Mountain States

Colorado House Speaker “Declines To Endorse New Ballot Measures” From Activist Group

“Keep It In the Ground” activist group Colorado Rising was apparently dealt a huge blow today when State House Speaker KC Becker refused to back its latest ballot initiative that would effectively ban oil and natural gas development, according to exclusive reporting from The Colorado Sun.

Colorado Rising was behind the failed Proposition 112 in 2018 that sought to increase the setback distance to 2,500 feet, and has returned this year with a series of six initiatives that would similarly extend the setback distance in addition to introducing a host of other new rules.

The group counted on Becker as a key ally two years ago but won’t have her support this time around. In an interview with the Sun’s Unaffiliated Newsletter, Becker said that further ballot initiatives aren’t necessary, and that the focus should be on implementing SB181 – the law passed last year to overhaul industry regulations.

The Colorado Sun reported that Becker “declines to endorse new ballot measures” because she felt that new “ballot initiatives weren’t needed.”

Losing Becker’s support becomes the first major roadblock for Colorado Rising just two weeks after they introduced the new slate of initiatives. Becker was perhaps the group’s most prominent supporter in 2018, although her support for Prop 112 was less than full-hearted.

Colorado Rising is also unlikely to receive the support of Gov. Jared Polis, who opposed Prop 112 during his winning campaign in 2018, and has stated he wants to avoid more confrontation over the industry. After signing SB181, he expressed hope that the law would mean “that the oil and gas wars that have enveloped our state are over.”

Nor can Colorado Rising expect support from former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is now running for U.S. Senate. As voters debated Prop 112 during his final year as governor, Hickenlooper said the measure would make a serious dent in the state’s economy and “that is how you spell recession.” Hickenlooper’s main opponent in the Democratic primary, former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, has taken a firm anti-oil and natural gas position in his campaign, but appears to remain silent so far on Colorado Rising’s latest efforts.

This means that Senate Majority Leader Steven Fenberg is the only top-tier Democrat in the state that Colorado Rising could hope to bring to its side. Fenberg never took a firm position on Prop 112 and led the charge to pass SB181, signaling that like Becker, he would be inclined to press ahead with that law and not embrace new ballot initiatives.

At the same, Colorado Rising Executive Director Joe Salazar signaled that out of the six measures his group has introduced, it will prioritize the effort to require operators to post a bond for new wells.

At a public meeting discussing oil and natural gas issues in Longmont on Thursday, Salazar said:

“These operators have a really miniscule amount of bonding and they up and leave us and then we have to cover the mess that they’ve left. So, we said that’s not going to happen anymore.  We’re going to bring a ballot initiative and now we’re going to go for the true cost and the true cost that’s [estimated] By the federal government to cover one well is $270,000 to clean up those wells. And so, we’re bringing that ballot initiative, we’ve introduced it to the Secretary of State, and we want you guys to pay particular attention to it. Because it’s about time that they start cleaning up their messes in our backyards instead of us having to clean up.”

Colorado’s voters were clear on Prop 112 – they support a strong oil and gas sector to keep the economy strong. At what point will Colorado Rising finally listen?

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