Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law sweeping oil and gas legislation imposing greater restrictions on new oil and gas exploration in the state than a proposition voters rejected in a 2018 election referendum.
Among other provisions, the new law, enacted from Colorado Senate Bill 19-181, removes the existing caps on drilling permit application fees, allowing the state to charge whatever it wants for oil and gas permits; requires companies to provide drilling permitting information to any town claiming to be affected by a proposed drilling location, even if the operation isn’t located within their borders; and allows localities to ask the state to impose restrictions on neighboring jurisdictions’ ability to allow energy development, restrictions that can then be used to establish stricter de facto statewide air and water quality permitting standards.
The law also halts all new oil and gas exploration and production permits until the entire legislation is implemented statewide. The bill became law on April 16 when Polis signed it
Proposition 112, rejected by voters in 2018, would have increased the distance oil and gas wells must be set back from structures to 2,500 feet from the current 500 feet away from homes and 1,000 feet away from schools. Prop. 112 would thus have prohibited new oil and gas development on approximately 85 percent of Colorado’s nonfederal land.
More Control for Hostiles
The new law gives local governments opposed to oil and gas development the power to impose their standards on localities that support energy production, says George Jamerson, director of government relations at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.
“This new law masks itself as giving more local control over oil and gas regulations, but in reality it gives localities with the strictest regulations the ability to dictate policy statewide,” Jamerson said. “Boulder County will now be able to create regulations much stricter than the state, even going so far as to ban any oil and gas development, which the state can then impose statewide.
“By contrast, the law does not allow Weld County, where 85 percent of Colorado’s oil and gas development and extraction takes place, to loosen regulations and allow more drilling,” Jamerson said.
‘Abuse of Federalism’
Jamerson says the law is an intentional perversion of the idea of local control, in furtherance of Democrats’ goal of driving the fossil fuel industry out of Colorado.
“This is an abuse of federalism, and a shameless and spineless way for House and Senate Democrats to enact national party policy with a slight degree of deniability as they pretend to shift authority to local governments,” Jamerson said. “When combined with the introduction of a new bill to sharply restrict greenhouse gas emissions in the state, it is undeniable Colorado Democrats’ true intention is to eliminate fossil fuels from the state.”
The pro-fracking stance Gov. Jared Polis took when he was running for Colorado’s governorship appears to have been a lie, Jamerson says.
“As a gubernatorial candidate, Jared Polis said he did not support Prop. 112, as it would ‘all but ban fracking,'” Jamerson said. “Now that he’s been elected to Colorado’s top office, he’s approved a law that imposes even harsher restrictions on the industry, showing he evidently never really cared what happened to thousands of oil and gas workers in the state. He lied to gain their votes.”
Huge Tax, Job Losses
The new law is tantamount to a ban on new drilling, says Amy Oliver Cooke, executive vice president and director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center at the Independence Institute.
“Colorado ranks fifth in oil and sixth in natural gas production in the nation, with energy development and ancillary services supporting more than 100,000 high paying jobs that contribute a billion dollars in tax revenue to the state, $200 million to K-12 public education in Weld County alone.” Cooke said. “It’s unbelievable Boulder-controlled Democrats in Colorado’s legislature have passed a bill that will act as a de facto ban on new drilling in the state, erasing hundreds of millions of dollars in lost taxes and tens of thousands of jobs.”
Cooke says the bill has already resulted in destructive, expensive consequences.
“We’ve already seen the fallout as one company, in anticipation of the bill passing, has withdrawn its application for a significant capital investment project in Weld County,” Cooke said. “This law will result in a manmade recession as property values drop, people lose their jobs, and the state is forced to cut services due to lack of revenue.
“Supporters love to say the [new law] is about putting Coloradans’ health and safety first, but there are few things less healthy for families than having no job and no income,” Cooke said.
Products made from oil and gas, such as plastics and fuel, save lives and raise the standard of living, says Cooke.
“It’s maddening the same people who claim to be champions of health and safety refuse to acknowledge that petroleum-based products have saved countless lives and dramatically improved our quality of life by every single measure,” Cooke said.
Linnea Lueken ([email protected]) writes from South Carolina.
Tim Benson, “Research & Commentary: Oil and Gas Regulation Overhaul Bill Would Have Deleterious Effect on Colorado Economy,” The Heartland Institute, March 12, 2019: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research–commentary-oil-and-gas-regulation-overhaul-bill-would-have-deleterious-effect-on-colorado-economy