Russia’s assault on Ukraine has led to an attack on environmental regulations by Colorado Republicans, who are saying, falsely, that America needs to abandon or weaken its weapons against climate change and other environmental threats in order to replace oil imported from Russia.

“The EPA, it just needs to go away,” said GOP congressional candidate Barbara Kirkmeyer at a GOP forum Thursday night, illustrating how far Republicans are willing to go in dismantling environmental safeguards. “But the EPA has done an incredible job killing oil-and-gas wells both in water quality and air quality regulations. So again, Congresspeople pass laws. We need to pass laws to rein in the EPA. And you know, what would be really great is maybe if we took away this state’s primacy when it comes to EPA so that they can’t pass onerous air quality and water quality regulations on oil and gas as well.”

Barb Kirkmeyer

Other GOP candidates at the forum also tossed out ideas to relax environmental protections in response to the invasion of Ukraine, including congressional candidate and Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann’s suggestion at the forum to “open up more permits and get them on federal lands.”

In fact, both in Colorado and nationally, oil-and-gas companies already have way more permits than they’re using.

In Colorado, oil-and-gas companies, aiming to maximize shareholder profit, have chosen not to use 543 approved permits to drill on public lands, according to an analysis this week by Colorado Newsline’s Chase Woodruff. He also reports that the “situation is much the same in the oil-rich Denver-Julesburg Basin north of Denver, where most drilling takes place on private lands”

Woodruff cites evidence that a rise in oil prices on the global market, to even higher levels than we’re seeing now, would likely not push Colorado oil companies to step up drilling here.

Nationally, according to the White House, the oil-and-gas industry has more than 9,000 unused approved drilling permits for onshore operations.

“There is no shortage of drilling leases that can be used domestically to enhance production in this moment,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this week, noting that in the long term, “overall, what we need to do here is reduce our dependence” on oil. “The oil-and-gas industry is literally sitting on stockpiled leases and permits.”

Kirkmeyer and Kulmann are both running for Colorado’s new congressional seat, added to our state in the wake of the 2020 Census which showed substantial population growth in the cities north of Denver. The district boundaries encompass much of the resource-rich region known as the Denver-Julesberg Basin, which contains vast deposits of oil and natural gas. The district also includes the town of Firestone, where in 2017 two men died when their house exploded due to a natural gas leak from an abandoned well.

Kirkmeyer and Kulmann were joined at Thursday’s forum by two other Republican candidates, former Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn and Businesswoman Jewels Gray, who are also hoping to win the Republican slot on the November ballot.

At the forum, hosted (and posted online) by the Republican Women of Weld, questions were posed by longtime Colorado political strategist and pundit Dick Wadhams. A variety of topics were covered, including the Russian invasion, crime, inflation, the 2020 election, and more. There were no questions from the audience and Wadhams asked no follow-up questions.