Mountain States

Colorado Governor: Oil and Gas Setbacks Would Cost State “Many Billions of Dollars”

Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, is speaking out against an initiative backed by ‘ban-fracking’ activists to dramatically increase oil and gas setback distances in the state. The comments came at an event yesterday sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC) featuring the governor and API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

When asked about the ballot initiative pushed by activists with strong ties to national ban fracking organizations, that would increase oil and gas setback distances to 2500 feet, Hickenlooper strongly denounced the effort. As reported by CBS Denver:

“That would be considered a taking, and I think the state would probably be judged responsible, and I think the cost could be in the many billions of dollars. I think that’s a risk that most Coloradans — if it was laid out for them in a sense they could clearly understand — would not support it.”

Hickenlooper’s assertion that the initiative could cost the state billions is backed up by a recent economic assessment from the Business Research Division at University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. Economists found that a 2,000 foot setback distance could cost the state up to $11 billion in lost GDP a year and 62,000 jobs. The 2,000 foot setback economists looked at is more modest than the 2,500 foot distance that activists are attempting to put before state voters this year.

Governor: “not a real risk” on earthquakes

The governor also came out against state legislation being pushed by activist groups that “would hold oil and gas drillers liable for any earthquakes.” The proposal has become a rallying point for activists seeking  to ban energy development in the state, while its sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, has been actively seeking their support for the measure. When asked where he stands on the proposal, CBS Denver reports that Hickenlooper said:

“A bill like this when there’s not a real risk, it makes us appear like we’re anti-business,” he said.

Experts agree that wastewater injection wells – not hydraulic fracturing – are more likely to induce seismicity. A recent EID report entitled “Injection Wells and Earthquakes: Quantifying the Risk” found that across the United States, and particularly in Colorado, such events are exceedingly rare. With 920 Class II injection wells and 350 disposal wells operating in the state, EID found that 98.8 percent of Class II injection wells and 96.86 percent of disposal wells in Colorado have been operating without seismicity.

EID is not alone is assessing a low risk of seismicity. The potential link between oil and gas operations and induced seismic events is an issue that has been extensively studied by groups such as the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) as well:

“USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only very rarely the direct cause of felt earthquakes. While hydraulic fracturing works by making thousands of extremely small ‘microearthquakes,’ they are, with just a few exceptions, too small to be felt; none have been large enough to cause structural damage.” (emphasis added)


Activist groups have been working overtime in Colorado to mislead lawmakers, the media and everyday citizens into adopting their view that energy development in the state should be banned. Governor Hickenlooper is not buying into their talking points and has joined a growing chorus of business leaders, editorial boards and elected officials who are recognizing just how extreme the groups behind the initiatives have become.


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