Colorado

Land ownership

Natural resource extraction varies widely from state to state. In Colorado, extractive industries accounted for 3.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.

Colorado leads the nation in production of:

    Natural resource ownership in the U.S. is closely tied to land ownership. Land can be owned by citizens, corporations, Indian tribes or individuals, or governments (for instance, federal, state, or local governments). Much of the data on this site is limited to natural resource extraction on federal land, which represents 35.9% of all land in Colorado.

    The state of Colorado chose to participate in an extended reporting process, so this page includes additional state revenue and disbursements data, as well as contextual information about state governance of natural resources.

    Production

    The Office of Natural Resources Revenue collects detailed data about natural resource production on federal land in Colorado.

    Downloads and documentation

    Coal

    5,608,162 tons of coal were produced on federal land in Colorado in 2017.

    County production

    Delta CountyGarfield CountyGunnison CountyLa Plata CountyMoffat CountyRio Blanco CountyRoutt County
    County production of coal in 2017 (tons)

    Gas

    652,892,991 mcf of gas were produced on federal land in Colorado in 2017.

    County production

    Adams CountyArapahoe CountyArchuleta CountyBaca CountyBent CountyBroomfield CountyCheyenne CountyDelta CountyDolores CountyFremont CountyGarfield CountyGrand CountyGunnison CountyHuerfano CountyJackson CountyKiowa CountyKit Carson CountyLa Plata CountyLarimer CountyLas Animas CountyLogan CountyMesa CountyMoffat CountyMontezuma CountyMorgan CountyPhillips CountyProwers CountyRio Blanco CountyRoutt CountySan Miguel CountyWashington CountyWeld CountyYuma County
    County production of gas in 2017 (mcf)

    Oil

    5,217,941 barrels of oil were produced on federal land in Colorado in 2017.

    County production

    Adams CountyArapahoe CountyBaca CountyBent CountyBroomfield CountyCheyenne CountyDelta CountyDolores CountyFremont CountyGarfield CountyGrand CountyGunnison CountyJackson CountyKiowa CountyKit Carson CountyLa Plata CountyLarimer CountyLogan CountyMesa CountyMoffat CountyMontezuma CountyMorgan CountyRio Blanco CountyRoutt CountySan Miguel CountyWashington CountyWeld County
    County production of oil in 2017 (bbl)

    Sodium Bi-Carbonate

    0 tons of sodium bi-carbonate were produced on federal land in Colorado in 2017.

    County production

    Rio Blanco County
    County production of sodium bi-carbonate in 2017 (tons)

    Revenue

    Companies pay a wide range of fees, rates, and taxes to extract natural resources in the United States. What companies pay to federal, state, and local governments often depends on who owns the natural resources.

    Natural resource extraction can lead to federal revenue in two ways: non-tax revenue and tax revenue. Revenue data on this site primarily includes non-tax revenue from extractive industry activities on federal land.

    Downloads and documentation

    Revenue from production on federal land by resource

    When companies extract natural resources on federal lands and waters, they pay royalties, rents, bonuses, and other fees, much like they would to any landowner. This non-tax revenue is collected and reported by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR).

    For details about the laws and policies that govern how rights are awarded to companies and what they pay to extract natural resources on federal land: coal, oil and gas, renewable resources, and hardrock minerals.

    The federal government collects different kinds of fees at each phase of natural resource extraction. This chart shows how much federal revenue was collected in Calendar year (CY) 2017 for production or potential production of natural resources on federal land in Colorado, broken down by phase of production.

