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Oil, gas industry to fight stricter environmental bills in Colorado legislature

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Business leaders joined leaders of Colorado’s petroleum and natural gas industries in denouncing a wave of legislation creating higher environmental standards and phasing out drilling.

“These concepts range from banning any development for any industry that requires an air permit in up to 50 percent of the state to tracking and limiting how much you can drive your car,” Kait Schwartz, director of the American Petroleum Institute Colorado, said during a press conference on Thursday. “Ideas like this are harmful to the Colorado economy and many of of them are bad for the environment.”

Two Senate bills, 24-165 and 24-166 introduced Thursday, would tighten emission rules along with new enforcement of air quality standards and penalties. If passed, the state would establish vehicle miles traveled reduction targets for certain areas and "develop policies and programs to assist applicable metropolitan planning organizations in meeting the targets."

Senate Bill 24-159, introduced last week, would require the Colorado Energy & Carbon Management Commission to adopt rules to end the issuing of new oil and gas permits by Jan. 1, 2030. It also would reduce the total number of permits for new wells in 2028 and 2029 and require new permits issued after 2024 to stop operations by 2032.

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“We will fight each of these bills and we intend to explore every available path forward to protect Coloradans from these efforts which, if successful, will raise energy costs on those who can least afford it,” Dan Haley, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said during the briefing.

Haley emphasized the U.S. is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world and Colorado was the fourth-largest producer of crude oil and the eighth-largest in natural gas production.

“What happens here matters elsewhere,” Haley said.

Haley urged Democrats who introduced the bills to heed the advice of Colorado Democrat U.S. Senator Michael Bennett, who reportedly criticized President Joe Biden’s proposed ban of energy exports. Haley also recalled how natural gas prices soared when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We hope Democrats in the Colorado state House will see energy as Senator Bennett does and view production and exports as a strategic necessity that can help the world, instead of making our allies fend for themselves when mad men are on the march,” Haley said.

J.J. Ament, president and chief executive officer of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed legislation will harm the state’s business climate.

“Right now the biggest risk to Colorado’s economy is public policy,” Ament said. “It’s public policy that’s been created without a thought to the cost-and-benefit analysis.”

The industry representatives also stated they’ve worked with the state to achieve multiple environmental goals.

“We need to own the fact that Colorado has the highest standards of anybody else,” said Sara Blackhurst, president and chief executive officer of Action Colorado, an advocacy organization serving rural areas. “We’re constantly meeting goals. The industry is constantly doing more. Every time a goal is set, it’s met and gone beyond and then the goals change.”