Opinion

LOMAX | In a rare convergence, Polis and Stapleton both balk at drilling ban

Author: Simon Lomax - August 30, 2018 - Updated: August 29, 2018

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Simon Lomax

Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton both oppose a ballot measure that would effectively ban oil and gas development across Colorado. The two candidates for governor made this rare point of agreement very clear in speeches to the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual conference this month.

The ballot measure would ban drilling within 2,500 feet, or roughly half a mile, of a long list of areas deemed off limits by anti-oil and gas activists. Those areas include dry creeks, ditches and other land and water features found all across rural Colorado – a far cry from the urban areas that “ban fracking” groups claim their ballot measure is all about.

The ballot measure is an “energy ban” in disguise, Stapleton told the COGA conference at a luncheon sponsored by Vital for Colorado, where I work as a research fellow. Minutes after the Republican candidate for governor voiced his opposition, so did Polis, the Boulder Congressman running at the top of the Democratic ticket this fall.

The ballot measure “would all but ban fracking in Colorado, a position I never supported no matter how much Walker Stapleton may wish I had,” Polis said, according to Western Wire.

To be sure, big differences remain between the candidates on energy policy. But despite those differences, they agree the ballot measure is bad for Colorado because it would effectively ban one of the state’s most important economic sectors.

That is a massive blow to Food & Water Watch and other the national “keep it in the ground” groups behind this ballot measure. But it’s just the beginning of the bad news coming their way.

With the statements of opposition out of the way, we will soon see the actions taken by each of the campaigns to help ensure the ballot measure’s defeat. How will they join with a huge and growing coalition from across the state economy and across the political spectrum to defeat a measure that would cost the state almost 150,000 jobs, $1 billion in state and local tax revenue and $26 billion in lost economic activity?

The candidates may look to the way Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) joined with the state’s business community in 2014 to present a united front. At a press conference at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Hickenlooper and business leaders drew a line in the sand, with the governor citing the “consequences for every industry in the state.”

“It’s clear these initiatives will kill jobs and damage our state’s economy,” Hickenlooper said. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to defeat them.”

Donna Lynne, who led the Chamber’s board of directors at the time and later became the state’s lieutenant governor, told reporters “[t]he diversity of the coalition highlights that Coloradans have come together to fight these ballot initiatives.”

Polis, in particular, should remember this moment well. Ironically enough, he was the financial backer of 2014’s anti-oil and gas ballot initiatives, and he wisely withdrew those measures rather than take on the entire state business community.

Will we see the candidates build upon the example set by Hickenlooper, the term-limited governor they each hope to succeed? Time will tell.

But in the meantime, look for how the candidates incorporate their opposition to the measure into their overall campaigns for the state’s highest office. More to the point, look for a competition over who’s doing more to defeat it.

Simon Lomax

Simon Lomax

Simon Lomax is a research fellow with Vital for Colorado, a coalition of state business leaders, public officials and citizens focused on energy policy, and an adviser to pro-business groups. Before going into advocacy, he was a reporter for Bloomberg News and a congressional fellow with the American Political Science Association. The views expressed are his own. Find him on Twitter at @simonrlomax.


One comment

  • Stan

    September 1, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    I would not trust Jared Polis in his opposition to the drilling ban. He is only taking this position to gain votes and if elected to office would unleash his power as Governor to oppose the oil and gas industry and do other things to damage Colorado’s economy.

    I DO TRUST Walker Stapleton when he says he opposes the ban on oil and gas drilling.

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