Having served our southwest Colorado community as an elected official for many years, I’ve had a front-row seat to the recent devolution of our nation’s political discourse. I’ve spent my entire career prioritizing compromise and searching for bipartisan solutions to tough public policy challenges.
Colorado has a terrific opportunity to find such common ground this November by rejecting Proposition 112. In this case, Republicans and Democrats can and have come together in agreement, acting first and foremost as Coloradans.
Simply put, Proposition 112 would devastate our state’s economic future. I’m heartened to see so many friends, (and occasional political adversaries), stand together with a united voice and commitment to defeat this extreme measure.
The issue of energy development is often contentious and fraught with partisan squabbling. However, I’m proud of what we accomplished on oil and gas issues during my time in the Colorado legislature, as it stands in stark contrast to the uncompromising, outright hostile nature of Proposition 112.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is the regulatory agency charged with overseeing oil & gas development in our state. Here’s what the Commission had to say about the changes that the bipartisan legislature enacted from 2007-2017, a period which mostly overlapped with my time as a lawmaker:
The dramatic increase in oil and gas development over the past decade, first on Colorado’s Western Slope, and later along the northern Front Range, led to perhaps the most dynamic decade of regulatory change in the 66-year history of the agency.
In representing my district, I placed a paramount emphasis on conservation and responsible energy development. In coordination with my friends from across the aisle, and with an industry willing to roll up its sleeves and work hand-in-hand with us, we accomplished a great deal.
We came together to elevate protections for wildlife and the environment. We also increased the regulation of chemicals used in energy development, including implementing restrictions related to operations near drinking water sources.
And we didn’t stop there. In 2011, we worked with the COGCC to require energy operators to disclose exactly which chemicals are used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Colorado was one of the first states to require such a disclosure requirement, and many states have since followed suit.
Crucially, we worked closely with the COGCC and stakeholders in 2013 to set the state’s existing setback rules. These rules are some of the strongest in the nation. Gov. John Hickenlooper deserves a great deal of credit for assuming a leadership role in bringing opposing sides together to reach a compromise which just five years ago was considered a safe step forward.
Proposition 112 would unilaterally increase the 2013 setbacks by a factor of five, effectively ending new natural gas and oil development in Colorado.
This is economic catastrophe waiting to happen and it’s the type of outcome that can occur when one side decides to stop talking to the other.
Our gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton, concur on very little in the way of public policy. However, both agree Proposition 112 goes too far. Former Democrat U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, who later served as President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, similarly opposes the measure, calling it “unconstitutional.”
Our State Representative, Democrat Barbara McLachlan, opposes the measure, saying, “If it doesn’t help my district, if it doesn’t help rural Colorado, I don’t vote for it.”
Republican Don Coram, my successor in the State Senate, and Republican State Representative Marc Catlin have joined Representative McLachlan in opposing Proposition 112.
Proponents of Proposition 112 are obviously frustrated, but I would submit that their approach would destroy a decade or more of carefully crafted work that has made Colorado a leading energy producer and a leading environmental steward.
Democrats and Republicans alike have worked too hard to make Colorado the envy of the nation just to watch our progress disappear overnight.
I strongly oppose Proposition 112 and ask my friends and neighbors to join me.
Ellen Roberts served in the Colorado House and Senate from 2007-2016, including as Senate president pro tem, and is an attorney and natural resources consultant in Durango.