Keeping her campaign commitment to give Denver citizens a greater voice in how the city makes decisions on critically important issues, District 5 Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer this week proposed a change to the Charter of the City and County of Denver that would require voter approval prior to any new oil and gas extraction or new drilling inside the city limits.
“This proposal empowers the people of Denver and gives citizens a seat at the table that has been dominated by special-interest lobbyists and well-connected politicians,” said Sawyer. “Oil and gas development inside the city and county limits of Denver affects all of us. It’s a safety issue, a public health issue, and a land and water issue. I believe voters – not the politically well-connected – should have the deciding voice when it comes to the future of oil and gas extraction inside the city and county limits of Denver.”
There are currently 63 active but shut-in oil and gas wells in the City and County of Denver, all of them within the 53 square miles of land around Denver International Airport (DEN). All of those wells could begin producing oil and gas again if airport management should choose to reconnect them to a nearby supply line. Airport management could also choose to drill and frack new wells on airport property in the future.
“At the end of the day, Denver is wasting $1 million per year to keep our options open with regards to an activity we know is detrimental to public health and our environment. Because DEN is an enterprise fund, this money can’t be put towards solving the issues that face the greater Denver community. I’m urging my colleagues to support this proposal to give voters a greater voice in our local government,”
Amanda Sawyer, Denver Councilwoman
The City of Denver pays nearly $1 million per year to maintain the wells at Denver’s airport as required by industry standards, even though the wells currently produce no revenue. It would cost the Airport approximately $9 million to permanently shut down all 63 wells. In 2018, the Denver airport took in just over $1 billion in revenue, making oil and gas extraction a miniscule part of its portfolio. DEN is an enterprise fund, meaning that any revenue earned at the airport does not flow into the City’s General Fund, but stays at the Airport to be reinvested.
Sawyer’s proposed change to the Denver Charter would give voters the power to decide whether to approve future proposals to re-open existing wells, as well as approve drilling and fracking of new wells within city and county limits – much like 2018’s Proposition 302 required citizen approval before the City could spend City tax dollars in pursuit of future Olympic Games.
The Colorado State Legislature passed SB 181 earlier this year. SB181 gives local governments more control over oil and gas regulations; however, it only regulates surface impacts related to oil and gas extraction. Because there are no residential or commercial enterprises close enough to the DEN oil wells to yield a health or safety nexus between people and the airport’s oil wells, SB 181 is not applicable to this issue.
“At the end of the day, Denver is wasting $1 million per year to keep our options open with regards to an activity we know is detrimental to public health and our environment. Because DEN is an enterprise fund, this money can’t be put towards solving the issues that face the greater Denver community. I’m urging my colleagues to support this proposal to give voters a greater voice in our local government,” said Sawyer.
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