Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini has released the following statement on the failure of Proposition 112:

Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure by fear-mongering about jobs. No one in this state would be foolish enough to say that tonight’s result mean that voters want an oil and gas rig closer to their homes, schools, or hospitals.

The fact remains: the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved. Local communities still have too little say in where dangerous facilities are sited; the industry benefits from loopholes to laws meant to protect our environment; our state’s severance tax is the lowest effective severance tax in the nation; and spills, fires, explosions, and pollution remain all too commonplace.

In recent years, the oil and gas industry has stood in the way of basic, common-sense protections like keeping drilling away from our schools or tracking where pipelines exist so we don’t experience another Firestone tragedy. We need our leaders to take action in 2019 to ensure that Colorado has the strongest protections in the west.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) today passed a rule that will require new oil and gas development to be set back 1,000 feet from all outdoor and modular school facilities, rather than just from school buildings. This rule closes a loophole that formerly allowed oil and gas activity to occur near school playgrounds and sports fields, as long as it was 1,000 feet from the school building.

“Closing this loophole is a much-needed change, and we’re glad to see increased protections for the health and safety of children across Colorado from dirty and industrial fossil fuel development,” said Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, Energy and Transportation Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “But, it is important to note that this is just one small step forward; we look forward to working with Governor-elect Polis and the legislature to ensure that health and safety of all Coloradans is prioritized when it comes to oil and gas development.”

“It is past time the COGCC consider the health and safety of kids. Implementing a 1,000-foot setback from all school use areas and child care centers where kids learn and play is the least the COGCC can do,” said Sara Loflin, Executive Director of LOGIC, “It is ridiculous that we have had to fight to get oil and gas sites further away from kids and the places where they learn and play.”

“Finally, after three years of effort, the COGCC is responding to the concerns of impacted schools, parents and residents,” said Leslie Robinson, chairwoman of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Garfield County resident. “We should not put children at risk for a privately owned company’s bottom line. Everyone is a champion when we protect children’s health and safety and we hope that this rule is the beginning of more significant changes in Colorado’s oil and gas industry.”

Applying the setback to outside areas where students and teachers learn, recreate, and work took more than two years to occur, as the state legislature killed multiple bills that would have implemented this important change. As Colorado’s political climate shifts, this rulemaking adds momentum to advancing policies that put the public’s health, safety, and welfare first while holding the oil and gas industry accountable.

Additional Details

Today, Conservation Colorado released its 2019 Conservation Scorecard, an annual look at how every state legislator voted on key environmental bills during the recent legislative session. The scorecard provides Coloradans with the information they need to ensure their elected officials reflect Coloradans’ values, including protections for our air, land, water, and communities.

“Colorado’s 2019 legislative session was historic by any measure,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “From climate action and clean energy to oil and gas reforms to protecting our lands, water, and wildlife, this year’s scorecard provides an accounting of who helped and hindered Colorado’s progress.”

Here are top-line results from the Scorecard:

Key votes scored include:

  • Colorado’s Climate Action Plan (HB1261)
  • Comprehensive Oil and Gas Reform (SB181)
  • EV Utility and Tax Credits (HB1159 and SB77)
  • Hard-Rock Mining Reform (HB1113)
  • Conservation Easement Improvements (HB1264)
  • Promoting a Just Transition (HB1314)

Senate

  • 18 Senators had a perfect score.
  • The lowest scores were Senators Chris Holbert, Vicki Marble, and Jim Smallwood at 0 percent each.

House

  • 36 members had a perfect score.
  • The lowest scores were Representatives Mark Baisley, Susan Beckman, Perry Buck, Tim Geitner, Stephen Humphrey, Kimmi Lewis, Lori Saine, Shane Sandridge, and Dave Williams at 0 percent each.

Nordini continued: “This year, the Colorado legislature passed commonsense policies that were years in the making. At a time when the stakes could not be higher, Colorado’s new elected leaders produced results that will protect our state for years to come.”

