Councilwoman wants voters to decide whether oil and gas gets extracted at DIA and elsewhere in Denver

The city attorney’s office is not so sure it’s legal.

Oil and gas infrastructure near Denver International Airport. Oct. 18, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Oil and gas infrastructure near Denver International Airport. Oct. 18, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty
staff photos

Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer wants to give voters the final say over oil and gas drilling at Denver International Airport and throughout the rest of the city.

DIA has 76 non-operational oil and gas wells on its land. And while the Hancock administration has no solid plans to make them operational again, officials have left the dam open for a future revenue stream. Sawyer wants to give voters the option to close it.

Sawyer in a release called her proposal, which is not yet a bill, a chance for Denver residents to have “a seat at the table that has been dominated by special-interest lobbyists and well-connected politicians.”

“Oil and gas development inside the city and county limits of Denver affects all of us,” Sawyer said in the release. “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.”

She announced her proposal Wednesday at a City Council policy committee meeting. The move would require a change to the city’s charter.

Ryan Luby, a spokesman for the Denver City Attorney’s Office, isn’t so sure Sawyer’s proposal will pass muster.

“Existing state law does not allow a jurisdiction-wide ban on oil and gas development,” he told Denverite. “As for the oil and gas resources on DEN property, existing state and federal law would make it difficult for the City and County of Denver to stop oil and gas operators from accessing those resources.”

Mayor Michael Hancock’s office said it will wait to comment until there is a formal proposal.

The taxpayer-owned airport generated about $2.5 million from the wells between 2008 and 2018, according to a presentation created by Sawyer. DIA pays about $1 million a year to maintain the idle wells. It would cost $9 million to plug and abandon all of the wells, according to Sawyer’s presentation.

Hi! You’re like us!

Looks like you’re the type of person who reads to the ends of articles! Well, true believer, you might really like our morning newsletter. It’s quick, free and gets you up to speed on the important and delightful things happening right here in Denver.

Thanks for reading another Denverite story

Looks like you’re the type of person who reads to the ends of articles! Well, true believer, you might really like our morning newsletter. It’s quick, free and gets you up to speed on the important and delightful things happening right here in Denver.Does Denverite help you feel more connected to what’s up in your area? Do you want to be a part of it?

Member donations are critical to our continued existence and growth.

Thanks for reading another Denverite story

Does Denverite help you feel more connected to what’s up in your area? Do you want to be a part of it?

Member donations are critical to our continued existence and growth.

You’re our superpower

Denverite supporters have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.

You’re our superpower

Denverite members have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.