The Washington Post reports that many Colorado Republicans on the Western Slope are losing faith in their party. Chief among their complaints is the Bush Administration’s support of intense oil and gas drilling activity.

Long the most reliably conservative expanse of a state that has gone red in six of the past seven presidential contests, Colorado’s western third shows evidence of the “purpling” that has made Colorado look increasingly like a swing state.

Colorado now has 32,000 active oil and gas wells. Another 40,000 are planned.

At the behest of the White House, which made accelerated oil and gas leasing the top priority of the Bureau of Land Management, the gas industry has in the past five years transformed huge tracts of an iconic Western landscape into something resembling industrial zones. As Coloradoans struggle to adjust to the changes — a steady flow of heavy rigs on back roads, powerful odors from evaporation ponds and a small army of roughnecks gobbling methamphetamine to work 12-hour shifts — disquiet grows over federal plans to open the spigot wider yet.

Unhappy Republicans on the Western Slope were a factor in the elections of Sen. Ken Salazar, Gov. Bill Ritter and Congressman John Salazar.

All three Democrats found support in GOP enclaves while calling for “balance” in energy extraction.

Now that conservative residents adversely impacted by the drilling are aligning with environmentalists, the “purpling” effect may increase. Here’s a sampling of comments of Republican voters interviewed in the article:

  • “The Republicans have kind of lost touch with reality.”
  • “They just want the money. ‘Show me the money.’ ”
  • “We’re seeing a lot more liberal voting in this area, and I think a lot of it has to do with energy development,”
  • People want people in office who are willing to fight to protect their health, their property values and the lifestyle they moved to Colorado to enjoy.”

Colorado receives $300 million a year from oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like our state legislators want to do anything but spend the revenue the drilling brings in:

A legislative committee will look at ways to overhaul how Colorado spends revenue from oil and gas drilling to quickly inject $100 million or more into northwest Colorado to fix roads, housing and schools affected by the area’s energy boom.

Using the oil and gas revenue to fix the damage the drilling causes to our infrastructure won’t undo the damage to our state. The beauty of Colorado has never been in its roads or housing. It’s in the mountains, the wilderness and the vast expanse of pristine land that stretches further than the eye can see. Once it’s gone, no amount of blood money will be able to replace it.The problem affects us all, but the Republicans turn a blind eye to it at their peril.