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis signed SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations. The new law will protect public health and safety when it comes to oil and gas development.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s passage with the following statements:

“Today marks a new chapter in Colorado’s history. For the first time ever, our state is on track to put the health and safety of workers and residents, and our environment ahead of oil and gas industry profits. This policy is nearly a decade in the making, and we applaud our elected leaders who fought for so long to make it a reality.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“Coloradans now finally have a voice when it comes to oil and gas development in our state. We thank Governor Polis, Senator Steve Fenberg, Speaker KC Becker and our leaders in the Colorado legislature for listening to the urgent calls from Coloradans who are ready for change. The policy changes in Senate Bill 181 will help to make our communities healthier and safer.” — Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“SB 19-181 is a victory for the people of Colorado. By signing this bill, Gov. Jared Polis will expand Colorado’s leadership on methane and curb emissions of this dangerous greenhouse gas, while also helping prevent catastrophic well explosions that threaten our communities. As the Trump administration continues its assault on federal methane protections, it is more important than ever that Colorado respond by boldly cutting methane and fighting climate change.” — Matthew Garrington, State Campaigns Manager, Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund

“There has never been any Colorado legislation as comprehensive and impactful as SB 19-181. The people beset by the callous onslaught of oil and gas development now have a state government that is prioritizing their interests over the industry’s. This is long overdue and much appreciated.” — Josh Joswick, Issues Analyst/Community Organizer, Oil and Gas Accountability Project

“We thank Governor Polis and the Legislature for modernizing our laws to allow the experts in our state and local governments to make decisions that protect public health and the environment from the dangerous impacts of oil and gas development.” — Joel Minor, Attorney, Earthjustice

“This oil & gas bill signals that Governor Polis and the legislature are putting public health over polluter interests in the state.”  Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, NRDC

“Finally, after all these years we have a bill that will protect health and safety in the gas lands. Residents of Garfield County thank Governor Polis for making this long-awaited bill law. However, we must ensure the intent of the law is upheld through the rule-making process.” — Leslie Robinson, Member, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

“Members of Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) and residents of Battlement Mesa are pleased to see the adoption of SB 19-181 and the prioritizing of public health and safety over corporate profits. We appreciate the hard work and determination of the Colorado legislators and Governor Polist that made this possible. We are looking forward to a new era of cooperation with the oil and gas industry to develop our valuable natural resources in a way that prioritizes public health and safety.” — Dave Devanney, Member, Battlement Concerned Citizens

 

Industry groups spent heavily on misleading advertising against SB 19-181. Analysis conducted by Westword’s Chase Woodruff as the bill moved from the Senate to the House showed that “the fossil-fuel industry [outspent] proponents of SB 181 by more than a 15-to-1 margin.” That spending included included TV advertising that was labeled “misleading” by the Colorado Sun and, at various points, “full of overstatements” and not “not accurate at all” by 9 News’ Kyle Clark.

SB 19-181 will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Direct air quality experts to consider rules to greatly reduce harmful emissions including methane, a dense greenhouse gas;
  • Better protects property owners from forced pooling;
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits; and,
  • Create a professional, paid commission that can better address the litany of permits, rulemaking and oversight the commission must handle.

DENVER— Today, SB 19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations, passed the Colorado State Senate on a 19-15 vote.

The bill will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Addresses the growing climate, air, water, and wildlife impacts of oil and gas development across the state including increasing regulations for methane, a dangerous air pollutant that is a significant contributor to climate change;
  • Better protect property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rule making around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

 

Conservation and community groups responded to the bill’s Senate passage with the following statements.

“Thank you to the Colorado State Senate for acting decisively to prioritize Colorado’s air, water, and residents over oil and gas industry profits. This bill is nearly a decade in the making. We urge the House to act swiftly, pass these common-sense reforms, and send them to Governor Polis to sign so we can put Coloradans’ health and safety first.”

— Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

 

“This is a transformational step forward for a common sense, balanced approach to fracking in Colorado. We applaud leaders in the state Senate, and local officials across Colorado, for their bravery in the face of corporate special interests.”

— Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

 

“We are thankful to the state Senate for their leadership and for taking the time to bill thoughtful legislation that truly puts the health and safety of Colorado communities first. It is past time that we make health and safety the priority of the state when if comes to Big Oil and neighborhood drilling.”

—  Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

 

“The state Senate is showing real national leadership, showing other states how to protect communities from the public health and safety impacts of oil and gas extraction. The House should follow suit quickly.”

—  Sam Gilchrist, Western Campaigns Director, NRDC

 

“Western Coloradans cheer the passage of SB 181 out of the state Senate as a long overdue step to protect the public health and safety of residents living with the impacts of oil and gas.”

