Remember the 2,500-foot drilling setback pushed by national “keep it in the ground” groups 350.org, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club and Greenpeace in 2016? It was exposed as a de facto statewide ban on oil and natural gas development by the Hickenlooper administration, and ultimately failed to make the ballot.
Two years later, the same groups are back again, but this time they are trying to sidestep the Hickenlooper administration’s damning assessment of a drilling ban within 2,500 feet of buildings and a long list of other locations chosen by the activists.
In the new versions of the ballot measures – Initiative 97 and the closely related Initiative 163 – the activists have made some changes designed to confuse the public and hide their real intentions. In one section, the ballot measures say the 2,500-foot setback applies to oil and natural gas development “not on federal land,” and in another section, it says the setback applies to “all new oil and gas development in the State of Colorado.”
We decided to explore the impacts of this year’s ballot measures, even if federal land is actually excluded – which is far from clear given the confusing language of initiatives 97 and 163. We talked to experts in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology and oil and natural gas geology and developed a preliminary view of how the energy-producing areas of the state would be impacted.
Energy resources are concentrated in particular geological formations – better known as basins – rather than being evenly distributed underground. For this reason, we focused our attention on the six major oil and gas producing basins in Colorado.
Here’s the map we developed along with the percentage of each basin that would be subject to bans on new drilling and the redevelopment of older locations with newer technologies.