A statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in Colorado would cost the state $12 billion in lost gross domestic product (GDP) and result in 93,000 fewer jobs—both over 2% declines—according to a study released on Wednesday by the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.
According to Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, one of the groups sponsoring the study, the report is a “worst case scenario” designed to educate the public on “the size of the oil and gas in Colorado.”
The study predicts that about two-thirds of the losses—$8 billion in lost GDP and 68,000 fewer jobs—would occur in the first five years alone. The study also showed likely decreases of almost $1 billion in tax revenue annually between 2015 and 2040. The report predicts that the losses will spread to virtually every sector of the economy, including the healthcare and service industries.
The study notes that 95 percent of Colorado’s oil and gas wells use hydraulic fracturing, and so assumes that drilling activity would decrease by 95 percent in the event of a statewide ban.
While plans to push for a comprehensive ban on fracking have stalled in Colorado, several local bans succeeded at the ballot box in 2013. One of the study’s authors, Brian Lewandowski, believes that local bans are unlikely to significantly impede oil and gas exploration in the state.
“When it comes to local control, it is likely that communities that have benefited from development wouldn’t ban it and population centers, which might not have oil and gas reserves, would,” Lewandowski said.
Some lawmakers, however, are less optimistic that local bans will be limited to undesirable areas. In fact, state representatives Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg recently announced a potential ballot initiative that would prevent cities with fracking bans from collecting funds from the state’s severance tax on oil and gas production.
Whether the study slows the proliferation of local bans remains to be seen, but it gives drilling proponents a powerful tool for persuading voters that hydraulic fracturing is crucial to Colorado’s economic success.