    Commodity1. Securing rights2. Before production3. During productionOther revenue
    Oil and Gas
    Oil & Gas
    $121,416,205
    $2,029,999$1,733,850Oil $26,770,326Gas $66,158,190NGL $23,295,019$1,428,821
    Coal
    Coal
    $33,405,552
    $1,311,376$169,464$31,841,105$83,607
    Geothermal
    Geothermal
    $27,462
    $0$27,462$0$0
    Other products
    Carbon dioxide
    $47,020,213
    $0$0$47,020,213$0
    Sodium
    $2,140,274
    $0($9,700)$2,149,751$223
    Helium
    $34
    $0$0$34$0
    All commodities
    All commodities
    $204,009,740
    $3,341,375$1,921,076$197,234,638$1,512,651
    Commodity1. Securing rightsCompanies pay bonuses or other fees to secure rights to resources on federal land2. Before productionCompanies pay rent on federal land while exploring for resources3. During productionCompanies pay royalties after production beginsOther revenueMinimum or estimated royalties, settlements, and interest payments
    Oil and Gas
    Oil & Gas
    $121,416,205
    $2,029,999$1,733,850Oil $26,770,326Gas $66,158,190NGL $23,295,019$1,428,821
    OnshoreBonus: The amount offered by the highest bidder$1.50 annual rent per acre for 5 years
    $2 annual rent per acre thereafter
    12.5% of production value
    Coal
    Coal
    $33,405,552
    $1,311,376$169,464$31,841,105$83,607
    Bonus: The amount offered by the highest bidder$3 annual rent per acreSurface mining: 12.5% of production value + $0.28 per ton in AML fees
    Subsurface mining: 8% of production value + $0.12 per ton in AML fees
    Geothermal
    Geothermal
    $27,462
    $0$27,462$0$0
    Competitive leasingNomination fee: $110 per nomination + $0.11 per acre
    Bonus: The amount offered by the highest bidder
    $160 processing fee
    $2 per acre for the first year
    $3 annual rent per acre for years 2-10
    $5 annual rent per acre thereafter
    Electricity sales: 1.75% of gross proceeds for 10 years, then 3.5%
    Arm’s length sales: 10% of gross proceeds from contract multiplied by lease royalty rate
    More about geothermal rates
    Noncompetitive leasingLease: $410 payment$1 annual rent per acre for 10 years
    $5 annual rent per acre thereafter
    Other products
    Hardrock Acquired lands$6,500 prospecting permit fee$37 annual rent per acre + $0.50 annual prospecting fee per acreRoyalty rates are determined by leasing officers on an individual case basis (no minimums apply)
    All commodities
    All commodities
    $204,009,740
    $3,341,375$1,921,076$197,234,638$1,512,651
    Other revenue streams
    Hardrock mining on public domain landsFederal revenue from hardrock mining on public domain land occurs through the claim-staking process and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It is not included here, because the dataset does not have state-level data. Learn more about hardrock mining on federal land.
    Onshore solar and wind energyFederal revenue from onshore renewable energy generation on federal land is not included here, because that dataset, from BLM, does not have state-level data. Learn more about onshore renewables on federal land.
    To see how much was collected nationwide for all revenue types, including BLM revenues, see federal revenue by company.

    Most non-tax revenue collected by ONRR comes from counties with significant natural resources on federal land.

    Downloads and documentation

    Colorado revenue streams (2016)

    In 2016, the state of Colorado collected $494,669,537 in state revenue from natural resource extraction (this includes both tax and non-tax revenue). Counties also collect and distribute their own revenue from natural resource extraction.

    Download: Colorado revenue streams (PDF)

    Revenue streamAmount collected
    Total$494,669,537
    $212,707,846
    Ad valorem taxes are collected and distributed by counties. Ad valorem taxes are reported by Production Year in Colorado.
    State Royalties (In-Scope Commodities)$108,279,122
    Severance Tax$84,079,230
    Federal Mineral Royalties and Rentals$78,156,492
    Federal Coal Lease Bonuses$5,746,847
    $5,700,000
    A rate imposed on the market value of all oil and natural gas produced, saved, sold, or transported to address environmental response needs. This levy is directed to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

    Disbursements

    After collecting revenue from natural resource extraction, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue distributes that money to different agencies, funds, and local governments for public use. This process is called “disbursement.”

    Most federal revenue disbursements go into national funds. For detailed data about which expenditures and projects from those national funds are in Colorado, see nationwide federal disbursements.

