Mountain States

KIITG Group Goes Way Outside the Mainstream with Call to Block All New Oil, Natural Gas Permitting

One “Keep It In the Ground” group is going to extremes to halt new permits for oil and natural gas development in Colorado.

Activist group Colorado Rising recently held a press conference  to announce it’s filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) for continuing to issue drilling permits since the passage of SB 181 – a new state law to overhaul oil and natural gas regulations.

But there are a couple big problems with that.

Colorado Rising Never Supported SB 181

Democratic leaders that drafted and supported SB 181 have always said it was never intended to be a moratorium. That’s a major reason why groups like Colorado Rising refused to support the bill during the legislative process. Yet, they have no issue using it as a vehicle to ban new development now.

As Colorado Rising Executive Director Joe Salazar explained during the press conference:

“That’s one thing we have asked the judge is to pause all permits until rulemaking is complete on 181. You just can’t move forward.”

Salazar also said that if the courts granted their stay to block all new permitting, he would expect an appeal from the Polis administration – aka, the people who wrote the law and who know what their own intentions are.

While SB 181 may not have been supported by Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry during the legislative process, they’ve worked with the state government, communities, environmental groups and other stakeholders to make it work and ensure energy production in Colorado is done in the safest and cleanest manner possible while projecting thousands of good-paying jobs.

The collaborative efforts of such diverse stakeholders to ensure SB 181 is protective of the environment, while also being enforceable and realistic, is in stark contrast to Colorado Rising’s calls to simply ban new development altogether, despite the state’s already stringent regulations that are still in place during the rulemaking process.

SB 181 was Never Meant to Block New Permitting

The fatal flaw in Colorado Rising’s lawsuit is that placing a ban or moratorium on new oil and natural gas development during the rulemaking process is a direct contradiction to the legislation’s intentions.

Both House Speak KC Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg – the two top Democrats in the state legislature – said during the legislative process the it was never meant to be a moratorium until rulemaking concluded.

“Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, one of the sponsors of the bill, said it does not amount to a de facto ban on operations, as industry defenders allege.” Colorado Politics (4/5/19)

“’There’s nothing in the bill about setbacks,’ [House Speaker Becker] said. ‘There’s nothing in the bill one way or another that talks about moratoriums or bans.’”Greeley Tribune (3/23/19)

“Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg went on the offensive to dispel fears before Tuesday’s testimony even began. The bill doesn’t ban drilling anywhere or give local governments the authority to place moratoriums on drilling activities, he said.” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (3/7/19)

Furthermore, COGCC Executive Director Jeff Robbins, who is responsible for conducting the rulemaking process, agreed with the legislative leader’s intent. He has rejected calls to block new permits, explaining:

“One of the themes I did hear at the ALJ hearing, was numerous members of the public have asked me and asked this commission that it should immediately ban or put into a place a moratorium on any and all new permits until all of the rules have been adopted. That, I believe is contrary to intent of Senate Bill 181. Senate Bill 181 specifically stated that we should create objective criteria, which we have done. And that the objective criteria should be used to put a prism of 181 in protection of public health, safety, welfare, and the environment on the process of potentially permitting during the space between now and all the rules that have to be adopted. That’s what I plan on doing. That is what the administration has suggested that we should do, and that’s what we will continue to do.” (emphasis added)

Colorado’s Oil And Natural Gas Industry Responds

At the end of the day, this is just another stunt by Colorado Rising intended to undermine constructive, collaborative regulatory work meant to keep the economy strong and people safe.

Colorado Oil & Gas Association President Dan Haley said:

“Colorado Rising’s petulant stunts aim to put working families in Colorado on the unemployment line and drive up energy costs. Implementation of SB 181 has been frustrating for industry as well, but we’re at the table and committed to the process. Colorado Rising is only interested in banning responsible energy development, not the tremendous strides companies are making that benefit Colorado and the environment.”

Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Lynn Granger said:

“Proponents of Senate Bill 181 have repeatedly assured both the natural gas and oil industry and the public that the measure was not written or intended to pause or halt new energy development in Colorado. We are grateful to the COGCC for largely honoring this assurance and are disappointed that certain actors seek to circumvent a process that is already underway in their effort to shut down natural gas and oil production in the state.

“Our industry is proud to play a leading, innovative role in protecting and enhancing public health, safety, and the environment. Nothing about Senate Bill 181 has changed our commitments to these ends. We look forward to continuing good faith discussions with the COGCC and all interested stakeholders in finding solutions that benefit the state that we all call home.”


Colorado Rising didn’t do anything to help pass SB 181 and its members have chosen not to be constructive players during the rulemaking process – instead staging protests at public hearings meant to bog down the process.

Now the group is trying to tell the very people who wrote the law what the law is supposed to do. Colorado Rising’s tactics have been rejected by Democratic leaders and industry time and again, and it’s clear that its views and agenda are way outside of the mainstream.

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