Anti-Fracking Ballot Petitions Submitted to Colorado Secretary of State

By Barbara Hollingsworth | August 9, 2016 | 10:49am EDT
An oil and gas rig in the Wattenburg Field north of Denver, Colorado. (Wikipedia)

( – Citizen petitions to restrict hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas ("fracking") were submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office by the deadline on Monday.

The anti-fracking measures will be placed on the November 8 ballot after the state verifies that the requisite number of valid signatures (98,492 needed for each initiative) have been obtained.

Initiative 75 would amend the Colorado Constitution by “authorizing local governments to prohibit, limit, or impose moratoriums on oil and gas development” and allow them to pass local laws “that are more restrictive of oil and gas development” than current state law.

The initiative would also prohibit the state from “preempting any local laws or regulations that prevent or mitigate local impacts from oil and gas development.”

In May, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down two voter-approved fracking bans in Fort Collins and Longmont, reiterating a 2014 ruling that only the state government has the authority to ban fracking.

Initiative 78 would also amend the state constitution by “changing setback requirements to require any new oil and gas development facility in the state to be located at least 2,500 feet from the nearest occupied structure.”

The current setback is 500 feet from an occupied building and 1,000 feet from a high-occupancy building, such as a hospital or school.

According to a May 27 report by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, “90% of surface acreage in Colorado would be unavailable for future oil and gas development or hydraulic fracturing under the proposed mandatory setback requirement.”

Signatures on the petitions for the statewide referenda were collected by a number of environmental groups.

“These are common-sense, down-to-earth proposals to keep our communities from being overwhelmed and harmed by heavy industrial oil and gas operations right next to neighborhoods and schools,” said Tricia Olson, executive director of Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development, which helped spearhead the effort.  

However, Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which opposes the initiatives, said in a statement that “if these measures somehow make the ballot, Colorado voters will know exactly what’s at stake: private property rights, more than $1 billion in state and local taxes that help pay for schools, parks, libraries and roads, energy security for our nation, and the good-paying jobs of more than 100,000 working families across our state.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of extracting oil and gas from underground shale deposits by injecting pressurized water, chemicals and sand into the deposits to fracture them.

Colorado is one of the nation’s top producers of oil and gas, with more than 50,000 active wells.

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