Polis Doesn’t See More Ballot Measures, Legislation Coming, Distances Himself from Economic Impact of His Energy Agenda
Colorado Governor Jared Polis told the state’s oil and gas community he doesn’t expect any more major legislation or statewide ballot measures in the foreseeable future, crediting his work in implementing what he refers to as the most aggressive regulatory overhaul in the state in the past 60 years. But Polis also went to great length to disassociate any potential economic fallout from his legislative accomplishments this year.
“Certainly, there is significantly decreased risk in our state to the industry in rigid setback requirements and these kind of measures that would negatively affect the regulatory structure of the industry,” Polis said. He added that “I’m not expecting any” other legislation or ballot initiatives before next year’s elections.
Polis made the comments at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s Energy Summit in downtown Denver on Wednesday. He was interviewed by COGA President Dan Haley in front of a large room of industry leaders and employees and said that his efforts to bring local control has help bring stability to the industry.
“There is no question, there is less uncertainty than there was in prior years. The threats, just not [Prop] 112, similar efforts before were really an existential issue,” Polis said. “And again, I think by appreciating that we are a diverse state and that we empower local elected officials to solve problems. It doesn’t mean that every issue around oil and gas will be solved. What it means is that instead of people taking their frustrations out through risky statewide initiatives like 74 and 112, both of which would have damaged the economy in my view, people will have those appropriate discussions on the local level,” Polis continued.
Polis, who financially backed anti-oil and gas statewide ballot measures in 2014, touted his efforts to work with the newly-empowered Democratic legislature in enacting a wide-sweeping regulatory overhaul earlier this year. That law, SB 181, is in the middle of a months-long rulemaking process.
Haley pressed Polis on the political pressures coming from the Colorado state government and how it affects the industry. But Polis repeatedly dismissed his and the legislature’s power.
“As long as commodity prices are good, you’re going to have good business. It has nothing to do with me. We don’t have the power to move markets,” Polis said. “Energy isn’t inherently political, it’s economical,” he continued.
Following the event, Haley told Western Wire that it’s clear additional legislation isn’t needed.
“I think it’s important the governor acknowledged that with the breadth and depth of Senate Bill 181, and the various rulemakings still to come, that anti-oil and gas ballot initiatives aren’t necessary, nor is any new legislation of the magnitude of a 181,” Haley said.
“I do believe the governor, however, underestimates his impact on Colorado oil and gas market conditions and how much industry employees and oil and gas families are watching and listening to what his administration does,” Haley concluded.
A reporter for Bloomberg also acknowledged Polis’ attempt to separate politics and economics.
“Polis’s goal today seems to be to downplay the impact of oil and gas reform on the industry — even spinning it as a benefit in that it offers regulatory certainty.” Catherine Traywick said on Twitter.
Polis repeatedly talked up the diversity of Colorado’s population and economic strength but appeared reluctant to praise the oil and gas industry, a far cry from his statement on the campaign trail.
As Polis began his campaign for governor in 2017, he turned to embrace the industry. At an event hosted by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry that year, Polis said, “We have a robust energy sector in Colorado, oil and gas, solar, wind.” He said that included “the next generation of and future advances in oil and gas extraction, as well as renewable energy.
Near the end of the conversation, Haley was finally able to get Polis to acknowledge the role of the industry and its workers.
“Your jobs are valued and you’re an important part of the diversity of our state. We look forward to partnering with you and every industry,” Polis said.
A report from USA Today last week found that the oil and gas was the top industry in Colorado, which saw a five-year GDP increase of 112 percent with average salaries standing at nearly $184,000.