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Colorado Measure to Block Anti-Frackers Makes Ballot

An oil/natural gas industry-backed measure to make it more difficult to amend Colorado's state constitution has qualified for the November ballot, the Colorado secretary of state's office said.

"Raise the Bar" is a proposal from the business sector to make it harder for activists to amend the state constitution through ballot measures. Initiative No. 96 requires that any petition for a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment be signed by at least 2% of the registered electors in each of the 35 state Senate districts.

Backed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a number of pro-industry coalitions, and individual oil/gas operators, Initiative 96 had 183,691 valid signatures, or 129% of what was required, according to the verification by Secretary of State Wayne Williams' office.

"A 5% random sample of the signatures projected the number of valid signatures to be greater than 110% of the total number required for placement on the ballot," a spokesperson for Williams' office said.

The spokesperson told NGI on Thursday that various oil/gas-related measures submitted earlier this month (see Daily GPIAug. 9) are still going through the verification process. Whether any of those qualify won't be known until the first week of September, he said.

"These proposals were among the last ones turned in, so they are the last ones being verified," the spokesperson said.

Under Initiative 96, the percentage of votes to pass any proposed constitutional amendment would be increased from a majority to at least 55% of the votes cast, unless the proposed amendment only repeals a provision of the constitution. This is the fourth citizens' initiative to be approved for the November ballot with five, including the two anti-oil/gas measures, still being reviewed.

Hickenlooper said "this ballot measure is going to ensure that our constitution is not held captive by the whims of the day."

"Raise-the-Bar is a much needed protection for our state constitution," said Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). "Only California and Oregon have had more proposed initiatives than Colorado, and it is time to stop having [the state] be a playground for out-of-state political activists who want to test ballot initiatives and ideas at the expense of Colorado citizens."

Backers of #96 have raised nearly $1 million through Aug. 1, including $300,000 from a business coalition, Vital for Colorado, and individual contributions from Denver-based energy firms, such as PDC Energy, HRM Resources LLC and Bill Barrett Corp, who gave $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively.

The two oil/gas measures (No. 75 and No. 78) are strongly opposed by industry as evidenced earlier this month when PDC Energy Inc.'s CEO Bart Brookman, expressed doubts that the measures had collected enough valid signatures.

COGA officials previously have attributed the two measures (No. 75 and No. 78) to relentless anti-oil/gas activists and "out-of-state special interests" pushing for bans on hydraulic fracturing around the nation. The secretary of state's office has a month to determine if the measures qualify for the November ballot.

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