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2 more initiatives seek signatures PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marianne Goodland   

With two more ballot initiatives now on the streets for petition signatures, the chances are getting stronger that the fight over tighter rules on oil and gas hydraulic fracturing will be decided by voters rather than by legislators.

In the past week, the Colorado Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to an initiative petition that would require a 2,000-foot setback for new oil and gas well operations, including hydraulic fracturing.

A second initiative would authorize local governments to enact regulations on oil and gas operations that are stricter than those put into place by the Colorado General Assembly or the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Both initiatives would place their language into the state constitution. Both are backed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Coloradans for Local Control, which has pumped $1.45 million into support for the measures.

The two latest initiatives join another nine already approved for petitions. All petitions have to be turned in by Monday, Aug. 4.

If all of the petitions get enough signatures, Coloradans for Local Control will have to choose which one to put on the ballot. But according to Coloradans for Responsible Reform, a business-backed organization that opposes the ballot measures, CLC had promised the state Supreme Court they would seek signatures on only one measure.

CFRR spokesman Dan Hopkins pointed out that two of the measures are in direct conflict with each other. Initiative 85 requires a 1,500-foot setback; initiative 88 requires a 2,000-foot setback. Hopkins’ group filed a petition last Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to ban signature-gathering for both measures.

“Congressman Polis’ campaign operatives have been duplicitous from the beginning,” Hopkins said. “It’s clear their goal is to ban oil and gas production in Colorado, but they keep claiming otherwise.”

At the same time, chances that a draft bill proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper will get lawmaker approval appear to be dwindling. With just a one-vote majority in the state Senate, it’s unclear whether the bill would get every Democrat vote, and Republicans aren’t willing to sign on.

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), considered a Republican moderate, said that she was told the bill had to be passed without any changes. “That approach to legislating, which amounts to being a mere rubberstamp for the governor and a congressman who doesn’t even live in my district, is unacceptable to me on the proposed process alone,” she explained.

The draft bill would place language into state statutes instead of the constitution. It would allow local governments to regulate noise and to establish setbacks that balance the recovery of oil and gas resources with the interests of the surrounding community and those who hold surface and mineral rights.

The draft bill also allows local governments to impose health, safety and environment regulations stronger than those imposed by the state. Finally, the bill places tighter restrictions on the ability of local governments to impose moratoriums on oil and gas operations.

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Holyoke Enterprise June 26, 2014