State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer participates in an 8th Congressional District debate hosted by 9News on Oct. 13, 2022. (screenshot)
The candidates vying to become the first representative of Colorado’s new, highly competitive 8th Congressional District raced through a variety of hot-button issues in their first and only scheduled debate on Thursday.
State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Republican and a longtime fixture in Weld County politics, used the debate, hosted by 9News, to repeat a series of false claims about the oil and gas industry and the impacts of a 2019 law sponsored by her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo.
Kirkmeyer called Senate Bill 19-181, a package of health, safety and environmental reforms passed by Democrats in the General Assembly, a “de facto ban on oil and gas.”
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“We went from 5,100 permits approved in 2018 down to about, I think, 22 — 22 permits this year, something approximately in that area,” she claimed.
The true number is nearly 40 times higher than what Kirkmeyer claimed. A total of 842 permits to drill have been approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2022, according to agency data. They’re among the 1,314 active drilling permits held by Colorado oil and gas producers as of Oct. 8.
Kirkmeyer’s campaign did not respond to questions about the basis for her statements. She made a similar false claim in March, asserting that only four permits had been issued at that point in the year. The true figure was 125, COGCC data shows.
Colorado’s oil production levels have dipped slightly from their 2019 peak but remain near historic highs. Producers within the state are on pace to pump more than 156 million barrels of crude oil this year, higher than every other year prior to 2018 and more than five times the volume the state was producing just over a decade ago.
Drillers have reduced growth plans and capital budgets in large part due to the demands of Wall Street investors, who flooded the industry with cheap credit amid the 2010s fracking boom but have since sought to prioritize more substantial shareholder returns.
Kirkmeyer claimed that SB-181 “killed thousands of jobs” in the 8th District, which encompasses an area in north metro Denver and Weld County that is home to the vast majority of Colorado’s oil production. She brushed aside a question about why the same industry-wide trends were observed in drilling-friendly states like Texas and Wyoming over the same time period.
“I have no idea what other laws, or what other kinds of regulations, or what else was going on within those states,” Kirkmeyer said.
Caraveo called SB-181, which was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April 2019, a “moderate bill” that incorporated industry input.
“There certainly are still a huge number of (oil and gas) jobs in Colorado. It’s an important industry that provides great jobs with great benefits,” Caraveo said. “But that doesn’t preclude us from investing in future renewable energy sources. They’re going to make us independent, they’re going to create more jobs in Colorado, and we can do both.”
Kirkmeyer has denied the scientific consensus on fossil fuels and climate change, falsely claiming that “to what extent any warming is a result of man-caused activity is unknown.”
The debate appeared on “Next with Kyle Clark” and was moderated by host Kyle Clark. Other topics touched upon in Thursday’s 30-minute debate included the economy and inflation, abortion rights, affordable housing and the impact of Suncor refinery, one of Colorado’s largest sources of air pollution, which is located within the new district.
The 8th District, the boundaries of which were drawn last year by Colorado’s first-ever Independent Redistricting Commission, is the state’s most competitive. According to the commission’s analysis, former President Donald Trump would have won the district by 1.7 percentage points in the 2016 election, while Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper would have carried the district by the same margin in his defeat of former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. Nonpartisan elections analysts rate the race as a toss-up.
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