Denver, CO – Environment Colorado joined sportsmen, conservationists and clean energy advocates and filed several citizens initiatives that would ensure long-term funding for renewable energy development, wildlife habitat protection, and local communities impacted by the rapidly expanding oil and gas sector of the economy. Organizations active within this broad-based coalition believe that a lasting, positive outcome can be created for the state’s new energy economy, for the protection of Colorado’s priceless environment, and for the vitality of its diverse local communities by restructuring the current tax that is applied to the production of Colorado’s non-renewable oil and gas resources.
“There’s no question that the rapid expansion of Colorado’s oil and gas industry in recent years has generated jobs and economic activity, but it’s also important to recognize that these gains have not been without significant impact to the State’s watersheds, wildlife, local communities, and other economic sectors like renewable energy,” said Joe Neuhof, West Slope Field Director for the Colorado Environmental Coalition.
With an effective tax rate on oil and gas production that is among the lowest in the inter-mountain West, the State of Colorado has been essentially subsidizing one sector of the economy – the oil and gas industry – at significant cost to the State’s quality of life, to tourism and recreation industries like hunting and fishing, and to the environment.
“This is our opportunity to earn a fair value for oil and gas reserves that can never be replenished,” said Ken Neubecker, a Glenwood Springs resident and local angler. “We’re experiencing the depletion of a non-renewable resource, but we’re not capturing all the long-term benefits for the State that we should.”
Citing their strong conviction that Colorado needs the resources to invest in its local communities, in the protection of its wildlife resources, and in its budding new energy economy, the coalition are preparing to ask Colorado voters to re-structure the state’s current energy severance tax. The initiatives filed today include different approaches to changing the current tax’s structure, including closing a loophole that allows oil and gas companies to write-off their property taxes to pay less in taxes, and raising the tax rate on wells that produce the greatest income.
The proponents of these measures are entering the ballot title setting process and developing campaign plans to gather the signatures and public outreach necessary to win on the November ballot. Many organizations support additional investment in renewable energy, in protecting our environment, and in addressing impacts to communities most affected by the rapid expansion of Colorado’s oil and gas industry. They include Trout Unlimited, Environmental Defense, The Wilderness Society, Western Colorado Congress, Western Resource Advocates, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Trust for Public Land, Center for Native Ecosystems, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Environment Colorado, The Nature Conservancy, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association and Colorado Conservation Trust.
“This approach would ensure the severance funds raised will protect our state’s priceless environment, while also funding continued growth in our clean energy resources,” said Gary Nakarado, a clean energy consultant. “We must ensure Colorado’s communities have a smooth transition from the boom and bust of our current fossil fuel-based economy to a more sustainable energy future.”