The oil and gas industry is saluting Gov. Jared Polis' pledge to "actively" oppose any oil and gas measures during his first term. That prompted a pro-oil and gas group to cease work on two potential ballot measures Friday.
The Democrat who won office pledging more renewable energy wants provide time for Democratic legislation passed last year, Senate Bill 181, to better regulate the industry.
"As we focus on building a clean energy future, SB181 established an oil and gas regulatory framework that fits our state, and we must give it time to work," Polis wrote in an op-ed Friday morning for Colorado Politics.
Protect Colorado, a business coalition supportive of the industry, called it a "win for all Coloradans," but especially those who work in the oil and gas industry and the communities that depend on the tax base. The group said the governor's declaration Friday ensures "avoiding oil and natural gas wars through 2022."
Read the governor's op-ed by clicking here.
"Now is the time for Colorado to come together," Protect Colorado spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano said Friday morning. "We appreciate the Governor’s call to allow time for SB 181 to be implemented properly and thank him for his commitment to oppose divisive and expensive ballot fights for the next two years.
"We hope all parties are committed to his goal of developing rules that make sense without further legislative directives impacting the industry. We will continue to do our part to help Colorado’s communities thrive and grow, to provide good jobs for Coloradans, and to be a cornerstone in rebuilding the economy we share."
After other ballot efforts to regulate the industry fizzled this year, largely due to pandemic restrictions for petition gathering, Protect Colorado had two initiatives that appeared headed to the November ballot that won't go forward.
Colorado Rising, the leading organization advocating for the environment and against the industry, had said it planned to provide a stout defense against measures the oil-and-gas backers presented this year.
"I’m glad Governor Polis was able to get the oil and gas industry to back off of its 2020 ballot initiative plans," Joe Salazar, the former state legislator who leads Colorado Rising, said in a text Friday morning. "We owe it to the people of Colorado to allow the rulemaking process to work itself through."
In effect, Polis is talking about this year and next. In 2022, he, too, will be on the ballot for reelection, which could present a double campaign conflict for him and his supporters if they green governor is forced to campaign against a ballot measure that advocates greener rules on the fossil fuel industry.
Initiative 284 would have protected natural gas as a consumer choice for new or remodeled homes and businesses. Initiative 304 would provide more information to voters about the cost of future ballot initiatives.
Protect Colorado said on July 15 that it had already collected more than 140,000 signatures ahead of the Aug. 3 deadline to get on the ballot. The requirement is 124,632 signatures, but campaigns have to collect more to account for double signatures, people who aren't registered voters or those who sign fake names that can't be verified.
Besides Colorado Rising, other environmental groups got behind Polis Friday.
“We stand with Governor Polis and thank him for his success in brokering a deal to put an end to the continued ballot wars that drain our state of resources during a time of economic and public health crises," Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state's largest environmental organization, said in a statement. "We will continue to focus our efforts on protecting Colorado’s environment and communities at the new professionalized Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”
The Western Colorado Alliance, which worked to pass Senate Bill 181, also was supportive of it Friday.
"Western Coloradans worked hard to pass SB 181 and have been present every step of the rulemaking process thus far," stated executive director Emily Hornback, "We agree with the governor that we should see this process through and try to resolve these issues in front of the newly professionalized commission before fighting them out at the ballot box. Either way, impacted residents want real solutions and are ready to work for them."
Polis decision also was supported by a group called The League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans.
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association said he too appreciated Polis trying to calm the waters on ballot issues.
“Businesses and investors crave stability, and the governor’s commitment helps enable that at a time when we need it most," Haley said. "We thank the governor for his efforts to keep divisive energy measures off the ballot and provide more predictability for our members and thousands of working families throughout our state. SB 181 requires a dozen technical and complex regulatory rulemakings.
"We have a long way to go before all that work will be complete, and SB 181 is fully implemented. We are a committed stakeholder in that process, and appreciate the administration’s focus on that sizable undertaking.”
Chelsie Miera, executive director of West Slope COGA, added:
“We welcome the certainty for our important natural gas and oil employees and companies as well as for our West Slope and Colorado economies Governor Polis’ commitment creates. Colorado balances our critical oil and natural gas industry and the health, safety and welfare of our communities and environment better than anywhere else. If there has ever been a time to come to consensus and figure out how we move forward in a more positive fashion, this is absolutely it.
"I hope that the efforts to eliminate consumer choice is also implicated in this statement and rulemakings don’t continue to place undue burden on our families throughout the state who rely on affordable and clean natural gas. Thank you to the governor for this opposition to anti oil and gas initiatives and legislation and we are extremely hopeful the actions we see in the coming months and years from our legislature and administration speak even more loudly than his words.”
Lynn Granger, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Colorado, said the trade group was encouraged by Polis' call to allow for Senate Bill 181 to be implemented before seeking more policy changes.
"We look forward to working with the Governor, the state legislature, local governments and other stakeholders as we collectively continue to pursue an energy future that works for all Coloradans,” she said in a statement,