Initiative 97 could have big impact on Colorado’s economy

DENVER -- While Colorado’s thousands of oil and gas rigs are extracting a lucrative natural resource, they're also pumping in billions of dollars that the state depends on.

But some say if Initiative 97 -- which would keep all new oil and gas development at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, businesses and more, drastically reduce oil and gas land -- passes, much of that money will run dry.

“You can't underestimate and understate what the economic impacts are,” said Chris Brown, the director of policy and research for the Common Sense Policy Roundtable.

The Roundtable describes itself as a free-enterprise think tank.

It, along with other organizations, released a study that says if the initiative passes, Colorado could lose up to 147,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in taxes in the next 12 years.

One reason, according to the study, is because the newest wells are usually the biggest producers.

“To sustain, just maintain its size, the industry requires consistent new development to sort of replenish the value that’s declining, as the well can access less and less of the resource,” Brown said.

However, those who support the initiative disagree with that economic assessment.

“If we lose money from oil and gas, it's not like it is going to be gone forever. We do have resources we can get money from,” said Patricia Nelson, an Initiative 97 supporter.

“I don't think it is really possible to directly forecast how many jobs will be lost and how many millions will be lost,” said Kishore Kulkarni, an economist at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“In the short term, there would be more effect. In the long run, there will be less effect, but I do see effects coming in the short term for sure.”

Kilkarni also said whatever those effects are, they'll touch all of Colorado -- whether people are near an oil and gas development or not.

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