Oil and Gas Conflicts Colorado

In this March 22, 2019 photo, Ethan Lutz, a service leader for Liberty Oilfield Services, explains fracking equipment at Liberty's yard in Henderson. Lutz said he worries that proposed new oil and gas regulations in Colorado could strangle the industry, shutting down one of the few careers that offer his crew a decent wage to support their families. He and other oilfield workers say they're safety-minded people who love Colorado, but they feel demonized and ignored in the debate over new rules.

Two more potential ballot questions on oil and gas dropped off the list of possibilities for the November ballot Tuesday afternoon, when the proponents of initiatives 311 and 312 said they would sit it out this year.

Initiative 311 would have created a board of experts selected by judges to oversee oil and gas rules, replacing political appointees. That board would have been required to set a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development projects. 

Initiative 312 would have kept the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from tampering with existing rules on air quality, safety, aesthetics and noise control.

Neither proposal had completed the process of collecting 124,632 to qualify for the ballot. The deadline is August 3. Two weeks ago, oil and gas industry opponents said they, too, would not seek to further restrict drilling and pumping operations, because of the political season changed by the coronavirus outbreak.  

Lead petitioners Diane Schwenke and Dave Davia said Tuesday they had heard from business leaders and allies in labor that they should hold off to give Gov. Jared Polis' newly named commission a chance to get to work and make improvements.

Both sides were negotiating a truce this year, when Colorado Rising decided to end negotiations last month, according to a joint statement Tuesday from Schwenke and Davia.

"Governor Polis’ commission has the chance to end the oil and gas wars once and for all by resorting a measure of balance and common sense that’s been lost over the last 18 months," they stated. "The restoration of balance would be a great victory for the Governor and the people of this state."

"We want to engage with the new commission, and have the chance to be heard. We are hopeful this new Commission will listen to and make decisions based on the scientists and engineers, unlike the extremists that have effectively closed our state for business from the energy sector. If not, we will absolutely be back. Both our coalition and our polling paint a really clear picture — the independent oil and gas commission is a horse that runs. It’s a debate we would welcome having, and will win, if we see the need arise."

Colorado Rising leader Joe Salazar, a former north metro Denver state representative, was surprised to hear the news Tuesday afternoon.

"The oil and gas industry has no business running any measure that further harms the people and environment of the state of Colorado." he said in a text. "I’m happy to hear that they are pulling back on two of their extreme measures."

Lynn Granger, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, said the trade group supported the proponents’ decision to withdraw their initiatives.

"This news, coupled with Colorado Rising’s announcement that they intend not to pursue their anti-energy measures, allows for our state to catch its breath, come to the table, and have reasonable discussions in hopes of truly ending the ‘oil and gas wars,’" she said in a statement. "We look forward to working in collaboration with the soon-to-be seated professional commission in pursuit of functional policy outcomes for our industry, while continuing to prioritize the health, safety and welfare of Coloradans.”

Tuesday's announcement leaves standing Protect Colorado's Initiative 284 and Initiative 304.

Called Consumer Choice measure on Natural Gas Restrictions, Initiative 284 prevents blocking the use of natural gas in new homes or businesses.

Initiative 304, called the Fiscal Impact Statement Measure, would make more information about the total cost of ballot initiatives available to voters, including job losses or gains and tax revenues, in addition to the initial price tag.

"Both measures are good for all of Colorado and grounded in good policy," said Protect Colorado spokesperson Laurie Cipriano. "We are committed to fighting for consumer choice for energy and total cost transparency for all proposed ballot initiatives."

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