Colorado business community condemns devastating impacts of anti-oil and gas ballot measure
DENVER (July 9, 2018) – Colorado’s business community is more determined than ever to defeat anti-oil and gas Initiative 97, following the release of a new state analysis showing the ballot measure’s staggering impacts.
“The groups behind Initiative 97 want to drive oil and natural gas development out of Colorado, plain and simple,” said Peter Moore, Chairman and CEO of Vital for Colorado, a coalition of state business organizations including the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Concern and the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.
“The new analysis shows the Colorado energy sector would be devastated by this ballot measure – and the business community refuses to let that happen. Every sector of the state economy is important, but the energy sector plays a critical role. Local energy production supports jobs, investment, tax revenues and quite literally fuels every other sector of Colorado’s economy,” Moore said.
“There are hundreds of thousands of working families in Colorado whose livelihoods depend on local oil and natural gas production, and billions of dollars of future tax revenue are at stake,” said Newmark Knight Frank Managing Director and Vital for Colorado board member Kittie Hook. “How can we make progress on education, transportation and other challenges if the state economy is crippled and we are struggling to fund basic services?”
Even with a questionable exemption for federal land, the new analysis from energy regulators in the Hickenlooper administration shows Initiative 97 would ban oil and gas development across most of the state – and especially the areas where the vast majority of oil and gas drilling occurs.
“If considering only non-federal land, 85% of the land surface would be unavailable,” the analysis says. “As was the case in 2016 [when a prior version of Initiative 97 was circulated], the proposed buffers for ‘vulnerable areas’ (that includes lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks) would be the most impactful. The proposed federal land exemption, which in Colorado would be an estimated 36% of the state’s total surface area, does keep land available for oil and gas development in western Colorado, but has little impact on lands east of the Rockies including in Weld County.”
Initiative 97 is the latest in a series of statewide ballot measures pushed by national environmental groups, including Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Sierra Club and Greenpeace. Unlike mainstream environmentalists who want changes in the way the energy sector is regulated, the groups behind Initiative 97 are part of the “keep it in the ground” campaign that only seeks to ban oil and natural gas development on federal lands, at the state level, and even in individual cities and counties.
In 2014, working with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, anti-oil and gas groups proposed ballot measures to legalize local energy bans and impose a 2,000-foot setback from occupied buildings. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) called those initiatives “extreme measures that would drive oil and gas out of Colorado.” The initiatives were abandoned before they could qualify for the statewide ballot.
In 2016, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace, 350.org and the Sierra Club pushed two ballot measures to legalize local energy bans and impose a 2,500-foot setback – roughly half a mile – between oil and natural gas development and a long list of so-called “areas of special concern” deemed off-limits by “keep it in the ground” groups. Colorado state regulators said the 2,500-foot setback would ban oil and gas development across most of the state, and the measures failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
This year, Initiative 97 is a retread of the failed 2,500-foot setback measure from 2016. However, this time around, the activists have made some changes designed to confuse and mislead the public: “Areas of special concern” are now called “vulnerable areas” and the activists are claiming their measure does not apply to federal land. But this is far from clear when you read the ballot measure’s language. In one section, the ballot measure says the 2,500-foot setback applies to “all new oil and gas development in the State of Colorado,” and in another section the measure says it applies to development “not on federal land.”
This much is clear, however: To distract voters from their long history of pushing a statewide ban on oil and natural gas development, the groups behind Initiative 97 are trying to look supportive of energy development on federal lands.
But this is obviously untrue. Remember, the “keep it in the ground” groups behind Initiative 97 want to ban oil and gas development on federal lands, too. As Food & Water Watch, the largest single funder of Initiative 97 so far, says on its own website: “We advocate to ban fracking on our public lands – and everywhere.” Similarly, the registered agent for Initiative 97’s campaign committee – Tricia Olson – helped launch Coloradans Against Fracking, a coalition of groups demanding “a statewide ban on fracking” for oil and gas.
Therefore, exempting federal land from a proposed 2,500-foot setback – if Initiative 97 really does that – does not change the intentions behind this ballot measure. Two years ago, “keep it in the ground” groups saw a setback ballot measure as their best chance to ban oil and natural gas development statewide. Today, the same groups are pushing an almost identical ballot measure and their fringe political goals remain exactly the same.