Mountain States

Forecasted Impacts of SB 181 Becoming a Reality in Colorado

When Colorado’s SB 181 prompted an overhaul of the state’s oil and natural gas regulations, the legislation’s supporters said nobody should worry about job losses.

As it turns out, there’s good reason to worry.

Oilfield service company Halliburton recently announced it will be laying off 178 oil and natural gas workers at its Grand Junction, Colo. office. A spokesperson for the company told media the difficult decision was “due to local market conditions.” As Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted, this includes regulatory uncertainty caused by SB 181:

Activists Deny and Celebrate

Halliburton’s decision prompted quick responses from “Keep It In the Ground” activists and defenders of SB 181 who deny that SB 181 is a cause of these job losses.

For instance, KIITG group Colorado Rising – an organization that’s actions have proven to be far outside those of the state’s mainstream environmental groups –  tweeted that there shouldn’t be “finger-pointing at 181” because of the Halliburton layoffs.

Ironically, this same group earlier that very day filed a lawsuit to block all new permitting in the state, which would have major economic impacts including job losses.

Likewise, House Speaker KC Becker said SB 181 wasn’t the reason for the Halliburton layoffs. But as one of the key authors of the law, Becker had to have known the legislation would cause uncertainty in the market, as it has clearly done. Nearly a dozen counties and communities along Colorado’s Front Range have already used the local control element in the law to put in place moratoriums on new development.

CBS 4 recently ran a story headlined: “New Colorado Oil & Gas Law Already Impacting Industry” that reported:

“Five months after the law took effect, drilling permits are down 60 percent from what they’ve averaged over the last decade, one operator has declared bankruptcy, and 10 local communities have passed moratoriums on new drilling.”

Statehouse Democrats also passed a “Just Transition” bill to provide workplace assistance to the very workers who will be laid off because of their anti-energy policies.

At an energy conference in August, Gov. Jared Polis was nearly laughed off the stage as he attempted to deflect criticism away from SB 181 by saying that “markets” determine the fate of the industry and that government has little power. Polis claimed:

“It has nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with our state politics and less, even, to do with national politics.”.

The Colorado Sun was quick to point out the obvious issues with such a dismissive denial of culpability:

“Gov. Jared Polis only amplified the concerns Wednesday at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual summit as he struck what energy leaders described as a dismissive and condescending tone and repeatedly called industry concerns ‘silly.’ … The Democrat’s remarks defined his combative approach to the summit and left industry leaders audibly groaning in disbelief.”

Even while U.S. oil and natural gas production is projected to keep growing, regulatory uncertainty like that caused by SB 181 and other signals can impact the “markets” Polis and others are trying to blame.


Anti-energy politicians and Keep It In The Ground activists want to have it both ways. They designed SB 181 to hurt the oil and gas industry, but they want none of the blame when hardworking Coloradans lose their jobs.

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