Mountain States

Colorado’s Largest Paper Opposes Prop 112, Calls it Ban on Oil and Gas

Colorado’s largest newspaper just came out strongly against a ballot measure its editorial board says would serve as a ban on oil and gas in the state. The Denver Post is urging voters to reject Proposition 112 because the measure “is an overreaction and we hope Coloradans reject it.”

The Post joins a long line of leading Colorado voices opposed to the extreme measure. Tracee Bentlee of the Colorado Petroleum Council perhaps put it best in a column out today when she said, “The one thing Proposition 112 has managed to achieve is uniting Coloradans in opposing it.”

High-profile Democrats opposed to Prop 112 include Congressman Jared Polis, the Democratic nominee for governor, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The latter two officials expressed concerns that the measure would be “fundamentally unconstitutional” and serve as a regulatory taking from the private property rights of local land owners, who would be deprived of the royalties earned from leasing their resources for oil and gas development.

State Republicans are also strongly opposed to Prop 112. Walker Stapleton, the Republican nominee for governor, described the measure as an “energy ban” when stating his opposition. The Colorado Republican Party opposes the proposition and Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said, “By opposing it, Colorado Republicans are standing up for the working men and women of the oil and gas industry.”

Local leaders too, have voiced strong opposition. Five members of the Weld County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted for a resolution opposing the proposition. The resolution noted that, “…the proponents of the Proposed Initiative do not support local control as they claim.” The City Council of Thornton also voted for a resolution opposing Proposition 112 and the Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams said, “It’s too extreme for Thornton. As a native of Colorado, it’s too extreme for Colorado.” Finally, mayors from across the stated rallied in Weld County against the proposition, including top officials from all 10 of the state’s largest municipalities, who have joined an effort called “Mayors Against Proposition 112”.

The Post is not the first newspaper in Colorado to oppose the ban. Other newspapers such as the Durango Herald, Grand Junction Sentinel, Aurora Sentinel, the Colorado Springs Gazette, Craig Daily Press, Pueblo Chieftain and the Fort Morgan Times have urged voters to reject Proposition 112.

Key to the Post’s rationale against the proposal is that the Prop 112 simply goes too far,

“If voters were truly being asked to impose reasonable setbacks from houses, schools, and playgrounds, opposing 112 would have been a much more difficult decision for this editorial board. And voters probably wouldn’t be seeing opposition from candidates and politicians who have historically been advocates for more local control over oil and gas companies, like gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis.”

As EID has previously outlined, the editorial board agrees with numerous experts that the negative impact of proposition 112 on Colorado’s economy would be immense:

“With such a ban would come an exodus of oil and gas companies from the state, the high-paying jobs they create directly and indirectly, and the taxes they pay to state and local governments.”

Specifically, the Common Sense Policy Roundtable showed that such a ban would cost Coloradans more than 100,000 jobs by 2030 and reduce state and local tax revenue between $825 million and $1.1 billion during the same timeframe, including money for education, law enforcement, and other critical infrastructure.

To make matters worse, the Post correctly notes that the misguided justification for all this economic destruction would be preventing health and safety threats that do not exist beyond current setbacks:

“But we haven’t seen evidence that oil and gas activity is the kind of unmitigated threat to health and safety that would merit a ban.”

To come to this conclusion, the Post relied on the findings of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which studied the health impacts of emissions from oil and gas operations and concluded that “…there was no immediate need for a public health response, but urged further study.”

This is ultimately why the Post is urging Colorado voters who are concerned about the health impacts of oil and gas in their communities to seek other ways to address their concerns:

“But without hesitation, we can say that Proposition 112 is not the best way to address those reasonable concerns. It is an overreaction and we hope Coloradans reject it.”

In opposing Proposition 112, the Post is joining the vast majority of state and local officials from both parties and other state newspapers that have evaluated the merits of the proposal. Rarely do members of the coalition opposing the Proposition 112 agree on public policy measures. This widespread opposition from Colorado’s leaders should send a strong signal to voters that Proposition 112 is the wrong approach.

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