• Supporters of 11 initiatives aimed at Colorado’s oil and gas industry as of Tuesday have withdrawn eight of the proposals, leaving three still standing.

    Seven of the proposals, initiatives No. 76, No. 77, No. 79, No. 80, No. 81, No. 82 and No. 83, which focused on mandatory setbacks up to 4,000 feet, were withdrawn Tuesday.
    The oil rig near Highway 119 and County Road 22 in Weld County.

    Fracking rig near Weld County

    The oil rig near Highway 119 and County Road 22 in Weld County.

    Kathleen Lavine / Denver Business Journal

    An eighth proposal. No. 62, which called for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, was withdrawn on Feb. 11, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

    Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique widely used in the oil and gas industry to access underground reserves.

    In early February, Tricia Olson, a spokeswoman for Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED), which filed the 11 proposals in late December, said the group was in the process of deciding which proposals to keep on the road to the 2016 ballot box.

    “While we didn’t want to eliminate any proposals, we always knew that we could only run one to two. At this point, it’s a process of elimination to get down to one or two,” Olson said then.

    Proposals still under consideration include No. 63, No. 75 and No. 78.

    No. 63 would ask voters to approve a right to a “healthy environment,” defined as “safe and sustainable conditions for human life, including health air, water, land and ecological systems.” The proposal would allow anyone to file suit seeking damages for failure to “abide by or enforce the provisions of this fundamental right to a healthy environment.”

    No. 75, if approved by voters, would make local governments the primary authority over oil and gas operations within their borders, authority that currently lies with the state. The proposal would allow local governments to adopt laws or regulations over oil and gas operations, including the authority to ban those operations from their jurisdictions.

    No. 78 calls for a mandatory setback of at least 2,500 feet for new oil and gas facilities, including wells that are fracked, from occupied buildings or “areas of special concern.” Areas of special concern are defined as including drinking water sources, lakes, rivers, streams or streambeds, creeks, irrigation canals, riparian areas, playgrounds, sports fields, public parks, open space or amphitheaters.

    In January, a study on the impact of a 2,000-foot buffer zone indicated that the setback, while smaller than that proposed by CREED, would still take a hammer to Colorado’s oil and gas industry as well as the state’s wider economy.

    The study, conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, said Colorado’s gross domestic product would drop by at least $6 billion and thousands of jobs would be lost.

    The authority to ban or veto oil and gas operations in towns and counties has been a point of controversy in the last few years. Some local officials and environmental and citizen groups maintain that local governments should be able to turn away oil and gas development, or severely restrict it, while state officials and industry representatives have said that the authority — and expertise — lies at the state level.

    Colorado already has rules mandating drilling rigs have at least a 500-foot setback from homes, with the minimum distance rising to 1,000 feet for “high occupancy buildings,” such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

    The state also requires energy companies put additional mitigation measures in place, to control impacts such as dust, noise and lights, if a home or occupied structure lies within 1,000 feet of the drilling rig.

    Cathy Proctor covers energy, the environment and transportation for the Denver Business Journal and edits the weekly “Energy Inc.” newsletter. Phone: 303-803-9233. Subscribe to the Energy Inc. newsletter


    Posted by Dana West @ 5:29 pm for Ballot Issue, Colorado politics, Energy |

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