Colorado oil and gas companies are throwing cash to fight, support 2018 ballot measures

Posted at 5:49 PM, Jun 01, 2018

DENVER -- Big threat equals big money, that's the name of the game for Colorado oil and gas companies for the upcoming November elections. 

Campaign finance records show operators are spending millions of dollars to fight back against ballot initiatives aimed at limiting drilling across the Front Range.

Initiative 97 would push setback requirements for new wells to 2,500 feet from neighborhoods - five times the current restrictions of 500 feet from homes.

"The reason we're doing this as communities is we're our own last line of defense," said initiative 97 organizer Suzanne Spiegel.

It's a move opponents say would halt drilling in the state and have significant economic impacts.

"This initiative is economically devastating to the state of Colorado," said Protect Colorado spokeswoman Karen Crummy. "Not only would it cost thousands of jobs, but it would cost billions in actual economic impact."

To fight back, oil and gas companies are throwing cash at Protect Colorado, a political action committee supporting industry-friendly initiatives and opposing any limits on drilling. Since January, records show the industry has doled out $8.4 million. Anadarko, the state's largest oil and gas company, wrote a check for more than $2 million. Noble Energy and Extraction Oil and Gas contributed another $4 million in May.

"We are the largest oil and natural gas producer in Colorado, directly employing more than 1,000 Coloradans and investing hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the state to develop the resources we all use every day," said Anadarko spokeswoman Jennifer Brice. "The financial support provided to these industry coalitions is available to the public and essential in providing information to voters about the benefits our industry provides to the state and supporting the livelihoods of the thousands of people and dozens of communities that depend upon our business."

While it's clear which measures the industry — and Protect Colorado are against — the group is also helping fund other initiatives that favor the industry.

Initiatives 108 through 113 would essentially hedge their bets. They all strengthen property owner rights and would force the state to compensate companies and property owners if new regulations diminish the value of their land or keep them from being able to use their mineral rights.

"A number of our members benefit from being able to generate that kind of energy on their property," said vice president of advocacy for the Colorado Farm Bureau Shawn Martini.

The Colorado Farm Bureau is the organization behind initiative 108 and said it has a team of volunteers actively gathering signatures in rural parts of the state.

"Allowing all Coloradans at least the chance to say, 'look I've been damaged and I should be compensated,'" explained Martini.

None of these state initiatives are on the November ballot yet, and are all still at the signature gathering phase.