In the face of possible statewide ballot measure efforts to restrict fossil fuel development in Colorado (see Shale Daily, Feb. 27), a new oil and natural gas industry-backed organization on Wednesday cautioned voters against "well-intentioned sounding" efforts that could undermine existing regulatory protections.
Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy and Energy Independence (Protect Colorado) was launched as an "issue committee" to inform voters before the November elections in order to defend the existing regulatory framework, which the group characterized as "best in the nation."
Protect Colorado is funded by nearly $2 million in pledges from many of the state’s top producers, including Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Noble Energy Corp., PDC Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources Inc., SM Energy and Whiting Petroleum Corp. The group is seeking to preserve "collaborative work" with state and local officials to protect the environment and quality of life.
Since 2008, Colorado has adopted a series of more stringent regulations covering oil and natural gas well setbacks, water protections, hydraulic fracturing rules and most recently the nation's first methane emissions rules (see Daily GPI, Dec. 12, 2008; Feb. 24).
Last year, the industry and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, worked together on new, more costly penalties for operators, only to have state lawmakers reject the measure (see Shale Daily, May 10, 2013). The proposal (HB 1267) would have imposed higher penalties for operators that violated state regulations. HB 1267 was one of several bills that had sought more oversight of the energy industry but which failed to win consensus in the General Assembly (see Shale Daily, May 8, 2013).
Protect Colorado claimed that existing oil and natural gas regulations rely on expertise from local governments and factor in all of the major health, safety, environmental and economic factors impacting energy development.
"Our history of collaborative work with local governments, state regulators and environmental groups has helped preserve Colorado's quality of life, while simultaneously supporting more than 110,000 good-paying jobs, $29.6 billion in economic activity, and $1.6 billion in tax revenue in 2012 alone from oil/gas development," said Anadarko's Chris Castilian and Noble's Chad Calvert in a joint statement. Colorado has "found the right balance" between protections and economic progress.
This year's elections are a chance for Colorado citizens to "draw a line against needlessly changing our state constitution on issues already addressed by existing rules and regulations,” they said.