By: Peter Moore
Chair, Vital for Colorado
After years of engaging stakeholders, vetting energy regulations, and grappling with legal challenges, Coloradans continue to embrace a thoughtful and reasoned approach to responsibly developing our energy resources.
Colorado has some of the toughest, most rigorous environmental regulation of oil and gas in the world, and a welcoming attitude toward new development.
For some fringe environmental groups, the toughest oil and gas regulations in America aren’t enough. In 2016, this band of extreme voices tried to attack oil and gas development on multiple fronts.
But time and time again, antifracking activists were soundly defeated by the forces of common sense and responsible energy development.
We saw a small faction of legislators continuing to push a rejected, narrow agenda threatening thousands of Colorado energy jobs. Bills aimed at redundant and overlapping regulatory schemes to efforts to thwart mineral rights owners all met the same fate. Each time, Vital for Colorado and other business leaders pushed back against these harmful proposals, stopping the legislation in its tracks. Republicans and Democrats killed these bad-for-business, anti-drilling bills.
Last spring, environmental activists tried to recall a Thornton City Council member for the high crime of, get this, working for an oil and gas company. A handful of the most notorious and well-heeled anti-fracking organizers flooded the community with smears and deceit, only to have voters in Thornton slam the recall door in their face. The Thornton recall failed for not having anywhere near enough signatures.
Undeterred, this summer, many of the same activists pushed divisive constitutional ballot measures that would have cut off 90 percent of the state from developing our energy resources. These narrow interests tapped into hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state environmental groups sharing a common mission of banning hydraulic fracturing. We saw great fanfare when they submitted their petitions to the secretary of state, but later learned that they were submitting many empty boxes with few petitions. Despite this well-funded effort, Coloradans rejected these damaging proposals by declining to sign their petitions.
Not to be outdone, many of the same activists focused their attention and flailing angst at Amendment 71, a bipartisan measure seeking to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution by requiring greater statewide input for constitutional ballot petitions. National environmental groups spent heavily to oppose Amendment 71 equating it to a proxy fight on energy development, even though it was no such thing. Greenpeace even sent its blimp to Colorado to oppose the initiative. But just like their empty petition boxes, the air-filled blimp on loan from Washington, D.C., failed persuade local voters as Amendment 71 passed with over 55 percent of the vote and winning 60 of 64 counties.
The wholesale defeat of antifracking extremists here is notable because it’s the third year in a row fracking foes have lost. After convincing a couple towns to pass short-term bans on drilling, the environmental community has seen a pair of anti-drilling initiatives wither on the vine in 2014, the defeat of a proposed fracking ban in Loveland, the defeat of multiple anti-energy local candidates in 2014 and 2015, and a 2016 Colorado Supreme Court decision saying the energy bans were themselves illegal and unconstitutional.
Added together, the picture that emerges couldn’t be clearer — the cottage industry of environmental groups opposing fracking have been completely and totally rejected by mainstream Colorado. While periodic fights will continue as long as these groups have access to out-of-state environmental donors, the crusaders against responsible energy development have lost credibility with the public because they have lost the debate.
In 2017, Colorado leaders should re-commit to developing energy policy in the right way. That means tough and comprehensive regulation of the industry, and a broad commitment to protecting responsible energy development here for years to come.