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Colorado Anti-Oil/Gas Group Turns Focus to Constitutional Amendment Measure

Rather than quibble about valid signatures for two anti-oil/natural gas measures (Initiatives 75 and 78) they were unsuccessful in getting on the Colorado statewide ballot this November, activist groups have turned their attention to opposing a measure that made it to the ballot (Initiative 71) seeking to limit state constitutional amendments through the ballot measure process.

The activist group Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking has its volunteers working against Amendment 71, which is backed by the industry group Protect Colorado, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The head of Yes for Health has told local news media that in addition to working to defeat Initiative 71, her organization is also gearing up to re-introduce 75 and 78, which bid to permit local governments to set tighter regulations on oil/gas activities and to expand the existing buffer zones surrounding oil/gas operations from 500 feet to 2,500 feet, respectively.

In a victory for the oil/gas industry and general business sector in Colorado, Initiatives 75 and 78, which were viewed as onerous for natural resources development, were rejected for the November ballot (see Shale DailyAug. 29). The Colorado Secretary of State's office determined that the measures’ backers failed to submit the required threshold of 98,492 valid voter signatures.

Backers of 71 argue that it has been too easy to rewrite the state's constitution. Pro-energy industry group Protecting Colorado's Economy, Environment and Energy Independence (Protect Colorado) came out in support of the amendment reform earlier in September. Protect Colorado has given $1 million to the Amendment 71 campaign.

In early June, Hickenlooper joined the bipartisan Raise the Bar, Protect Our Constitution initiative, noting that the proposed ballot measure aims to make it more difficult to amend the state's constitution. The initiative would require ballot initiative proponents to gather signatures from 2% of all registered voters in the state's 35 senate districts as the threat of more anti-fossil fuel ballot measures looms for the future (see Daily GPIJune 1; Shale DailyMay 27).

Under the restrictions proposed, for an amendment to the constitution to be approved it would need approval from at least 55% of the voters casting ballots. Currently there is no such requirement, votes can come from any part of the state, and a simple majority of the vote passes the amendment.

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