Activists are unhappy with state-level efforts to regulate the industry, and t’s enough new drilling along the populated and oil-rich area north of Denver to portend a new boom, should prices recover.
A last-minute deal – involving him, Gov. John Hickenlooper and industry representatives – stopped both those proposals and two industry-backed countermeasures.
Bitterness was aggravated by a Boulder Weekly and Greenpeace investigation published last fall, which suggested that industry funded and unduly influenced University of Colorado Leeds School of Business research reports and warned – right before the 2014 election – that fracking limits would harm the state economy.
Industry proponents say the expanded setbacks would virtually prohibit drilling, decimating an industry that brings a reported $31.7 billion annually to Colorado.
“We already have some of the toughest rules in the country. The question I have is, ‘When is enough enough?” says Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for Protect Colorado, an organization that opposes any statewide fracking limits and backed the industry’s own 2014 ballot measures.
The political path holds dangers, says Charles Davis, a political science professor at Colorado State University who studies fracking rules.
Framing a ballot measure as a “Local-control” issue instead of an anti-drilling one is a good strategy, he says, but with industry slumping and also publicly supporting the task force, “The degree of urgency seems to have dissipated.” He anticipates that oil and gas groups will spend readily to oppose any drastic measures, and perhaps back their own countermeasures again.
Crummy says industry is “Considering all our options.” Judging by 2014, measures could include withholding energy tax dollars from counties or cities that limit or ban fracking.
“I think would have a real poor chance of passing when you consider industry is still a major economic engine.”