Gov. Jared Polis said a deal has been brokered to hold off on new ballot initiatives between environmental groups and oil and gas advocates over regulations in Colorado, with the battle over state rules shifting toward the ongoing Senate Bill 181.
In an op-ed at Colorado Politics, Polis said multiple dueling initiatives to both restrict and free up energy operators in the state have divided the state and become costly for courtrooms to handle when either side challenges the legitimacy of another’s initiative.
Polis said both sides have committed to withdraw their ballot measures for this year’s elections in November and hold off on filing new measures through 2022. Instead, the two sides will make their cases in front of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as the body continues to interpret and set new rules under SB 181, the sweeping energy industry reform passed last summer.
In the future, Polis said he will oppose any oil and gas-related ballot initiative, regardless of whether it favors his stance on promoting renewable energy adoption or promoting existing industry. He also is asking the Legislature to hold off on moving industry-related bills so SB 181 can “be fully and effectively implemented as envisioned” by its sponsors.
“When you’re making a cake, you don’t pull it out of the oven after two minutes and start randomly adding new ingredients — you follow the recipe and wait until it’s fully baked,” he wrote.
Conservation Colorado executive director Kelly Nordini said in a statement that the group will take its case for curbing oil activity to the newly-professionalized COGCC board.
“We stand with Gov. Polis and thank him for his success in brokering a deal to put an end to the continued ballot wars that drain our state of resources during a time of economic and public health crises,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lynn Granger, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute of Colorado, said her group applauds Polis’ efforts to stop the back-and-forth.
“The passage of Senate Bill 181 has already proven to be highly consequential and complex, so we are encouraged by the governor’s call to allow for all aspects of the bill to be implemented and realized before pursuing additional policy changes,” she said in a statement.
However, it’s unclear how the news is being taken in Weld County, which has an economy highly reliant on the oil and gas industry and which has been among the staunchest opponents of reform.
In a panel on the state of the industry last week, county commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said, “We assume they’re just going to ignore us in our comments in regard to their rulemaking, their 300-series,” she said.
Kirkmeyer later said the county is prepared to challenge any new rules in court if it believes the state broke its administrative procedures.
A spokeswoman for Weld County government did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon, and Kirkmeyer could not be reached for comment as her phone mailbox was full.
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