Colorado’s anti-fracking groups have begun an effort to collect signatures for several ballot measures aimed at restricting energy extraction across the state.
To date, Colorado’s Supreme Court has cleared a total of 10 ballot measures for the signature-collection process. As the Denver Business Journal reported last week:
The proposals vary slightly, but in general address either how far drilling rigs should be from homes or whether local governments should have the authority to limit or ban oil and gas development within their jurisdictions.
… The campaign has until Aug. 4 to collect more than 86,105 valid petition signatures on each measure and turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office.
The campaign said Friday that its first week of collections resulted in a combined 15,000 petition signatures and that the campaign had purchased $100,000 in digital ads.
The ballot measures are the latest in a series of efforts that seek greater restrictons on fracking in Colorado at the state and local level. Late in June, residents of Loveland voted down a two-year moratorium on the process, but since 2012, five other cities have approved either moratoriums or outright bans.
And nine of the new ballot measures enjoy the support of U.S. Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder representative and millionaire whose anti-fracking activism is causing a major rift in Colorado’s Democratic party, as National Review Online reported last month.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a staunch supporter of natural gas, has been thus far unsuccessful in his attempt to reach a legislative compromise on the regulation of fracking. As the Washington Times reported last week:
Unfortunately for Mr. Hickenlooper, the Loveland vote may have convinced those in Colorado’s surging oil-and-gas industry that they can win at the ballot box in November, when they’re expected to face two statewide anti-fracking measures backed by multimillionaire Democratic Rep. Jared Polis.
That would foil Mr. Hickenlooper’s plan for a compromise over the state’s heavily contested energy future, under which Mr. Polis agrees to drop his anti-fracking initiatives in exchange for more state regulations on the oil and gas industry.
The last thing Mr. Polis‘ fellow Colorado Democrats want is an expensive statewide anti-fracking fight, which would expose the party’s rift on oil-and-gas development, risk alienating their allies in the environmental movement, and endanger the re-election bids of Mr. Hickenlooper and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
The “upshot” from the Loveland vote “is the business community is going to be even less inclined to come up with a compromise. I think their confidence level is going to go up substantially,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “No. 1, they’ve already given up a tremendous amount in terms of the regulations, and the compromise that was offered is more than they believe is appropriate. Second, they now believe that they can beat these folks.”
The Democratic division about fracking is only one nationally relevant aspect of this political battle. As a purple state where it’s relatively easy to get measures on the ballot, Colorado is often used to test-drive controversial initiatives. Anti-fracking successes in Colorado will likely be replicated in other states.
— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.