—  Emily Hornback, Director, Western Colorado Alliance

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Contact:

  • Garrett Garner-Wells, Communications Director, Conservation Colorado, 303-605-3483
  • Emily Gedeon, Conservation Program Director, Sierra Club, 720-308-6055

DENVER — Today, Governor Jared Polis, House Speaker KC Becker, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg announced a bill to ensure health, safety and the environment come first in our oil and gas regulatory system.

The bill will:

  • Refocus the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health safety and the environment over industry profits;
  • Empower local governments to have a stronger say by clarifying basic powers such as zoning and noise limitations and allowing local oversight and enforcement of operations;
  • Better protect property owners from forced pooling; and,
  • Combat the growing problem of orphaned wells by setting forth a rulemaking around financial assurances and bonding requirements for oil and gas permits.

Over the last decade, Colorado’s oil and gas industry has stood in the way of numerous reforms. They blocked efforts to protect health and safety and spent millions on politics and public relations. At the same time, the industry has cut corners on public health and safety, brazenly sited industrial oil and gas operations in residential neighborhoods, and ignored their obligation to develop and maintain a social license to operate. These actions have resulted in a backlog of overdue reforms that this bill seeks to correct.

Conservation groups responded to the bill’s release with the following statements.

“Coloradans have a right to expect that their health and our clean air and water come first — this is Colorado after all. But our current laws governing the oil and gas industry have not kept pace with industrial processes that are ever closer to our neighborhoods, leaving them to bear the consequences. We must reform Colorado’s broken oil and gas system so that our health, safety and environment are not a question but a top priority for state regulators.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The lack of modern, common sense protections from fracking for oil and gas in Colorado has endangered the health of our children, and put our first responders in harm’s way. It’s time for change. It’s time for Colorado’s leaders to put the health and safety of Coloradans before the profits of oil and gas companies.”

  • Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“As a resident of Battlement Mesa, I have come to understand that the COGCC usually behaves as a partner with the oil and gas industry rather than an advocate for protecting the health and safety of Colorado citizens. Their mission to ‘foster’ oil and gas development leaves citizens at serious risks with little or no recourse when major industrial operations move into our communities. NOW is certainly the time for change at the COGCC!”

  • Dave Devanney, member, Western Colorado Alliance

“It is time for leadership, and it is time for meaningful action to put health and safety first when it comes oil and gas. Big oil has become increasingly brazen over the last few years in running roughshod over Colorado communities – forcing massive industrial operations in the midst of homes and schools and forcibly taking the minerals of tens of thousands of private Coloradans. It is time that our legislature act, and put the health, safety, and property rights of our communities first.

  • Sara Loflin, Executive Director, League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court released its ruling on Martinez vs. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, retaining the status quo of an under-regulated industry.

In response, Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement:

“For too long, Coloradans asking for stronger health and safety protections have lost at the legislature, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and in the courts. That needs to change.

“Today’s Martinez decision is yet another reminder that we need to tilt the balance back in favor of Coloradans’ health and safety. With a new administration in place, we look forward to working with Governor Polis, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and legislative leaders to reform this broken system and put our communities first.”

Background on the Case

In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and several other young Coloradans asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to adopt a regulation stating that no drilling permits will be issued without a finding that drilling can occur without impairing Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife and that it does not adversely affect public health. The COGCC denied the request, holding that it lacked legal authority to issue such a rule. In March 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside the COGCC’s decision. The Court held that state law makes “protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” a prerequisite for approving oil and gas development. While rejecting the COGCC’s legal interpretation, the Court did not address whether the agency should adopt the specific rule language requested by the Martinez plaintiffs. Today, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning the appeal and siding with the COGCC.

By changing only eleven words in the Colorado state constitution, Amendment 74 has the power to upend how our local governments function and fund important public programs. Here’s five things Colorado voters need to know about Amendment 74 before ballots drop on October 15.

1. What does Amendment 74 really say?

Amendment 74 is intentionally vague and confusing – but don’t let that stop you from investigating the impacts of this dangerous ballot measure. Under the pretense of property rights, Amendment 74 would require the government – and consequently, taxpaying Coloradans – to foot the bill for disgruntled property owners, corporations, and special interests that believe a regulation hurt their property value, even in a negligible way.

