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Energy Ballot Measures Get Thumbs Up, Down in Colorado, Washington State

Voters in Washington state on Tuesday rejected a statewide ballot measure to create a carbon tax, with 58% of the votes casts going against Initiative 732, which would have imposed a tax on fossil fuels.

In Colorado, business, labor and oil/gas industry supporters were celebrating passage of a measure, Initiative 71, or "Raise the Bar," which limits state constitutional amendments passed through statewide ballot measures. After failing to place two anti-oil/gas measures on the ballot, activist groups turned their attention to opposing Initiative 71 (see Daily GPI, Sept. 29).

Amendment 71 drew 57% of the vote, and it forces future petition-gatherers to obtain valid signatures from at least 2% of the registered voting population in all of Colorado's 35 state Senate districts. Formerly, advocates needed to get 5% of the total number of voters from the prior secretary of state contest.

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

The head of Yes for Health had told local news media that in addition to working to defeat Initiative 71, her organization is also gearing up to re-introduce Initiatives 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.

A campaign backer and co-chair of the Summit County Commission, Dan Gibbs said a consensus formed around the concept that changing the state constitution shouldn't be easy; it should have a "higher bar." Co-campaign chair Lee White said a "groundswell of support behind Amendment 71 shows that Coloradans are ready to reduce special interest influence and protect our constitution."

In Washington, the carbon tax supporters expressed disappointment, but also signaled that they will resurface the issue in future elections.

"While we did not pass the nation's first carbon tax, many states around the country are looking at I-732 as a model, and we expect a nationwide movement to take root in the years ahead," Yoram Bauman, founder/co-chair of Carbon Washington, told local news media.

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