Mountain States

More Empty Boxes? New Year, Same Old Ballot Measure Doomed For Failure

2018 voters, get ready for some serious déjà vu leading up to election day next year as Colorado anti-fracking activists are back at it with the an all too familiar ballot measure fight. Yup, that’s right, after failing to win statewide support in 20122014, and again in 2016 – even with the support and resources of national “Keep it In the Ground” groups, anti-fracking activists are back for more.  Colorado Rising, a collection of the same old anti-fracking actors under a new name, have announced its submitted language for a state ballot initiative to “establish larger buffer zones between oil and gas development and homes, schools, playgrounds and water sources.”

In the last go around, the Denver Business Journal reported today on the announcement of the ballot measure:

“But state officials in 2016 said a 2,500-foot buffer zone, if approved by voters, would have effectively banned new oil and gas wells from about 90 percent of Colorado.”

Just like in 2016, this new ballot measure is clearly nothing more than anti-fracking activists seeking to exploit voters in an relinquishing quest to fulfill their “keep it in the ground” agenda and ban all oil and gas development in Colorado.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Assocation  statement echoes these truths:

“This ballot initiative is nothing more than a repeat of old politics hell-bent on vilifying our industry and locking the doors to responsible energy development in Colorado.”

Same old script


Through a Facebook live announcement in conjunction with a press release distributed by the newly formed group, Colorado Rising, the anti-fracking coalition cites several health studies that have been thoroughly debunked by Energy in Depth as the reason for putting forth yet again, another ballot measure.

From the Facebook Live announcement and the Colorado Rising press release:

“A 2,500-foot buffer zone (almost one-half mile) aligns with the Colorado School of Public health study, which found that the most grave health impacts from fracking activities are experienced by people living within one-half mile of operations.”

The study referred to here is the McKenzie’s study has been disavowed and discredited by state health officials stating“[T]his study’s conclusions are misleading in that the study questions a possible association between oil and gas operations and childhood leukemia; it does not prove or establish such a connection,” Dr. Larry Wolk, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) wrote in a statement.

Source: Suzanne Spiegel Facebook Page

In Spiegel’s Facebook Live Video, she says that “this [oil and gas] industry can create a lot of fear,” and as you go on listening, she then gives a laundry list of fear mongering claims including a misleading new study claiming to link infant health problems with oil and natural gas development.

If getting out the message of “fear” through social media wasn’t enough, Colorado Rising’s press release expands on Spiegel’s message of “fear”:

“Health studies show that fracking operations pose grave risks to public health and safety. Just last week, Princeton University released a major study that analyzed 1.1 million babies and found that infants born within 1 kilometer (.62 miles) of a well were 25% more likely to have low birth weights than infants more than 3 kilometers away (1.9 miles) and also showed significantly lower scores on a standard index of infant health. Additional health studies clearly link the toxic emissions from oil and gas development to certain types of cancer, respiratory problems, endocrine disruption and birth defects.”

The study cited by Colorado Rising raises questions about whether the author of this study oversold its findings to the press when it came out last week. But either way, and not surprising, anti-fracking activists surely bought a bill of goods with this one.

The use of fear through “science” is not all that’s wrong here, Colorado has a lot to lose if this ballot measure wins. Last year when anti-fracking activists threatened to put forth this type of ballot measure, Governor John Hickenlooper came out and said the measure would make Colorado taxpayers liable for “billions of dollars” in compensation to mineral rights owners who would be deprived of the opportunity to develop their property. The Denver Business Journal reported in 2016:

“Supporters of a ballot proposal to expand Colorado’s existing buffer zones surrounding oil and gas operations from 500 feet to 2,500 feet, a move that if approved by voters would ban drilling across a wide area of the state, can start gathering the 98,492 valid signatures needed to be on the 2016 ballot.” (Emphasis added)

The very similar setback initiative from 2016 has taught us a few things, and made us do our homework too. According to an economic assessment from the Business Research Division at University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, a measure like what we will see in 2018 is projected to cost Colorado’s economy billions in lost GDP. Economists have found that a 2,000 foot setback distance could cost the state up to $11 billion in lost GDP a year and 62,000 jobs. Keep in mind the 2,000 foot setback examined in this study is modest compared to the 2,500 foot distance that activists are attempting to put before state voters, yet again, next year.

Same old bad actors

“Colorado Rising was started by Coloradans who live in or near impacted communities and are committed to the health and safety of people in our state, because if we don’t protect Colorado, no one else will,” said Tricia Olson, with Colorado Rising.


That name rings a bell… Tricia Olson, who headed the now-defunct “Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development” and Micah Parkin, executive director of 350 Colorado, who in the past has compared oil and natural gas regulations to “many other oppressive policies, such as slavery, and women and people of color not having the right to vote.”  And that’s just to name a few of the usual suspects taking the lead of this brain child. With that in mind, we have an idea of what to expect from this group as we head into 2018.

Spiegel claimed in her Facebook live announcement that this is “winnable.” However, if history proves itself correct, this type of ballot measure has been and will continue to be rejected and sharply criticized by elected officials on both sides of the aisle, business leaders, and editorial boards across the state.

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