Keep-It-In-The-Ground Activists Make “Last Minute” Push to bring National Ban Fracking Campaign to Colorado Voters
The Denver Business Journal is reporting that after a last minute scramble, national activist organizations have turned in petition signatures in an attempt to put their extreme Keep-It-In-The-Ground (KIITG) agenda before Colorado voters this fall. From the Denver Business Journal:
“The organizers said they collected “over 100,000” signatures in support of each of the ballot petitions, but said they couldn’t be more precise about the final tally because they were still collecting signatures Monday morning.”
At stake are ballot initiatives 75 and 78 which would add language to Colorado’s state constitution to increase local control, including permitting local fracking bans, and dramatically increase oil and natural gas development setback distances, respectively.
New campaign finance disclosures reveal that out-of-state-groups like Food & Water Watch, 350.org and Greenpeace have been pouring significant resources into signature gathering efforts. Activists need at least 98,492 valid signatures of Colorado registered voters.
Coloradans reject this extreme agenda
With the potential for devastating economic consequences for the state, elected officials, influential members of both parties and the business community have been speaking out against the initiatives.
Chief among them is Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper who has strongly criticized the KIITG campaign. When asked about the ballot initiative that would increase oil and gas setback distances to 2500 feet, Hickenlooper denounced the effort. As reported by CBS Denver:
“That would be considered a taking, and I think the state would probably be judged responsible, and I think the cost could be in the many billions of dollars. I think that’s a risk that most Coloradans — if it was laid out for them in a sense they could clearly understand — would not support it.”
More recently, Hickenlooper has also been pushing back against comments made by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and, as the Denver Post points out, his own favored presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the issue of local control. As the Denver Post reports:
“It is a responsibility to make sure that we keep those sites safe. But if you turn over total responsibility to the local communities, they are subject to the voters who aren’t anywhere near the (fracking site) but will, in many cases … vote to ban any oil and gas activity at all. The people who own the minerals, they don’t have a vote.”
Coloradans for Responsible Reform, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials and business leaders has announced that it will be working “to defeat proposed ballot initiatives detrimental to the state’s economy and endangering thousands of jobs.” A press release announcing their efforts included a number of prominent Colorado Democrats speaking out against the initiatives. From the release:
“Once again, the alarms are sounding as misguided groups are gathering signatures to place ill-conceived, vague proposals on the ballot. While their advocates say the measures are designed to protect Colorado, their poorly defined attempts will instead undermine businesses across the state, damage our economy and kill jobs,” said Ken Salazar, former United States Senator and Secretary of the Interior.
Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb added:
“No matter where you live, when you shut own one sector of the economy, it impacts everyone. Citizens in every community should be concerned. Even if there is no direct oil and gas development in a city like Denver, we still benefit with revenue and jobs. And the fact is these proposals extend well beyond oil and gas. Any business anywhere could be shut down for anyone’s political agenda,” Webb said.
Western Slope business leader, Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, has also come out strongly against the initiatives:
“These proposals are contrived by environmental extremists who seek to ban fossil fuel production and further hurt a key industry in Colorado. Stifling energy development through a patchwork of conflicting local statutes and unreasonable setbacks is their aim. They are casting a huge net that will snare thousands of Coloradans and eliminate well-paying jobs,” Schwenke said.
And Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is also not a fan. As KMGH reports:
“In general, I’d rather decide these things in a conversation in our state than have them on the ballot and in our Constitution,” said Bennet. “I worry, sometimes, that a one-size-fits-all approach at the ballot doesn’t give enough flexibility for people going forward. On the other hand, it is a reasonable concern that people have, that if they’re living in a subdivision some place and somebody drills a well, even if they have a property right to drill that well, that’s not going to amuse the people that are in that house, and we’ve got to work through those kind of conflicts.”
From here, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office will go through a process of verifying that the groups have turned in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. But one thing is clear: even if these out-of-state activist organizations did manage to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, they will face significant opposition from actual Coloradans from both sides of aisle.