2500-Foot Setback Measure will Destroy Colorado’s Economy, Strip Money from Schools and Public Safety

August 29, 2018

2500-Foot Setback Measure will Destroy Colorado’s Economy, Strip Money from Schools and Public Safety

Karen Crummy

Denver – With the state’s economic prosperity on the line, Protect Colorado announced today that it was prepared to fight a ballot initiative requiring 2,500-foot setbacks for new oil and natural gas development after the Colorado Secretary of State’s office certified the measure for voters’ consideration in November.

If passed, the measure would result in a loss of tens of thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue to state and local communities for schools and public safety. Elected officials, community leaders, business and economic groups and everyday Coloradans have already joined Protect Colorado in denouncing the initiative as irresponsible, economically destructive and devoid of any scientific facts showing it improves health and public safety. In fact, Larry Wolk, the head of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), has said that there is no “credible evidence” showing increased setbacks are any more protective of public health than the current setbacks.

It is clear this measure is aimed at eliminating oil and natural gas development, not making it safer.

“This measure will devastate the state of Colorado by destroying nearly 150,000 jobs over the next decade, eliminate billions in state revenues, and negatively impact essential services such as health care, education, transportation, fire and safety,” said Chip Rimer, chairman of Protect Colorado. “We are confident that voters see this measure for what it is: an extreme proposal funded by those in Boulder and Washington, D.C., who do not have Coloradans best interests in mind.”

These state-wide negative impacts are why bipartisan opposition to this measure reaches to the four corners of the state and includes Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis. Two recent studies show the measure was intended to eliminate oil and natural gas development and would create significant economic hardships for Coloradans.

More than 94 percent non-federal land in the state’s top five producing oil and natural gas counties (Weld, Garfield, La Plata, Rio Blanco and Las Animas) would be unavailable for new production. And at least 85 percent of all new oil and natural gas development on non-federal lands would be off limits, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. By barring private landowners from using their private property in the way they wish, oil and natural gas development may be forced onto some of Colorado’s most pristine federal lands.

Additionally, these setbacks would result in the loss of as many as 147,800 jobs over the next 12 years, according to a study released by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR) last month.

Twenty-three percent of the impacted jobs would be from the oil and gas sector. The remaining 77 percent would be in health care, construction, hotel and food services, real estate and local government, including teachers.

CSPR’s study also found Colorado’s economy would lose between $169 billion to $217 billion over 12 years, and during that same time period, the reduction of state and local tax revenue would be between $7 billion and $9 billion. This revenue is critical for state and local governments, schools and special districts to pay for everything from new parks to police and fire departments to road improvements.

Communities across the state receive about $1 billion dollars annually in oil and natural gas revenues that are critical to state and local governments, schools and special districts. Oil and natural gas contributed $839 million to K-12 schools in 2015 and 2016, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. And over the past eight years, the industry sent $615 million in severance tax to municipalities and counties for everything from new parks and recreational centers to funding public safety of local police and fire departments, and road improvements.

Colorado has instituted 14 new rulemakings in the last nine years resulting in some of the toughest regulations in the country. State, federal and industry standards are in place to protect workers and the community, including regulation from four state agencies, five federal agencies and three industry-standard groups. The industry is ranked in the top ten on the total safety metric among 83 industries tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.