Guest column by Robert Golden, Mike Kopp and Jeff Wasden
With the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision preserving responsible energy development in the state, fringe activists will attempt one final Hail Mary aimed at amending the Colorado Constitution.
Backers of four measures targeting oil and gas development in Colorado have begun collecting the 100,000 signatures necessary for them to appear on the November ballot. If successful, they would essentially eventuate with a patchwork of local regulations that would, in effect, ban fracking, undermine property rights and destabilize Colorado’s business environment.
The claim is made that the backers are simply local citizens, merely concerned with protecting their communities. But in reality, their activities are being pushed by out-of-state interests with an agenda quite unlike the citizens of Colorado who welcome the economic boom the oil and gas industry fuels in our state.
Our three organizations, by strong contrast, are deeply rooted in Colorado. We are both local and statewide. Together we represent thousands of the great companies in Colorado who do business across the breadth of the Centennial State. We stand with Vital for Colorado in support of a collaborative, responsive and transparent regulatory system managed at the state level, not the confounding, contradictory one envisioned by some unseen special interest.
While the proposed ballot measures are written to appear reasonable, we wish to be clear: They are de facto bans on fracking.
For example, Initiative 40 would grant unprecedented power to local governments to ban outright any business or industry they don’t like, regardless of state, federal or international law.
Initiative 63 is written so broadly that it would potentially empower nearly anyone to drag another into court over an alleged crime against the environment.
Initiative 75 would further politicize the oil and gas industry by granting local governments broad new regulatory powers that could imperil tens of thousands of jobs in a heartbeat.
Initiative 78 would require oil and gas operators to create an incredible buffer zone (called a setback) of at least a half-mile from things like “open space” areas and intermittent streams. When you consider the lay of the land in some parts of the state it is clear that would mean a ban on fracking.
These initiatives are best seen as blunt instruments aimed at hurting a vital Colorado industry. There is a better way. For starters, we need to let the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission continue implementing the recommendations made recently by the governor’s oil and gas task force. The recommendations are the capstone of a great deal of bipartisan work done by members of the environmental community, elected officials and the oil and gas industry. Let’s give them a chance to work before considering additional changes.
As the signature-gathering efforts move forward, we encourage readers to consider the impact these measures could have on Colorado, including the loss of: billions of dollars in economic activity, hundreds of millions in tax revenues and tens of thousands of jobs.
We believe the best way to achieve economic prosperity and environmental conservation is through dialogue, collaboration and cooperation, as we’ve seen with the governor’s task force. Let’s work together to see that we continue this strong partnership.
Robert Golden is president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. Mike Kopp is the executive director of Colorado Concern, an alliance of top business executives with a mission of enhancing the Centennial State’s business climate. Jeff Wasden is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, an advocate for proactive, pro-business legislation that strengthens the economy and allows businesses to grow and thrive in Colorado and the region. All three serve on the board of directors for Vital for Colorado, a coalition of business, civic and economic development leaders along with more than 56,000 Coloradans from across the state dedicated to supporting and promoting the benefits of energy production in Colorado.
[This op-ed was originally published at Centennial Citizen.]