Opinion

Initiative 97 would gut oil and gas development, devastate Colorado’s economy

Author: Dan Haley - August 16, 2018 - Updated: August 16, 2018

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Dan Haley

Two years ago, Bridget was a single mom with plenty of worries, but few opportunities. She was on public assistance, with no place to call her own.

Then, she found a job working in Greeley for an oil and natural gas company. The job gave her a good paycheck, health benefits, and a retirement plan. But mostly, it gave her hope.

“My life, and my son’s life, have changed so drastically, and only for the better,” she said.

Now, activists fueled by out-of-state money are threatening to strip away her livelihood and put tens of thousands of oil and gas families out of work. We can’t let that happen.

A group called Colorado Rising on Monday claimed to have submitted 171,000 signatures to get Initiative 97 on this fall’s ballot. It would create a rigid 2,500-foot setback from an oil and gas facility to the nearest occupied structure, park, ball field, open space, stream, lake, intermittent stream — you name it.

On its face, it may sound reasonable. However, it would kill up to 147,000 good-paying jobs in Colorado over the next 12 years, according to the newly released study commissioned by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR).

Don’t be mistaken, activists know full well that the measure will destroy jobs and hurt oil and gas families – they attempted this same political stunt two years ago as well – but they don’t care.

If Initiative 97 makes the ballot and is approved by voters, up to 43,000 jobs will be lost in the first year alone, CSPR’s study found.

Within 12 years, the state also would lose $218 billion – yes, billion with a “b” – in GDP, with the state losing $26 billion annually in GDP by 2030. That’s money that would vanish from Colorado’s economy, turning rural communities into ghost towns and hallowing out downtown Denver office buildings.

If that doesn’t get your attention, maybe this will. Up to $98 billion in personal income would be lost, and over a 12-year period $9 billion in state and local tax revenues would be gone, with annual losses of more than $1 billion in tax revenues by 2030. (Colorado’s entire annual transportation budget is $1.5 billion.) Again, that is real money – enormous amounts that will leave large holes in everyone’s pockets, including our state and local governments, where these tax revenues will no longer go to critical services such as police and fire and road improvements.

Bottom line, the impact of a 2,500-foot setback would be devastating to our economy, to our communities, and to Coloradans across our great state. Money for schools, parks, rec centers, and libraries likely would dry up and blow to Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

At June’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearing, Bridget stood up and bravely told her story.  As she spoke, activists held up posters of images and slogans meant to intimidate her and others.

She stood firm and talked about what the oil and natural gas industry has meant to her family. Now she’s hoping you will stand with her.

“Any discussion about oil and gas in Colorado has to take into account stories like mine,” she told COGCC commissioners, “because there are so many people with the same story as me. Oil and gas has truly changed my life and I am grateful for it every single day.”

Don’t be mistaken, activists know full well that the measure will destroy jobs and hurt oil and gas families – they attempted this same political stunt two years ago as well – but they don’t care.

Yet activists, including some running for public office, either overlook the human element or dismiss it outright. Coloradans losing their jobs as a result of impractical and unscientific policy decisions is rarely mentioned, if ever.

So, when you encounter those activists who want to put us out of business, please ask them a few questions.

Ask them if they are aware of how critical our industry is to society, from the clothes they are wearing to the paint on their walls and the smartphones in their hands.

Ask them if they support the tens of thousands of oil and natural gas families in Colorado who rely on this industry to put food on their tables.

Ask them if they want to see energy bills go up for the Colorado families already struggling with the choice between paying for food, medicine, or heat.

Ask them if they want to end an industry that is environmentally sound, reducing emissions and helping to clean Colorado’s air.

Ask them if they believe in American energy security and our nation’s national security.

And, finally, ask them if they want to send a message that Colorado is closed for business and that incoherent environmental dogma matters more than common sense solutions.

That’s not the Colorado I know. It’s not the Colorado I call home. We need to stand up for our state. We need to stand up for our workforce. And we need to stand up for Bridget.

Dan Haley

Dan Haley

Dan Haley is president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.