2. Who’s behind the ballot measure?

A vibrant red sunset with a silhouette of an oil rigThe oil and gas industry has pumped money into this measure since day one. Although Colorado Farm Bureau is the publicly-named proponent, the state’s largest oil and gas companies have invested $21 million in support of Amendment 74 – and against oil and gas setbacks – through the Protect Colorado PAC. Its top three contributors are some of the largest oil and gas players in the state: Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy.

As of September 12, Anadarko has donated nearly $6 million, Noble Energy contributed almost $5 million, and Extraction Oil and Gas committed almost $4 million. The industry remains as the only contributor to the cause.

3. Who’s against the ballot measure?

Oil and gas development behind cows grazingOver 100 local elected officials and legislators have spoken out against Amendment 74, reiterating that the ballot measure is too broad and goes too far. Outspoken opponents so far include a host of environmental and progressive non-profits across issue areas, Club 20, Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Municipal League, and Governor Hickenlooper.

“If passed, Initiative 108 will bring the work of local government to a screeching halt because Denver will be entangled in lawsuits filed against the city for any number of programs, projects, rules, policies, or zonings that anyone could challenge by indicating that it has harmed their property. This is not a way to govern — by tying the hands of your elected leaders who work on these matters on behalf of our communities,” said Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega.

4. Why do we need Amendment 74?

The short answer: we don’t. Here’s why:

  • The Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners and doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.
  • Amendment 74 would broaden some powers imparted by the state Constitution, unleashing sweeping effects and unintended consequences for communities across the state.

The motive behind Amendment 74 is clear:

Oil and gas companies want complete freedom over how and where they do business.

5. How could this impact my community?

Let’s go through a few scenarios:

  • Police lights at nightIf an oil and gas company wanted to place more pipelines, storage facilities and wells near homes – like the pipelines that caused an explosion and killed two people at a home in Firestone just last year – but was blocked by zoning laws or local rules, they could sue a local government for preventing them from making a profit.
  • Public health and safety laws that keep industrial activities away from hospitals and nursing homes may not be enforced if contractors and industry players sue.
  • Local governments would be unable to do their jobs as they waste taxpayer dollars fighting frivolous lawsuits. They could even be forced to raise taxes or cut services like police and fire departments in order to cover the cost. The ultimate losers would be the taxpayers.

We rely on our local governments to help craft plans for what our communities look like, and how to keep residents safe. They do this in open, public meetings to balance the needs of all citizens. This established, trusted democratic process would be upended under this measure.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights: Amendment 74 aims to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry.

Vote NO on Amendment 74 to save our communities, our environment, and our Colorado.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today officially began the process of rolling back safeguards that reduce waste and decrease air pollution from methane and other air pollutants. These safeguards are widely supported in Colorado; in fact, a recent poll by Center for Western Priorities showed that 67 percent of Coloradans oppose rolling back environmental regulations on oil and gas development.

“Colorado has led the way with strong state-based rules that have proven to be good for public health, for business, and for our environment. While these safeguards remain in place, smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans, especially working families and people of color, will feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback, which only serves to benefit oil and gas company profits,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas released into the air when oil and gas is extracted. The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, which have been in place and working for almost a year, reduce emissions from more than 36,000 wells all around the country. These standards cut 21,635 tons of methane, around 6,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 450,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants each year. Capturing methane means less waste (because the methane is used for energy production) and less pollution (because toxic gases aren’t being released into the air).

While these critical safeguards are being rolled back at the federal level, Colorado continues to have strong rules, which served as a model for the EPA standards. While wells in Colorado will still be subject to these robust state regulations, Colorado’s air will be harmed by the undoing of the EPA rule. Air pollution doesn’t stop at state lines, and Coloradans will be impacted by this decision and the thousands of tons of methane pollution that the industry will again be allowed to emit.

Written by Sophia Guerrero-Murphy

This November, our ballots will be full of measures for voters to weigh in on. One of these – Amendment 74 – is an attempt by special interests to turn local decision making on its head.

Official Ballot EnvelopeAmendment 74 would allow any property holder, including corporations, to sue local and state governments over any regulation, from city planning to basic health and safety protections.

For the sake of protecting the Colorado we love, we cannot let this dangerous amendment pass.

What does it do?

