Oil and gas issues are often an undercurrent of the annual Club 20 Fall Debates, but this year scores of participants took the extra step of holding a rally just outside the venue to defend the industry, provoked by a ballot measure that they contend will devastate oil and gas operations across Colorado, Proposition 112.
Proposition 112 would expand the state's 500-foot setback rule for drilling wells to 2,500 feet beyond structures and public lands.
Speakers at the rally, which was held near the corner of First and Main streets downtown, near Two Rivers Convention Center, included Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and state Sen. Ray Scott, ardent proponents of the Western Slope oil and gas industry, among other local business and industry leaders.
Club 20 itself has strongly condemned the proposed measure, crafting their own criticisms in a public position.
"Colorado has some of the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the country and we have proven that we are a nationwide leader in resource recovery without compromising the environment that makes our state so beautiful," their statement reads. "The economic impacts of this measure would be far reaching and have significant negative consequences throughout the region."
Many speakers referenced impact estimate statistics compiled by the current Hickenlooper administration and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, some of which show a stark predicted outcome if citizens pass the measure.
The state says much of the state would become off-limits to oil and gas development, including 85 percent of state and private land. Also, it predicts a cumulative loss of $7 billion to $9 billion in state and local tax revenue between 2019 and 2030, and by 2030 the annual loss is expected to exceed $1 billion per year.
A business group study cited by rally organizers estimated the loss of almost 150,000 jobs, with 77 percent of layoffs taking place outside the energy industry.