Industry Lauds Essential Role Energy Plays in Colorado’s Economy as Activists Rally for Another Ballot Fight
On a day in which anti-fossil fuel activists announced their latest efforts to run ballot measures in Colorado, industry released a report showing domestic energy production continues to strongly support employment and economic development throughout the Mountain West.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) released the 2020 State of American Energy (SOAE) report with a particular focus on Colorado’s Front Range as a regional hub for energy production. The report comes was announced just as anti-oil and gas activists introduced a host of potential 2020 ballot measures aimed at radically restricting natural resource development across the state.
“U.S. energy leadership offers stability in chaotic times and insulates America from hostile and unreliable supplies of energy,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers at an event introducing the report. “The global benefits of American natural gas and oil are the international stage are compelling, but if you want to know the true values of America energy leadership in 2020 you also need to zoom in… American energy is powering the lives of individuals across our nation.”
During the industry event, Sommers pointed to several individuals across multiple political battleground states where the oil and gas industry is both a major state employer and a source of secure, low-cost energy that many other industries rely on.
“The natural gas and oil industry…helps maintain economic stability throughout the Denver metro area, and the entire state of Colorado,” said economist and University of Colorado-Denver professor Michael Orlando. Although Denver itself is not a major production center, it is both a state and a regional hub for natural gas and oil companies that operate in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains and supports nearly 13,000 jobs paying more than $161,000 a year.
In part through oil and gas development, the neighboring City of Aurora has also come into its own as a site for the aerospace, manufacturing, and hospitality industries. In Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, which includes Aurora, oil, natural gas, and petrochemicals account for 7.5 percent of the total economy and support 24,900 jobs—or 6 percent of the area’s employment.
But API realizes that these successes are not necessarily enough to protect the industry from calls for a nationwide fracking ban, which would hit Colorado especially hard. A report released by Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December found that Colorado and New Mexico would lose more than 600,000 jobs and $250 billion in GDP by 2025 from such ban. Meanwhile, the ban would more than triple the price of natural gas, cost 19 million jobs, and reduce America’s GDP by $7.1 trillion.
According to Sommers, this extreme demand is part of a push to stop all conventional energy production.
“Banning a safe, successful method of developing energy is just part of an extreme agenda opposed to natural gas and oil production anywhere, by whatever means,” he said.
“I don’t for one moment believe there is a majority in either party for that position. But I don’t believe in taking things for granted either, so together we must strongly oppose these proposals,” he added.
The warning was a prescient one.
As API’s report was being released in Washington, DC, environmentalists in Denver introduced another set of ballot petitions aimed at the state’s oil and gas industry. Colorado Rising, one of the groups behind 2018’s failed Proposition 112, announced six measures at a livestreamed press conference. The petitions reintroduce key elements of Prop 112, including the 2500-foot setback rule that failed in 2018, but also add an expensive bond for new wells.
“We achieve a victory when we protect Coloradans from the dangers of oil and gas development,” said Anne Lee Foster, communications director for Colorado Rising.
That isn’t enough to fool Colorado’s energy industry, which sees them as reheated versions of the same damaging ballot proposal they defeated at the ballot box in November 2018.
In a statement, Colorado Oil & Gas Associated (COGA) President Dan Haley called the petitions “déjà vu all over again” and “112 Lites.”
“Gov. Jared Polis and political leaders on both sides of the aisle rejected the measure in 2018,” Haley said, “I expect that will happen again given the grave consequences, and also considering nearly every aspect of our industry is currently under an intense regulatory microscope as state officials work to fully implement Senate Bill 181, the sweeping oil and natural gas bill pushed through the legislature last year.”
Colorado Rising’s announcement repudiates statements from the Governor Polis, who had declared an end to the “oil and gas wars” after signing SB 181, which increased local control over the oil and gas industry in Colorado.
After signing the new legislation, Polis publicly committed to increased cooperation with both the oil and gas industry and told Haley in August that he didn’t expect any other legislation or ballot initiatives before the 2020 elections. Speaking at COGA’s energy summit, Polis called Prop. 112 and similar initiatives “risky” and acknowledged that they were “an existential issue” for the industry.
“[B]y 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,” Polis told the COGA summit.
“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.”
To get any of its proposals on the ballot in 2020, Colorado Rising will need 125,000 valid signatures, something that may prove difficult since the group had trouble convincing state regulators of the validity of their complaints.
At the event, Foster invited Mackenzie Carignan, a Broomfield resident to speak about the harms she had experienced living within one mile of a fracking site, including a “faint petroleum odor” and noise. According to the COGCC, who investigated both complaints several times, neither the noise nor the smell were considered out of the ordinary.
Carignan eventually admitted that the noise was difficult to distinguish from that of a nearby highway.
“The worst thing about the noise is that it’s frightening,” she said.