As oil and gas finds favor in Washington, debate continues in Colorado
March 11, 2017
Colorado energy profile
Colorado is the seventh-highest producer of oil and gas in the nation. The industry supports 200,000 jobs in the state, and in 2012, brought in $26 billion a year in economic activity and $1.6 billion in revenue to the state, and $202 million to the state’s school districts.
Source: American Petroleum Institute
DENVER — Oil and gas are back in political favor in Washington, D.C., but state and national officials on Thursday touted the need for continued collaboration and a balance of interests to solve lingering local issues.
The American Petroleum Institute hosted the State of Colorado Energy luncheon at the History Colorado Center with a packed crowd of state legislators, county officials and oil and gas leaders. A panel discussion included Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Jack Gerard, API president. The three fielded questions on oil and gas issues ranging from local control to national implications of a changing administration, deregulation and the balance of global power in the wake of the United States gaining status as the top oil and gas producer in the world.
Simply, the pendulum has swung with oil and gas industry no longer on the defensive under a new administration in Washington.
But some political debate continues in Colorado, with environmental and political concerns. Boulder County is working to come up with regulations on the industry within county limits, and the state Attorney General is poised to file a second lawsuit. Officials in Broomfield, as well, have major issues with the density of planned oil and gas projects that have made headlines.
The main concern, however, is that the deadlock is the need to find compromise amid competing property rights.
"You spend a lot of energy and resources on battling for position when it would have been better spent sitting down having a balanced conversation," Hancock said of that need for collaboration. "We live in a state where citizens value their ability to discuss tough issues. Only when we're afraid to discuss in a collaborative manner, those issues are exacerbated. In regard to the oil and gas industry, we recognize the oil and gas industry is a huge player in our state economy."
Hancock said 17,000 employees of the oil and gas industry call Denver home. The industry fuels the state's economy to the tune of roughly $26 billion, and all signs point to further growth, given how oil and gas operators are putting more money in their Colorado drilling and exploration budgets.
Gerard said that will continue to be a driving force in any debate of the merits of the industry. According to the API, the industry supports 200,000 jobs in Colorado.
"We need to make sure, perhaps we should look at both ends of the continuum," Gerard said. "The reality is that oil and gas underpins economic activity of almost everything we do."
The environmental debate, he said, is interesting with natural gas, which he said is responsible for a massive clean up of the country's air.
"Today, the U.S. leads in carbon reduction," Gerard said. "We're now at a 25-year low. No other major developed nation in world can say that. That's driven primarily by abundant, affordable, reliable natural gas."
Consumers, he said, are helped by the abundance of natural gas. They benefit from lower prices at the gas pump. The average American saves $550 a year in lower gas prices, and the average family saves $1,337 a year in home heating bills, he added.
That phenomenon should convince federal officials to change the political environmental debate.
"We're now showing natural gas production leads to reduction of global climate emissions," Gerard said. "When you think of energy policy, we should be thinking about how we consume more here and export around world."
Hickenlooper pointed to recent years in Colorado, when competing interests in the debate were able to come to the table to find a compromise or at least some agreement so both interests could move forward.
"I do think that the next few months will be critical in terms of looking at that pendulum, and how we calibrate, re-evaluating changes in regulations and rules so we can maintain momentum in this country," Hickenlooper said. "Let's keep working on core vision of cleaner air, clean water, less expensive energy that will all work together. Let's not start throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or going hog wild in one direction or another."