Mountain States

Anti-Oil And Gas Group Claims It Has The Signatures To Put Economy-Killing Measure on Colorado’s November Ballot

Supporters of Initiative 97 – the anti-fracking ballot measure that would increase Colorado’s oil and gas setbacks to 2,500 feet – officially turned in their signatures today just a few hours ahead of the deadline. Colorado Rising claims they’ve gathered more than 171,000 signatures, of which more than 98,000 signatures must be validated by the Secretary of State by September 5 in order to get on the November ballot.

In a last-minute attempt to gain support, members of Colorado Rising went on Facebook Live to air a bizarre “interview” with Miss Fracking 2016, a zombie from Oklahoma, who sported an ambiguous accent, spoke about her newly discovered opposition to fracking, and later broke into an Ace of Base rendition of the 1990s classic, The Sign.  For some reason that was considered a “thank you” to their supporters.  Take a look below.

While the campaign video may have gotten a few laughs, the actual content of the measure is anything but humorous.

As EID pointed out recently, if Initiative 97 were to pass, more than 85 percent of Colorado’s non-federal lands would be unavailable for oil and gas development, according to a July study by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  The effect on the state’s top five oil and gas producing counties would be staggering. In the state’s largest oil (90 percent) and natural gas (39 percent) area, 78 percent of Weld County surface area would face the setback buffer. For the next three counties—Garfield (99.8 percent), La Plata (99.9 percent), and Rio Blanco (99.8 percent)—nearly all non-federal surface area would be eliminated from future development consideration.

For a state that relies on the industry for more than 230,000 jobs and more than $31 billion in gross domestic product (GDP), the passage of Initiative 97 would have wide-ranging harmful impacts for Colorado and hundreds of thousands of employees across the state.

Maybe that’s why none of the top-tier Democratic candidates supported the measure in the primary, which ended in June. Only the state Democratic Party backed the setback, outside of anti-oil and gas activists.

Business leaders said the passage of the ballot measure would harm the state’s economy immediately.  A coalition of 21 organizations and 32 current and former elected officials spoke out against the measure, vowing it would be defeated thanks to bipartisan opposition. Denver Metro Commercial Association of Realtors CEO Katie Kruger said in a statement obtained by EID:

“This anti-energy initiative would devastate downtown Denver, where firms in the oil and natural gas sector occupy roughly five million square feet of private-sector office space, or almost one quarter of the market. Those firms and their workers invest billions of dollars in the Denver economy and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and Initiative 97 would drive those firms and energy professionals out of our state.”

Peter Moore, a Denver business attorney and the President and CEO of Vital for Colorado, said in the same statement that the business and labor community opposing Initiative 97 represented all walks of life in Colorado from all over the state.

“As we have seen in past years, a diverse coalition of business, labor and political organizations will continue to stand firm against the Boulder activists and out-of-state groups trying to choke out an entire industry and the livelihoods that depend on it.”

The message sent by the proponents is straightforward—this isn’t a setback initiative but a backdoor ban on oil and gas development in the state.

Here’s Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council:

“The passage of the ill-conceived Initiative 97 would be utterly destructive to Colorado. It would decimate the future of the natural gas and oil industry and wreak havoc on our state’s economy… Should Initiative 97 qualify for the ballot, there will not be an issue that would have a more devastating impact on the statewide ballot this year. This disastrous proposal will negatively impact every Coloradan’s pocketbook, will reduce the quality of life that we value in Colorado, and cost thousands of jobs.”

The heads of the Aurora and South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce wrote this in a recent op-ed:

“The purpose of Initiative 97 is clear: To eliminate the state’s oil and gas sector. And Colorado’s business community will not rest until this economically destructive ballot measure is defeated.”

And the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) also had some choice words for today’s news.  Dan Haley, President and CEO of COGA, released this statement:

“If this measure makes it onto the ballot, Coloradans will know exactly what is at stake: private property rights, more than 100,000 good-paying jobs, more than $1 billion in taxes for schools, parks and libraries and our nation’s energy security. If approved by voters, 147,000 jobs would be lost – 43,000 in the first year alone – and our state’s GDP would take a $218 billion hit. That’s not a joke to Colorado families. These activists are fueled by money from out of state and Boulder County, and they don’t care if they put Colorado families out of work. We’re confident most Coloradans will see this charade for what is and support the men and women who are the backbone of our state and who produce the energy we all need each day.”

The bottom line is Initiative 97 is bad for Colorado jobs and the economy, but also for the state’s critical infrastructure, law enforcement, and education, all of which will face a financial hit if new oil and gas development is virtually outlawed. Most politicians from both parties have abstained from supporting the measure because they know how costly it would be for their state.  Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper expressed concern about how the increased setback would impact mineral rights owners, while even gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis told a campaign event that he would not support anti-oil and gas ballot measures earlier this year.

Now that the signatures have been handed in, Colorado’s Secretary of State has 30 days to review them and determine if the measure will make the ballot by September 5.

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