The amendment is written to be purposely confusing and dangerously broad. Under the guise of protecting property rights, it would require the government – the taxpayers – to compensate property owners, including corporate interests and industry, for any decrease in the value of their property – including loss of profits – due to any government law or regulation. The cost of paying out the industries and special interests when enforcing codes and laws will eventually make enforcing even the most straightforward regulations too expensive. In short, it destroys the ability of local leaders to make decisions about what their communities look like.

This measure is unnecessary, too extreme, too broad, and was created by and for special interests.

 It’s unnecessary because the Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners; it doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.

→ This ballot measure would expand part of our Constitution in a way that is incredibly broad and would have sweeping effects on local governments and communities across the state. By requiring local governments to compensate corporate interests, Amendment 74 seeks to make any regulation too expensive to implement.

→ The motive of this measure is clear: it’s paid for by oil and gas companies because it would give them complete freedom over where and how they do business.

Here are three ways that Amendment 74 would hurt Coloradans:

1) Amendment 74 puts industry over people.

An oil rig near residential areaWhile you won’t find any mention of oil and gas in the measure itself, Amendment 74 was written to prevent local governments from limiting oil and gas drilling in any way. Cloaked in language that would have you believe that all Coloradans’ property rights would be strengthened under this measure, Amendment 74 is exclusively backed by oil and gas companies. Protect Colorado, a front group created by the state’s largest oil and gas companies, has raised a staggering $13 million so far in support of 74. Its top three contributors  – Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy – each donated more than $2 million to the cause.

So, what’s in it for them?

If an oil and gas company wanted to drill near a hospital, school, or nursing home but was blocked by zoning laws, the company could sue the government for preventing them from making a profit. If this happened, the government would have to either pay the company or waive the zoning law. In most situations, city, county, and state governments would not be able to afford the payoff, so they would be forced to allow the company to drill wherever it wanted.

The scariest part of Amendment 74 is how broad it is. Far beyond allowing the oil and gas industry to ignore policies designed to protect public health, it could:

  • A sign for a liquor store near a churchAllow gun shops, strip clubs, and marijuana stores to be built near schools despite neighborhood or family concerns;
  • Allow industrial activities to be located right beside nursing homes, daycares, and hospitals;
  • Undo noise regulations that ensure we all get a good night’s sleep;
  • Undermine local decisions on landfills and hazardous waste storage, allowing them to be located virtually anywhere;
  • Get rid of public health standards governing restaurants, tattoo parlors, or hospitals;
  • Hurt safety rules like fire and building codes.

2) Expensive for taxpayers.

Measures similar to Amendment 74 that were passed in other states show just how burdensome it would be to Coloradans. By forcing local governments, like cities and counties, to pay individuals who “suffered any burden” as a result of a regulation, these measures were prohibitively expensive to governments and taxpayers.

Stacks of claims fill an office roomOver a three-year period in Oregon, a measure similar to 74 resulted in the filing of nearly 7,000 claims requesting a total of $19.8 billion in compensation. Faced with such a massive payment, cash-strapped governments were forced to waive rules for nine out of ten claims. This benefited agribusiness, developers, and extractive industries at the expense of taxpayers.

If Amendment 74 passes, the power of our state and local governments will be strangled. We rely on our local governments to listen to community members and plan for the future of our neighborhoods. They do this in open meetings with public input to balance the needs of all residents. That long-held, trusted process would be upended under this measure.

3) Threatens the property rights of most landowners.

Foreclosure sign in front of a houseUnder Amendment 74, Colorado landowners will suffer. Despite what proponents of 74 claim, waiving regulations would weaken, not strengthen, property owners’ rights. Since property values go down when an undesirable development – like a landfill – is planned near a community, one unregulated property owner has the potential to harm the property values of many.

This also happened in Oregon, where property owners could only sit and watch as an 80-acre gravel mine was built next to family ranches, 150 vacation homes were put up in a national monument, and subdivisions tore up agricultural land. As these landowners learned, waiving land-use rules not only generally damaged property values, it pitted neighbor against neighbor and put a stranglehold on local decision making. Two years after it passed, Oregon residents opposed the 74-like measure by nearly two to one.

With all the attacks on our environment occurring at the national level, it’s easy to lose track of the local ballot issues that Coloradans will be voting on this November. But this year, not paying attention could be dangerous.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights. No, the purpose of this initiative is to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry. It poses an unprecedented threat to our communities, our environment, and our way of life.

See Amendment 74 for what it is – a measure to deregulate and debilitate – and vote NO.