Best Lawyers 2019: Oil and Gas

Key ballot measures this November are top of mind for some of the state’s oil and gas attorneys

With two competing natural resource-focused ballot measures headed to voters this fall, each born from opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, there’s no lack of excitement for Colorado attorneys practicing in the oil and gas field.

“Right now, as you might imagine, everyone is dead-aim in thinking about the election,” said Greg Danielson, partner at David Graham & Stubbs, who leads the firm’s natural resources group and was recognized on this year’s Best Lawyers in America list. “It’s the 800-pound gorilla in our room.”

An effort spearheaded by the group Colorado Rising aims to increase the setback length for any new oil and gas development. The initiative proposes a new, 2,500-foot distance from any occupied buildings or other “vulnerable” areas, including parks and streams. Right now, drilling must occur 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.

The Colorado Farm Bureau is handling a second initiative, which states that “private property shall not be taken, or damaged, or reduced in fair market value by government law or regulation for public or private use, without just compensation.” For example, if a landowner lost property value due to a measure that, say, increased the setback distance for oil and gas development, this initiative would give the landowner a mechanism to recover some of that value.

Both measures qualified, via signatures submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State, to appear on the November ballot.

Davis Graham & Stubbs has long had a strong reputation the natural resources field, and it remains one of the firm’s core areas. “Things are busy,” said Danielson, who was named a “Lawyer of the Year” for both natural resources and oil and gas law. “We’ve been successful at being a full-service oil and gas group for most of the independents here in town.”

Aside from the ballot initiatives, scouting new hires is on Danielson’s mind — something that he said these days is harder than it used to be. “The challenge is to find more people and train more people,” he said, “A big focus of what we’re trying to do is train young lawyers who want to do oil and gas work.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the September 10, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.