    ONRR also disburses some revenue from natural resource extraction to state governments. In 2018, ONRR disbursed $112,560,621 to Colorado.

    Downloads and documentation

    Distribution of Colorado state revenues (2016)

    In 2016, the state of Colorado distributed $494,669,537 in state revenue from natural resource extraction to state and local funds.

    State fundDistribution
    Total$494,669,537
    Cities/Towns/Counties$212,715,820
    Permanent School Trust$56,016,168
    School Trust$51,586,211
    State Public School Fund$37,745,734
    Local Government Mineral Impact Fund$32,587,932
    Local Government Severance Tax Fund$31,289,615
    General Fund$20,000,000
    Severance Tax Perpetual Base Fund$15,644,807
    Severance Tax Perpetual Operational Fund$15,644,807
    Colorado Water Conservation Board$7,814,852
    Oil and Gas Conservation and Environmental Response Fund$5,700,000
    Local Government Permanent Fund$2,873,423
    Higher Education Maintenance and Reserve Fund$2,873,423
    Innovative Energy Fund$1,500,000
    CSU Trust$665,391
    Public Buildings Trust$8,226
    Internal Improvements (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)$3,126

    State governance

    The state of Colorado participated in additional reporting about state and local natural resource governance, revenues, and disbursements.

    State agencies

    The state of Colorado regulates an array of activities related to natural resource extraction and interacts with the extractive industries, especially when the activity is occurring on state or private land.

    The Colorado Department of Revenue collects, manages, and distributes revenue from companies engaged in extraction in Colorado. It publishes annual summary , expenditure (PDF), and severance tax reports. Additionally, county governments collect oil and gas related property taxes, with the Colorado Department of Local AffairsDivision of Property Taxation coordinating this process.

    The Colorado Department of Natural Resources manages the state’s natural resources and administers state trust lands.

    • The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ensures that oil and gas wells and operations comply with state law. It is involved in all stages of extraction—issuing exploration permits, auctioning leases, addressing incidents/complaints, enforcing rules and regulations, collecting levies, etc. The commission is governed by rules and regulations, runs a data portal, and publishes reports.
    • The Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety works to protect the public, miners, and the environment during current mining operations. It holds responsibility for restoring abandoned mines and ensuring that all mined land is reclaimed to beneficial use. It works to achieve these goals through four major programs: coal regulatory program, minerals regulatory program, inactive mine reclamation program, and mine safety and training program. The commission is governed by rules and regulations and publishes data and reports

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) plays a role in regulating oil and gas operations. CDPHE deals primarily with:

    State laws and regulations

    The Colorado Constitution includes Article XVI on Mining and Irrigation, which outlines laws regulating the safety and environmental implications of extraction as well as the organizational structure charged with overseeing extractive activities.

    The Code of Colorado Regulations also has several sections that govern natural resource extraction, including:

    • Practice and Procedure (PDF) (2 CCR 404-1) outlines rules and regulations to prevent waste and conserve oil and gas in the state of Colorado, while protecting public health, safety, welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources
    • Hard Rock Metal Mining (PDF) (2 CCR 407-1) includes general provisions and requirements regarding the permit process
    • Regulations for Coal Mining (PDF) (2CCR 407-2) establishes the provision known as the Colorado Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Act
    • Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants (PDF) (5 CCR 1001-10) regulates all new sources of air pollution and all modified or reconstructed sources of air pollution, including those generated by the extraction industry
    • Storage Tank Regulations (PDF) (7 CCR 1101-14) outlines rules for the design, installation, registration, construction and operation of storage tanks used to store regulated substances (including petroleum)
    • Rules Regarding Electric Utilities (PDF) (4 CCR 723-3) describes the specific provisions applicable to public utilities, includes specific regulations related to renewable energy, and recognizes that is it in the best interest of the public to utilize and develop renewable energy resources

    Fiscal costs of extractive activity

    In addition to generating revenue and economic activity, extractive industries can also bring certain costs to state and local communities. In Colorado, these are concentrated in a few areas due to the fact that nearly all production occurs in just six counties: Weld, Garfield, La Plata, Adams, Rio Blanco, and Jackson. Attention to and analysis of costs is, therefore, focused on these areas.

