Colorado antioil initiatives fall short of qualifying for ballot

Two proposed initiatives that would have increased restrictions on oil and gas activity in Colorado failed to make the Nov. 8 ballot because they did not collect enough valid signatures, Secretary of State Wayne W. Williams announced. Proponents have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Denver District Court, Williams said on Aug. 29.

Officials of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC) separately welcomed the news. “That sound you hear is the state of Colorado breathing a collective sigh of relief,” COGA Pres. Dan Haley said.

Backers submitted the signatures in early August (OGJ Online, Aug. 9, 2016). Initiative No. 75 would have let local governments to prohibit, control, or impose moratoriums on oil and gas development; enact local laws that are more restrictive than state laws; and bar the state from preempting such law.

Initiative No. 78 would have changed Colorado’s setback requirements for any new oil and gas development to at least 2,500 ft from the nearest occupied structure or other specified or locally designated area, and authorize the state or a local government to require that any such new development be more than 2,500 ft away from such structures.

Citizens who were trying to get an issue on the ballot had to submit 98,492 voter signatures, Williams said. Supporters of the two measures collected more than that for each proposal, but not enough to compensate for the number of signatures that were rejected during a 5% random sample for each proposed initiative, he said.

Williams said the proposals were among nine citizen-initiated measures that were submitted for the November ballot. The other seven efforts were successful, he added.

An effective statewide ban

CPC Executive Director Tracee Bentley said the proposals effectively would have banned oil and gas development in the state.

“Short-sighted initiatives like these do nothing more than hurt Colorado’s economy and our nation’s position as the world’s leader in production of oil and gas and in the reduction of carbon emissions, which are at near 20-year lows,” Bentley said. “Oil and gas companies have a long history of working collaboratively with local government and communities and we will continue to do so.”

Colorado oil and gas producers, who operate under some of the most stringent rules in the US, have proven that it is not an either-or situation, Bentley said. “We can produce clean, safe, affordable energy while being good environmental stewards,” she said. “Moving forward, it’s important that we put in place policies that further Colorado’s leadership on these critical issues and benefit consumers, both in our state and nationally.”

Haley said the cycle of constant campaigning and political uncertainty is over. “Coloradans have sent a clear message that they don’t want to resolve these complex issues at the ballot box. The good news is that after this long and unnecessary battle, our state emerges as the winner.”

COGA’s president said, “Property owners no longer have to worry about losing their constitutionally protected rights. Local and state governments will continue to get severance and other tax funding for schools, parks, libraries and roads. And working families across the state are protected from the consequences of driving a vital industry out of state. Industry, and Colorado’s business community, finally will be able to enjoy some of the certainty needed to operate now.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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