by WorldTribune Staff, April 25, 2019
On April 16, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed into law Senate Bill 19-181, which allows cities and counties to regulate oil and gas development under their planning and land-use powers.
Critics say the bill amounts to a de facto ban on drilling and is a major blow to the state’s $31 billion oil and gas industry.
Colorado is doing something “that hasn’t been done, and that is: a state with a very significant pool of gas and oil is going to make it a lot more difficult to mine it,” said Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli. “There is really now ample warning that the way this legislation is drafted, it’s essentially going to allow some level of a ban.”
State Sen. Rob Woodward, a Republican, said before the new law passed that “People will lose their jobs, people will lose their homes, people will lose their businesses. And as we all know when this happens, marriages will crumble, suicides will increase. It’s not a pretty picture.”
Democrats said the law is necessary to avert global warming.
“Climate change is real. It’s happening. And we have a moral and economic imperative to act now,” House Speaker K.C. Becker said in a March 4 op-ed for the Boulder Daily Camera.
Related: U.S. oil production sets new records, prices decline, November 9, 2018
Polis assumed office in January. He succeeded pro-fracking Democrat John Hickenlooper, who has entered the 2020 presidential race.
This week, opponents of the new law decided to withdraw a repeal effort aimed at getting a ballot initiative before voters in 2019.
Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and former Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney filed ballot proposals in early April to reverse Senate Bill 19-181, the Denver Post reported.
State election officials, who review proposals for placement on the ballot, rejected the measure last week. They said it violated the rule limiting an initiative to only one subject.
Kirkmeyer and Brackney requested a second hearing, but decided to aim for the 2020 ballot instead.
In signing the new legislation, Polis said he hoped it would end conflicts over drilling that has increased in more populated areas of Colorado.
“Today, with the signing of this bill, it is our hope that the oil and gas wars that have enveloped our state are over and the winner is all of us,” Polis said on April 16.
New York, Maryland and Vermont have all prohibited fracking, but those states don’t have near the oil and gas industry presence as Colorado, which is the fifth-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. The industry supports more than 230,000 jobs in the state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
A REMI Partnership study released last month by industry groups estimated that a 50 percent reduction in production by 2030 would wipe out 120,000 jobs and $8 billion in state and local tax revenue.
In November, Colorado voters defeated Proposition 112, which would have set a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development.
But, in a state with shifting demographics, Democrats also won control of all levers of state government, wiping out Republicans’ one-seat edge in the state Senate, adding to their majority in the state House and sweeping the state constitutional offices.
“When you look at the demographic changes in the state (an influx of Californians and millennials) and the fact that climate change has now become a civic religion with a significant number of people, it’s hard for gas and oil to compete in that environment no matter how good their PR is,” Ciruli said.
Kirkmeyer said in a statement that the ballot proposal to repeal the anti-fracking law “has been sidelined for 2019 on a technicality and behind-the-scene maneuvering.” She said with the executive and legislative branches “controlled by extreme liberal Democrat politicians, we knew the deck was stacked against us going into this.”
A number of supporters have committed funding and resources and vowed “to go the distance,” Kirkmeyer added. “We plan to come back stronger, defend our state, our families and re-file a refined ballot initiative for 2020.”