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Bill would stop new oil, gas permits in Colorado by 2030

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – A group of Democratic legislators recently introduced a bill to stop new permitting for oil and gas development in Colorado by 2030.

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

"Climate pollution from oil and gas wells in Colorado exacerbates climate change, which has been declared the greatest global threat to public health by two hundred medical journals, and has adverse impacts on Coloradans' health and well-being," says the bill, which was introduced in the Senate Tuesday.

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© Colorado Capitol Building Denver - iStock - kuosumo

“I think most Coloradans agree with us that we can’t keep drilling forever,” said bill sponsor Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder County, according to the environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians. “It’s a finite energy source. Fossil fuel demand is going down in Colorado because we are starting to transition to clean energy.”

“There are going to be thousands of wells producing well after 2050. No one at all is trying to halt oil and gas production,” she added.

Kait Schwartz, director of the American Petroleum Institute Colorado, said the oil and natural gas industry has worked to meet the state’s climate targets and the legislation threatens employment and the economy.

“The proposal pays no mind to private property rights, our industry’s dramatic economic contributions to Colorado, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers, nor a swath of rulemaking over the past half-decade that has cemented our state as a truly global leader in safe and responsible energy production,” Schwartz said in a statement. “… the sponsors of this bill are doing nothing less than championing the most extreme anti-energy proposal in the history of our state, all the while ignoring the needs of everyday Coloradans who are already struggling with increasing everyday costs, including utility rates.”

According to the trade group, Colorado's oil and gas industry provides $34.1 billion in labor income or 12 percent of the state's total employment revenue.

Oil and natural gas production in the state accounted for approximately $18 billion in 2021 and was approximately 85 percent higher than the $9.74 billion estimate for the previous year, according to the Colorado Geological Survey. In 2021, oil and natural gas production was approximately 88 percent of the state's total mineral and energy production value.

“Although 2021 oil and gas production decreased in Colorado, oil and natural gas production remains higher than historical values and production values have increased from 2016 due to higher prices and an increase in demand,” the Colorado Geological Survey reported. “Colorado has the eighth-largest proven oil reserves and the ninth-largest proven natural gas reserves in the U.S.”

Colorado is the eighth-largest producer of natural gas in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state's natural gas reserves make up approximately 4 percent of the U.S. total, the federal agency said. Colorado has all or part of the nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields and its natural gas output doubled from 2000 to 2022.

Colorado’s crude oil industry is the fifth largest in the nation, providing approximately 4 percent of total U.S. output, according to the EIA. In 2022, the state produced almost five times more crude oil than in 2010 due to the increased use hydraulic fracturing. Monthly crude oil production peaked at slightly more than 17 million barrels in November 2019 and declined to approximately 11 million barrels by February 2021 due to the pandemic. In 2022, production increased 3 percent, the first year-on-year increase in two years.

SB24-159 was assigned to the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, but no hearing has been scheduled yet.