Coalmont, Colorado - Tony Webster/

Environmentalists Come to the Aid of Oil and Gas

Strange times, these are. Just a year ago, it was utterly unthinkable that some of Colorado’s most aggressive anti-energy advocates could rethink their approach. Amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, however, that’s precisely what is happening.

Dyed-in-the-Wool Animosity

In December of 2019, the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club launched a prolonged attack campaign aimed at Republican Senator Cory Gardener. Why? Because, although the Senator supported the permanent passage of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, publicly professing his support for the legislation on several occasions, the Sierra Club just didn’t believe him. The organization funded five billboards and $150,000-plus in TV ads because they were worried the Senator wasn’t doing enough for the environment.

The offensive on Gardener was just another in a long series of adamant attacks from Colorado-based environmental groups similar to the Sierra Club. In 2019, they counted themselves among the proud people who believed that the only option for the state’s thriving energy industry was extermination. These were the same people who applauded when former Democratic presidential nominees declared that, if elected, they would place a ban on fracking on the first day of their administration. 

That’s all changing.

The Assault on Oil and Gas

The Colorado energy industry has been in a state of flux in recent months. Even outside international disturbances in the oil and gas market, Colorado’s energy producers have faced increasingly toxic resistance at home. The election of an anti-energy administration saw the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reorganized from a supportive body to a regulatory one. Newly-elected governor Jared Polis openly declared his intent to strip Colorado’s oil industry.

The increased hostility from state authority only weakened Colorado’s oil and gas industry to the point that it was ill-prepared to fight when the unforeseen occurred. The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, coupled with market destabilization caused by Saudi Arabia and Russia, has taken a drastic toll on the oil and gas industry. 

In April of 2019, Colorado’s oil producers sought 522 new drilling permits. In April of 2020, that number dropped to just 21 new permits. That’s a 96 percent reduction in new business, and it’s got a lot of people worried.

A New Ally

Not even the people who spend their time advocating for the eradication of the oil and gas industry want to see it dismantled so quickly. A statement from environmental groups such as the Colorado Sierra Club, Conservation Colorado, the Western Colorado Alliance, and the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans declared:

“We have serious concerns that the failing market could cause an increase in distressed operators in Colorado and other associated issues, including impacts to workers and everyday Coloradans losing their jobs.”

The groups proclaimed that an ailing oil and gas industry was terrible, not only for the economy but the environment, as well. Oil companies forced out of business would also be forced to leave their work behind. That means more orphaned wells, more un-monitored drilling sites, and more environmental damage. Both the oil and gas industry and anti-energy groups can agree that that is bad news for everyone in Colorado.

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