and injurious.

JH: And again – and that’s – this is the place where I think local government can step in and should have a voice. If they say, “We’d like you to have more pads,” I think most oil and gas companies are going to say, “All right, if you want us to do more pads – it doesn’t cost much money to do a pad. We’ll do more pads.” But does that really make sense for their community to have more people subjected to more noise and dust and commotion, or is it better to go as quickly as you can in one place and get that noise over in a matter of a few months?

RW: So do you think there should be more limits on large-scale oil and gas facilities that go into a neighborhood, or do you think the state has struck the right balance here?

JH: I think the circumstance here is they don’t want those wells drilled at all. It’s not a question of – it’s a good thing to argue against how many are on a pad, but they’re not saying they want those wells distributed on many smaller pads. They’re saying, “We don’t want those wells.”

RW: So no matter what choice the driller makes, it sounds to me like the friction between local governments and the industry – it’s not really being eased, even in light of the new rules.

JH: Right and we are at the same place where I think, on your show for several years, we’ve been talking about, in our constitution, this is someone’s private property, these mineral leases. So if we really feel as a community that this is so injurious to our neighbors, then we should do what we do with transmission lines. We should use eminent domain. There’s a whole legal process. That doesn’t appear to be something that Boulder or Broomfield is willing to come up with, to come out of their pockets to pay for this private property that they want to take.

RW: Broomfield, which is also dealing with the question of a moratorium. Let’s put the focus back on this building, the state capitol. You’ve given lawmakers until the end of March to agree on how to get more money for transportation and infrastructure. Republicans and Democrats agree transportation funding is a top priority, but they haven’t found a way to fund it yet. Why are you laying back and letting lawmakers figure this out? Why not take initiative in the debate?

JH: What do you mean by take it? You mean go out and hold a press conference and tell them what they should do? You think that would work? Tell me the truth, Ryan. You think that would have any -

RW: Well I’m not sure that that’s exactly what I had in mind, but the -

JH: What would you suggest?

RW: Maybe this is happening; you can tell me, but sitting down directly with lawmakers and saying, “Let’s figure this out at this table.”

JH: I am sitting down directly with lawmakers saying, “Let’s figure this out at this table.” It’s not this table, but sometimes it’s this table.

RW: Here in your office, one issue that Republicans have raised is that any new source of transportation funding be revenue neutral, which means that if you’re going to increase a tax on Coloradans, for instance, to pay for roads, infrastructure, another tax should be lowered in concert with that. Where is that in the negotiations?

JH: I’m open to discuss anything, but I don’t see how this helps, right. If we’re going to lower one source of revenue so that we can add a new source of revenue and we end up with the same amount of money, why aren’t we going ahead and using the first source of revenue to build the roads and the infrastructure we need?

RW: Well, I think Republicans want some sort of tradeoff.

JH: I mean I am – and I've said this on your show, I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face – I’m agnostic. I don’t care where the revenue comes from or what the tradeoff is. We need a certain amount of money and its many hundreds of millions of dollars to build the infrastructure that this state needs to grow. And as you go and look at our competing states, right – Utah is the one I always use as an example – they are spending four times as much money on transportation infrastructure expansion as we are, and they have half the population. So that’s an 8x differential.

RW: This sounds a bit like a deal breaker with Republicans.

JH: Oh, I think you just sit down and listen hard to what the issue – I think it -

RW: I didn’t work so well for the hospital provider fee, which was another funding question you had.

JH: Hey, hope springs eternal, Ryan; hope springs eternal in the human breast. I think we go forward and listen as hard as we can, and one of the things they've said is that, “Well, we need savings in healthcare.” Well, we’re beginning to see – the person increase in Medicaid was almost flat this year. We’ve got real savings. So I’m trying to figure out how big is that number. Can we put fifty million dollars of healthcare savings into this mix? Some of our general fund money that we’ve been using in transportation for maintenance – is there some ways we can do that more efficiently and save, let’s say, fifty million dollars from highway maintenance? In other words, it limits – we don’t have to raise new revenues as much as we would otherwise. We’re trying to do everything we can to get to a compromise where we’re actually hearing what their concerns are and trying, to the best of our ability, to respond. I really think more than anything, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is about the future of the state of Colorado. I mean Republicans, Democrats have always – we’ve all believed that you’ve got to be able to build the infrastructure to satisfy the needs of a growing economy.

RW: Governor, thank you for being with us again.

JH: Always a treat.