Coloradans will soon find out if an initiative aimed at destroying Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry will be on the November ballot.
If Initiative 97 does make it onto the ballot, there’s an important fact that should be at the forefront of the debate: Colorado already has some of the toughest oil and natural gas regulations in the country.
Time and again, legislation in this energy-rich state has made sure that we are strictly regulating how and where oil and natural gas are discovered, extracted and transported. People are generally drawn to Colorado because of the access to the outdoors, fresh air, blue skies, and the active lifestyle, and understand that affordable energy needs to be regulated to protect our environment.
Initiative 97, or the “setback” initiative, would more than double the distance for an oil or gas well from certain buildings or “vulnerable areas” to a minimum of 2,500 feet. The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which regulates the industry with a heavy concentration on protecting public health and the environment, published a report making it clear that passing Initiative 97 would essentially mean the end for the oil and natural gas industry in Colorado.
Common Sense Policy Roundtable also analyzed the economic impacts and likewise predicts the end for oil and gas, and a “devastating” impact on the state economy. Colorado is one of the top 10 producers in the nation of both oil and natural gas, and employs more than 200,000 hard-working men and women across the state. Should this initiative pass, the majority of those people will likely lose their jobs.
The initiative calls for new regulations that would prohibit new development on 85% of the non-federal land in the state. Include federally owned land, and it’s still over half of the state. This is the result of more than doubling the allowed minimum distance from some structures and water sources, but the real problem is a line that includes other “vulnerable areas” to be protected and at the end of the long list includes “…any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or local government.”
The Democratic party is doing it’s best to pull their politicians and candidates even further to the left by endorsing this measure, but Republicans and Democrats running for office have all spoken out against the 2,500 foot setback. Even former Colorado Attorney General and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has been outspoken against Initiative 97, calling it “unconstitutional.”
The majority of Coloradans have made it clear from similar unsuccessful initiatives in the past, that this isn’t the right way to go about regulating the energy industry in our state. We can continue to support strict regulations to protect our environment without killing an industry.
Michael Fields is executive director of Colorado Rising Action.