U.S. Chamber enters Colorado fracking battle

LOVELAND – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has entered the fray over hydraulic fracturing in Colorado, where it has organized to coach local business leaders on how to defend attacks on oil and gas development.

Christopher Guith, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said he traveled from Washington, D.C., to Colorado to inform leaders of local chambers of commerce on aspects of oil and gas development in order to help them promote the industry.

Guith’s visit comes amid controversy along the Front Range over hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The well-completion technique involves pumping fluid at high-pressure into a drilled hole deep underground to extract a mix of oil and natural-gas from shale formations.

The chamber’s presence in Colorado underscores the powerful interests that have aligned in the state to protect the oil and gas industry from citizen-led efforts to sharply limit fracking.
Voters have passed fracking moratoria in Fort Collins, Longmont, Lafayette, Broomfield and Boulder.

Loveland will hold a municipal election June 24 on whether to pass a moratorium on fracking. Fracking opponents also have proposed numerous statewide ballot measures aimed at giving local governments authority to restrict oil and gas development.

“What we’re collectively facing come November would certainly be the most impactful of the voter-led issues that we face anywhere,” he said. “So we’ve been working with chambers throughout the state.”

Guith said oil and gas development represents an important slice of Colorado’s gross domestic product and is a key supplier of high-paying jobs throughout the state.

“It’s not just about the oil and gas industry,” Guith said. “The entire Colorado economy depends on a thriving oil and gas industry. Nobody can make that case better than the chambers at various levels.”

The oil and natural-gas industry has contributed 5,000 jobs out of a total of 137,500 jobs gained in the state since the recession ended, according to an analysis released in December by Colorado State University economist Martin Shields. The oil and gas industry represents slightly more than 1 percent of the state’s employment.

The Loveland Chamber of Commerce supports oil and gas development in the city, said Mindy McCloughan, president of the chamber, which represents more than 700 member businesses. Loveland has seen multiple companies in the oil and gas supply chain move to the city.

“The oil and gas industry is the key driver of Colorado’s economy,” McCloughan said.

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