Colorado Oil And Gas Workers Rally In Opposition To SB 181
Roughly one thousand oil and gas workers and state lawmakers rallied early Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol in opposition to a comprehensive oil and natural gas reform bill they say ignores the will of the state’s voters, threatens the state’s economy, and fundamentally misunderstands their jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg and House Speaker K.C. Becker introduced a highly anticipated Senate Bill 181 late last Friday, just one day after a joint press conference with Gov. Jared Polis. The Boulder lawmakers hope to tackle what they see as problems with the state’s oil and gas regulatory body, expand communities’ level of local control, and clarify the state’s policy on forced pooling of mineral rights owners.
Legislators from around the state cheered on the crowd of industry employees representing wide swathes of the state where oil, gas, and other natural resource development occurs.
“I’ll be with you until midnight tonight, probably, and I can’t wait to lock arms with you in your testimony. This is going to be a tough, tough hearing, but you’re a hell of a lot tougher than that hearing is going to be,” said State Sen. Ray Scott, a Western Slope legislator who serves on the Senate Transportation and Energy committee.
“It is time to raise your arms and be proud and be loud about the production of oil and gas. You guys are the soul of Colorado. Thank you for what you do,” said Scott.
Democrats hold a 4 to 3 seat advantage on the committee.
State Sen. John Cooke’s entire district lies within Weld County, the state’s top oil and gas producing county, said he took this personally.
“This is a sham,” said Cooke. “This was introduced Friday and we’re hearing it today, trying to stifle your voice and ramrod this through the Senate.”
“The sponsors of this bill hate everything about you guys. They hate your job, they hate what you do, they hate Weld County. And that’s why it’s so important that you’re here,” Cooke continued.
Kristi Pollard, President and CEO of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, laid it out in real numbers.
“The oil and gas industry is critical to the state of Colorado. In Jefferson County alone, the oil and gas industry represents 19,000 jobs. Those are our friends, our family, and our neighbors,” said Pollard.
“We in government should be promoting economic development, not trying to tear it down,” said State Sen. Larry Crowder, who represents much of the south-central part of the state. “We rely heavily on your severance taxes. You are a huge asset to the state,” he added.
Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, asked the rally-goers to reflect on their 2018 efforts to defeat Proposition 112, a ballot initiative sponsored by industry opponents.
“Just a few short months ago we stood on these steps to rally for our jobs, we stood on these steps to show our energy pride,” said Haley.
He pointed to the roughly $600 million in oil and gas revenues that go to the state’s education system, as well as the industry’s efforts and successes in reducing emissions while increasing production.
“You should be proud that the work you do keeps our energy costs low for all of us, but especially for those most vulnerable among us,” Haley said, adding that workers had contributed 42,000 hours of community service in 2018. “You get up and go to work no matter how hot it is, no matter how cold it is, and you supply the energy that we need every single day,” he added.
“On election day, Coloradans stood with us,” Haley concluded, referring to the failed Proposition 112. “Instead of building a table big enough for all Coloradans to have a seat at the table, they crafted their legislation in secret,” he said. “This is not the Colorado way.”
Haley argued that dropping a bill late on a Friday and then holding a hearing so quickly was intentionally designed to keep oil and gas workers out of the process.
Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley agreed.
“Today we are here because there are a group of people in this building behind us that have quickly forgotten the voice of the people that spoke so loudly last November against Proposition 112,” said Bentley. “They have forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of us that work in the oil and gas industry. Senate Bill 181, make no mistake, is another attempt to drive industry out of this state, just with a different mask,” she added.