Apr 30, 2024 - Politics

Colorado governor goes from instigator to mediator on oil and gas issues

Photo illustration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Ten years ago, then-Congressman Jared Polis backed two statewide ballot measures that could have crippled the oil and gas industry.

Now governor, Polis engineered a deal this week to prevent like-minded restrictions on fossil fuel production from becoming law in the near term, saying the proposals "would take Colorado in the wrong direction."

Why it matters: The political one-eighty demonstrates Polis' more moderate approach as the state's leader and the influence of the oil and gas industry at the Capitol.

Driving the news: The new deal negotiated by the governor's office averts a ballot showdown between environmentalists and oil and gas companies as both advanced competing ballot measures for November.

  • Instead, both sides agreed to support two new bills set for introduction Tuesday that would tighten the state's air quality rules by capping leaking wells and setting new emission reduction targets.
  • The second element would impose a new fee on a barrel of oil to generate $138 million for various priorities, including transportation and public lands.

Inside the room: What the oil and gas industry gets from the truce is a temporary moratorium on new ballot measures or laws restricting fossil fuel production — the stability the industry needs to draw outside investment. Chevron, Civitas and Occidental were part of the negotiations.

Democrats and environmentalists stand down but claim a win because the industry won't pursue a ballot measure that would roll back current laws.

  • In particular, oil and gas advocates planned to push a measure to prohibit restrictions on the use of natural gas appliances that appeared likely to pass.

Yes, but: This isn't a long-term solution. The truce will last just three years, Axios Denver has learned.

The big picture: A similar compromise is what made Polis stand down in 2014 and not push tougher rules on oil and gas.

  • In between, other deals helped maintain the status quo or inch forward on the environment, but the conflicts continue to emerge as environmentalists push for a fossil fuel-free future and the industry fights for survival.
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