A new study in Colorado predicts catastrophic crippling of the oil and natural gas industry if a proposed ballot measure to lengthen the setback requirement for new drill sites to 2,500 feet from 500 feet is passed in November.

Monday (Aug. 6) is the deadline for measures to qualify for the November ballot. Pro-industry organizations are assuming that Initiative 97 designating the new setbacks will have a spot on the ballot.

A study funded by Colorado real estate, banking and economic development interests done by researchers Chris Brown and Zhao Chang at the Colorado School of Mines Mineral and Energy Economics Program concluded that by 2030 there would be $110-141 billion of lost oil and gas production tied directly to Initiative 97 if it were to pass.

Spokeswoman Karen Crummy of the pro-industry group Protect Colorado said opposition efforts are “moving forward as if the measure will make the ballot.” Initiative 97 effectively “bans oil and gas development in the state and will be economically devastating to Coloradans.”

As the Colorado Petroleum Council and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) have documented, oil and gas operations statewide support hundreds of thousands of jobs, covering all sectors of the state’s economy. The report also noted that the industry operates within some of the nation’s strictest regulations.

Up to 80% of all new oil and gas development would be eliminated by the proposed ballot measure, said researchers.

“By 2030, it would reduce the total value of production in the state by between 54% and 70%,” the authors said.

Crummy cited a long list of lost tax revenues, jobs, and general economic multipliers if the new setback requirements were to be approved. COGCC estimates that up to 85% of the state would be off limits to new energy development under the 2,500-foot requirement.

“Strong continued growth” is what is in the energy pipeline without the ballot measure, the report noted. In fact, more than half of the projected growth is slated to occur within the expanded setback area.

Colorado Rising, which is spearheading the measure, said human proximity to energy development, including oil and gas drilling, is bad for public health, safety, welfare and the environment as a whole. The detrimental impacts would be eliminated with the proposed setbacks, the group argues.

There have been a series of local and statewide anti-fossil fuel ballot measures in Colorado that have spawned pro-industry business-backed organizations. Two years ago, two oil and gas measures were strongly opposed by industry.