Pro-Energy Group Urges Gov-Elect Polis to Ignore Requests for Drilling Moratorium

Colo. voters recently rejected measure increasing the minimum 'setback' distances for oil and gas rigs

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January 7, 2019

A D.C.-based nonprofit group, Power the Future, is pressing Colorado governor-elect Jared Polis (D.) to rebuff environmental lobbying efforts calling on Polis enact a moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling in the state.

Just days before he'll be sworn into office, Polis was already being sought out by "anti-drilling forces" in the state who had hired "a well-connected player" to urge Polis to implement a drilling moratorium, according to the Denver Post.

The move by the environmental factions comes after an election in which voters statewide rejected a measure that would have increased the minimum "setback" distances for oil and gas rigs—essentially the distance a drill site must be from schools, homes, hospitals, and other important locations or structures. Opponents of the measure argued that the measure increased the setback distances to such a large degree it would be de facto ban on fuel production.

"In recent years, Colorado has become an economic miracle and an example for the rest of the nation, in large part because of the state's booming energy industry and resulting job growth," the letter from Power the Future said.

"Colorado doubled its natural gas output since 2001, and it is now one of the top-five natural gas producing states in the nation. As Colorado's next governor, you have the ability to protect this economic boom and keep Colorado prosperous."

The claim that the state doubled its natural gas output since 2001 aligns with information from the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

The Denver Post first reported that "a slew of community groups from across the state" sent a letter to Polis requesting a moratorium of nine months.

"In a parallel move, the organization behind the unsuccessful effort last fall to increase setbacks for new oil and gas operations will send its own request to Polis on Friday, asking that he slap an indefinite moratorium on new drilling in Colorado while a comprehensive study is conducting to gauge the health impacts of drilling and fracking," the Post report also noted.

Election battles over the Colorado propositions, a renewable energy proposition in Arizona, and a carbon tax in Washington emerged as proxy wars over how much movement on environmental and energy issues the larger electorate was willing to accept. All were defeated.

Now that the newest members of the Colorado General Assembly have been sworn in, the state government will be aligned under Democratic power, something that party last had in 2014. Polis has a checkered history with energy in the state, mostly aligned against exploration and drilling.

In 2014, while serving as a U.S. representative for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, Polis bankrolled two restrictive oil and gas ballot measures for the statewide ballot that were eventually pulled off the table in a compromise.

As for the 2018 ballot measure, Polis said he opposed it during the campaign, but he has also been open in the past to increasing the current setback distances.

At least one early indicator would suggest this latest moratorium requests may not be well received by every elected Democrat.

"Dem Sen. Angela Williams opposes idea of statewide #oilandgas moratorium at @DenChamber #bizpreviewco," tweeted Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Dan Haley. "'I'm not willing to take food off the table.' She wants to keep communities safe and give them voice but not looking for cookie cutter approaches."

Requests for comment to staff with the Polis campaign were not returned, and the Polis transition team also did not respond to requests from the Denver Post in their original report on Thursday.

Published under: Jared Polis , Oil