Mountain States

Bipartisan Opposition Kills Colorado’s Proposed Fracking Ban 

 The Colorado Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee delivered a decisive blow to a proposed fracking ban, SB-159, after a marathon Thursday evening session that witnessed robust debate on the future of oil and gas in the state. The bill encountered even more bipartisan opposition than some anticipated, with both Committee Chair Sen. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Janice Marchman voting against the measure in a 5-2 result.  

The proposed legislation aimed to cease all new oil and gas drilling in Colorado by 2030, drawing sharp criticism from industry stakeholders and a wide swath of workers and local officials who argued that the move would have devastating economic repercussions. While the bill’s sponsors asserted it was a necessary step toward addressing climate change, opponents, including the Polis administration, countered that it would hike energy bills for low and middle income Coloradans “without necessarily reducing emissions.” 

Energy Stakeholders Laud Bipartisan Opposition to Fracking Ban 

Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), expressed gratitude to members of both parties following the bill’s defeat: 

“Shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday night, after nine hours of testimony, Senate Bill 159, a ban on new oil and gas development in Colorado, was killed, 5-2, in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. This was a win for Colorado, for the environment, and for common sense. (Two Democrats joined three Republicans in opposing the bill.) Thank you to everyone who stood up for our #oilandgas industry and who spoke out on behalf of good jobs and affordable and reliable energy. Thank you to everyone who called or emailed their legislator. Thank you to everyone who showed up at our Day at the Capitol and handwrote postcards. Your voices were heard.” 

Explaining their opposition, Sen. Roberts of Eagle County expressed concerns about the impacts a hard production cutoff could have on Colorado workers, while Sen. Marchman of Loveland warned SB-159 could significantly impair tax revenue for local schools. A recent report from the Common Sense Institute substantiated many of these objections, warning SB-159 would cause drastic job losses and a significant reduction in tax revenue that supports a variety of public services in Colorado.  

Kait Schwartz, Director of the American Petroleum Institute did not mince words about the partisan politics driving SB-159, calling the bill “punitive” and “disrespectful” in testimony before the committee: 

“The women and men of our industry find the as-drafted version of this bill to be unprecedentedly punitive, willfully shortsighted, and plainly disrespectful to Colorado lawmakers and the public alike. Members of the committee will hear, for the first time, many who wish to drive our industry out of the state say the quiet part out loud. If nothing else about today’s exercise is productive, we encourage our fellow Coloradans in attendance and listening online to let those testifying in support of this bill tell you exactly who they are and what they intend.” 

Schwartz also argued against the bill’s liability provisions, pointing out Colorado’s existing financial assurance rules are some of the strongest in the nation and provide safeguards against orphaned wells. Had the bill passed, state taxpayers could have been forced to assume responsibility for countless orphan wells, as the ban would force energy producers to abandon operations.  

Echoing similar sentiments, Loren Furman, President and CEO of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, criticized SB-159 as one of the most antagonistic proposals the energy sector has faced. In comments following the bill’s defeat, Furman praised the lawmakers’ decision as a testament to their commitment to preserving the state’s economic vitality and the livelihoods of the thousands of Coloradans who depend on the energy industry: 

This is about preserving jobs, and members who voted ‘no’ tonight acted in support of the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans directly or indirectly employed by the energy industry. We applaud their courage and support of the statewide business community.” 

While bill sponsors objected to a recent API study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers that found over 300,000 jobs are supported by the state’s energy industry, officials across party lines in Colorado have cited the study to highlight concerns about the potential impacts of the Biden administration’s recent decision to pause LNG exports. Both Colorado Sens. Hickenlooper and Bennet, along with CO-8 Rep. Caraveo, have argued against the administration’s LNG stance, which they say will adversely impact Colorado jobs.  

Caraveo faces a highly competitive reelection battle in the state’s 8th Congressional district, which encompasses the vast majority of oil and gas producing regions. The freshman Congresswoman’s LNG stance is a significant shift from her record in the General Assembly, where she was a prime sponsor of a controversial bill that overhauled a host of Colorado energy regulations in 2019.    

Despite Fracking Ban Failure, More Partisan Attacks on Energy To Come 

Despite the failure of SB-159, the energy industry still faces an onslaught of partisan attacks from certain Colorado legislators. Those proposals include measures that would ban production during summer months and institute a dramatic increase in fines. Haley wrote those bills make it critical for everyone concerned about the energy industry and state’s economy to remain engaged this legislative session:  

A few Colorado lawmakers have introduced a handful of other anti-oil and gas bills that would ban our industry during summer months (SB 165); increase fines on industry by 17,000 percent — yes, that’s not a typo (SB 166); tie up air permitting in unnecessary red tape (HB 1330); and increase taxes on stripper well operators (HB 1367). Those are just a few. We need to continue to stand up for our livelihoods.” 

These bills are up for consideration in the coming weeks and appear likely to face similar bipartisan opposition. 

BOTTOM LINE: The defeat of SB-159 is the latest instance of an emerging bipartisan chorus in Colorado against policies, both at the federal and state level, that would curtail the state’s ability to produce cleaner energy. While states like California and the Biden administration grow increasingly hostile towards the energy industry and the workers who depend on it, for now Colorado appears to be a significant exception to the partisan divide that increasingly dominates oil and gas debates.  

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