• Two contentious ballot proposals aimed at changing the state constitution to add restrictions on Colorado’s oil and gas industry do not have enough valid signatures to be on the November ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office said Monday.

    “Citizens who are trying to get an issue on the ballot must submit 98,492 voter signatures. 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 the random sample,” Williams’ office said in an announcement Monday.

    The office said in an announcement that it’s analysis concluded that the initiatives received less than 80 percent of the total number of signatures needed to be on the ballot.

    The announcement also said several signatures in a section submitted for Initiative 78, which focused on setbacks, contained “several potentially forged signature lines,” which have been turned over to the Attorney Generals’ office for investigation.

    Supporters have 30 days from Monday to appeal the decision to the Denver District Court, Williams’ office said.

    Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain Region Director with Food and Water Watch, which supported the petition drive for Nos. 75 and 78, on Monday told the Denver Business Journal supporters of the proposals would likely challenge the decision within the next two weeks.

    “We’re looking into challenging the sample that was looked over by the state to see if there are valid signatures that were invalidated that should not have been,” Petrie said in an interview Monday.

    Noting that the deadline to certify the ballot is only two weeks away, Petrie said she hoped a challenge would be filed sooner rather than later.

    “We’re still hopeful. When we were doing our own internal samples the validity rate was over 94 percent. We’re hopeful that we can turn that validity rate around and get on the ballot in the next two weeks,” she said.

    One of the proposals, Initiative 75, would expand local governments’ authority over oil and gas operations, including the option to ban oil and gas operations from their jurisdictions.

    A second one, Initiative 78, would expand the state’s existing 500-foot buffer zones around oil and gas operations up to 2,500 feet.

    State officials have said expanding the buffer zone to 2,500 feet around homes and “areas of special concern,” which the proposal defined as including parks, dry creek beds, lakes, rivers and open space, would effectively ban new oil and gas wells from about 90 percent of Colorado.

    Williams’ office said supporters submitted 107,232 signatures for No. 75, but a random sample of 5 percent of the signatures indicated that only 79,634 would be valid, falling short of the required 98,492 needed to be on the ballot.

    For No. 78, Williams’ office said supporters submitted a total of 106,626 signatures, but a random sample of 5 percent of the submissions indicated that only 77,109 would be valid, falling short of the 98,492 required to be on the November ballot.

    The proposals have been the target of fierce opposition from the industry as well as business groups representing other sectors of Colorado’s economy.

    Opponents reacted immediately Monday to the announcement.

    “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,” Dan Haley, the president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), said in a statement shortly after the announcement from Williams’ office.

    Opponents warned that the proposals could cost thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity if approved. But they also have said they hoped Colorado’s voters would reject the proposals.

    “We are confident that Coloradans will see these measures for what they are: a backdoor fracking ban that would be economically devastating for our state,” Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for the opposition group Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy, said on Aug. 8.

    Aug. 8 was the day that supporters of the two proposals delivered their petitions to Williams’ office, saying they’d gathered “over 100,000” signatures in support of the initiatives.

    “The ultimate goal here is to restore rights back to our communities. To be able to protect ourselves, our home values, our families, our health from the dangers that are inherent with fracking,” Petrie told Colorado Public Radio the day the signatures were delivered to Williams’ office.

    And Petrie told the Denver Business Journal on Aug. 8 that assertions that the proposals would ban development from much of Colorado amounted to “fear-mongering” by the industry.

    “Local control is clearly giving communities a voice,” she said.

    Questions rose quickly about whether the supporters had mustered enough signatures to be on the November ballot.

    Lynn Bartels, the spokeswoman for Williams’ office, on Aug. 9 tweeted a picture of stacked boxes of petitions for 75 and 78, noting that “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.’

    The tweet prompted a complaint from “Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking,” which backed the petition drive, and demanded that Williams’ office count the signatures in a “fair and neutral manner.”

    The group also said supporters had been harassed while gathering signatures, an assertion that Petrie repeated Monday..

    A few days after the signatures were delivered, an analysis done by Vital for Colorado, a business-backed group that opposes the measures, of documents submitted by the supporters to Williams’ office indicated that about 105,000 signatures were submitted for each of the proposals.

    Experts in Colorado’s frequent ballot campaigns have said supporters typically try to gather at least 140,000 signatures to ensure that they can comfortably clear the minimum requirement of 98,492 signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

    Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he didn’t think the two proposals would make their way onto the ballot.

    And opponents, including oil and gas companies and a wide array of business groups representing businesses across Colorado’s economy, have raised a massive financial warchest to mount a massive campaign against the proposals.

    Two groups are opposing the proposals, Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy, also known as Protect Colorado, and Coloradans for Responsible Reform. Collectively, the two had raised more than $13.5 million from oil and gas companies as well as the broader business community through the end of July, according to campaign finance filings with Williams’ office.

    Two groups supporting the proposals had raised a total of $228,470 through the end of July, according to filings with Williams’ office.

    Those groups are “Yes for Local Control over Oil and Gas,” which supports No. 75 and has raised a total of $55,100, and “Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking,” which supports both Nos. 75 and 78, and has raised a total of $173,370, much of it in June and July, according to the filing.

    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 @ 10:55 am for Adams County Politics, Ballot Issue, Climate Change, Colorado politics, Denver area politics, Elections, Energy, Issues |

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