Local communities that ban oil and gas development would be blocked from receiving tax revenues collected from those efforts in other parts of the state under a new ballot initiative filed Thursday by state lawmakers.
State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) say their ballot question for the November election would ensure that energy funds are returned to the communities where it is generated and not misdirected to those that oppose energy development.
“While only a small handful of liberal communities have taken the draconian, anti-science step of banning hydraulic fracturing and energy development, the policy is an important one – if you adopt Sierra Club type energy bans that hurt our communities and our schools, don’t expect energy revenues to pick up your tab,” said former House Speaker McNulty.
“Boulder and Ft. Collins can and should pay for those services themselves,” McNulty said.
Citing state economists, the lawmakers said that severance tax revenues have surged because of advances in hydraulic fracturing. From 2012 through 2013 the state collected $138 million in severance taxes, an amount that is expected to peak at $275 million by 2016.
Currently, cities and counties must request the funding for certain programs through the Department of Local Affairs.
The lawmakers said that in recent years, those same communities that ardently oppose oil and gas development within their jurisdictions such as Boulder, Longmont and Ft. Collins, are also the ones most eager to claim the tax dollars.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for the Boulders and Ft. Collins of the world to benefit from oil and gas taxes so long as they have an oil and gas ban in place,” Sonnenberg said.
“This issue is one of common sense and fairness – if a community decides to ignore all the science and all the facts and ban responsible energy development, those communities shouldn’t be able to line up at the trough and benefit from responsible oil and gas development occurring in other parts of the state,” Sonnenberg said.
If voters approve the ballot measure in November, it would also affect future funding for the City of Brighton unless its recently imposed ban on energy development is lifted.
Brighton received $2 million in funding for county road expansions in 2008, and more than $200,000 in severance tax funding last year.
“Rural Colorado has been jilted by Denver more times than any of us can count,” Sonnenberg said.
“Conservative communities like Douglas and El Paso County are tired of the black eye that Boulder and Ft. Collins are giving the entire state. Swing communities will see this as a simple fairness issue, and working class voters in communities like Pueblo and Adams Counties are fed up with these Boulder fractivists attacking their livelihood,” Sonnenberg said.