Colorado officials have cleared supporters of four anti-oil and natural gas initiatives to secure signatures that may qualify them for the November ballot.
The protection of private property rights and the rights of taxpayers could be at stake, according to the pro-industry Protect Colorado organization, which is opposed to the measures. Spokeswoman Karen Crummy called the measures "extreme" and said they threaten to create an unwieldy "patchwork" of oil and gas regulations across Colorado.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Tuesday authorized supporters of initiatives 40, 63, 75 and 78 to begin gathering signatures. Each proposed initiative requires approval by the state Supreme Court and 99,000 valid registered voters' signatures.
No. 75 would add a constitutional amendment to allow local government to regulate future oil/gas development;
No. 40, supported by the Coloradans for Community Rights, seeks to allow local governments to "define or eliminate the rights and powers" of businesses;
No. 63 would create a statewide "right to a healthy environment"; and
No. 78 would expand drilling buffer zones from 500 to 2,500 feet.
Protect Colorado contends the potential ballot measures are an effort by national activist groups that want to shut down oil/gas development, particularly the use of hydraulic fracturing. "The proposed amendment to the state constitution would ban fracking and all responsible oil/gas development," Crummy said.
"These measures would allow local government to take away private property rights without compensating property owners, which could cost taxpayers hundreds of million of dollars in lawsuits," Crummy said. "Additionally, these extreme measures would create a patchwork of oil/gas regulations across the state, resulting in inconsistent enforcement, leaving the public unprotected and labeling Colorado as hostile to business."
To head off a series of anti-oil/gas ballot measures two years ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper established a task force that issued several recommendations that are in various stages of implementation (see Shale Daily, Feb. 25, 2015). Earlier this year the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission established another task force to propose rules designed to give local governments more of a role in siting large oil/gas facilities near communities and to "bridge the regulatory roles" between state and local officials (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26).
In February Colorado Resisting Extreme Energy Development dropped several potential statewide ballot measures among 20 it had proposed earlier (see Shale Daily, Feb. 26). That left alive three of the four now seeking signatures (Nos. 63, 75 and 78).
Rather than adding more statewide ballot measures, pro-industry groups have urged that the new rules in Colorado and other states be given a chance to work. In 2014, Colorado’s energy industry had a $31.7 billion impact in the state, and it contributed $1.2 billion in public revenues -- $178 million for schools and $330 million in severance taxes, half of which go to the state Department of Natural Resource for wildlife conservation, Crummy said.