    Transportation costs

    Extractive activities have resulted in not only more traffic on Colorado roads and highways, but also greater loads on the state’s transportation infrastructure. In certain areas, such as Highway 85C between Fort Lupton and Platteville, traffic has increased by 58.72% over a five year period due to oil and gas development. Additionally, according to a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) study, the load impact of trucks used in extraction can be as much as 15,000 to 46,000 times that of a passenger car. Oil and gas loads are estimated to be 3-10% of total loads on the Colorado highway system.

    According to CDOT, the estimated cost to offset the impact of the oil and gas extraction on state roads and highways ranges from $10 to $30 million, which is up to 13% of the CDOT’s annual surface treatment budget. To read more, see the CDOT study Oil and Gas Impacts on Transportation (PDF).

    Water costs

    Increased extraction can put added demand on both water supplies and water infrastructure in communities. This can lead to increased rates and the need for infrastructure investments. Oil and gas extraction in Colorado reported using approximately 6.7 billion gallons of water from 2011-2013. Additionally, COGCC found that extractive activities produced 304,451,972 BBL of water in 2016, 0.006% of which was spilled.

    In addition to water use and production, the environmental and engineering staff of the COGCC also monitor and assess water quality in Colorado. Currently, they are investigating 22 instances of Thermogenic stray gas impacts in domestic water wells in the Denver-Julesberg basin. Additionally, the state, through the Department of Public Health and Environment, also has multiple large remediation obligations related to the extractive industry, including a total of: $57 million at Summerville Mine operating a water treatment plant, $64.8 million at Clear Creek Basin cleaning up metal mine contaminated surface water, and $5.5 million at Captain Jack Mill addressing mine waste piles and drainage. See Colorado’s Comprehensive Annual Report to read more about the state’s remediation obligations.

    Emergency services

    The increased population that often corresponds with increased extraction can place greater demands on the emergency medical, fire, and police services of the state, counties, and towns.

    Notably, a study conducted on the extractive industry in Weld County found a 163% increase in large truck crashes and a 64% increase in fatal crashes between 2000 and 2014 (a time of major growth in active wells in the area). Additionally, increased extractive activity has also led to increased oil and gas fires and explosions. Though the exact number of such incidents is not published by the government, general incidents and complaints can be searched through the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System. Additionally, a study conducted in 2005 found 32 incidents of active coal mine fires.

    Reclamation costs

    Multiple organizations in the Colorado state government work on the reclamation and remediation of sites related to extraction.

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission oversees spill incidents associated with oil and gas exploration and production related activities. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Division of Oil and Public Safety oversees cleanup of petroleum released from regulated underground storage tanks. Finally, the Colorado Department of Transportation oversees spill incidents within Colorado highways and beyond.

    Colorado has not been “certified” by the federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation program, meaning that it has remaining high-priority abandoned coal mine areas. Reclamation efforts in Colorado are led by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety (DRMS) which works to reclaim abandoned and inactive mines. DRMS has reclaimed 6,127 of the estimated 23,000 abandoned mines in Colorado. In 2017, Colorado received $2,793,000 from the federal AML Program, sourced from fees paid by coal mine operators, in line with the historic annual average. The average cost for closing a hazardous abandoned mine feature is $5,000. An overview of DRMS’ history and work can be found here.

    Colorado currently has $75.3 million in unfunded abandoned mine land areas in need of reclamation. Priority 1 abandoned mine land (AML) areas, the highest priority, account for $41.5 million (or 55.2%) of those unfunded costs. Priority 1 AML areas are those that are necessary to reclaim in order to protect public health, safety, and property from extreme danger of adverse effects of coal mining practices pre-1977. This can include restoration of land, water, and/or the environment.

    As of June 2017, $4.2 million in reclamation work was underway and $63.2 million had been completed across the three priority types.