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Oil and Gas Industry Building War Chest to Fight Ballot Initiatives

Oil and gas groups have raised more than $6 million to defeat ballot initiatives that would limit fracking. (Pixabay)
Oil and gas groups have raised more than $6 million to defeat ballot initiatives that would limit fracking. (Pixabay)
June 1, 2016

DENVER - The oil and gas industry is gearing up to defeat several initiatives headed toward the November ballot that would allow restrictions on fracking.

A coalition of industry, business groups and elected officials called Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy and Energy Independence has formed to block efforts such as Initiative 40, which would allow local control over drilling. Lafayette city councilwoman Merrily Mazza supports the measure.

"Whatever the local community decides that they want to do to protect their rights, then they have the ability to do that - free from state pre-emption," she said. "That's the standard way for the state to say, 'No, you can't do that.' "

Oil and gas groups have contributed more than $6 million to defeat ballot measures they say could cost the state tax revenue and jobs, according to a report in the First Look Media outlet The Intercept. Supporters of initiatives to limit hydraulic fracturing have raised almost $56,000.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that state law trumps local ordinances and rejected measures passed by voters in Longmont and Fort Collins to curtail fracking. Mazza said amending the state Constitution is the only option left for communities to have a voice in decisions about industrial drilling near schools and homes.

"The only way to go at it is with a grassroots effort," she said, "and it must be pretty frightening if these organizations and corporations are putting in millions of dollars to fight a bunch of -- I don't know -- retirees, moms, dads."

In 2014, similar ballot measures were pulled after Gov. John Hickenlooper convinced local groups the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would look out for community interests. Mazza said the agency has not gotten the job done.

"We're stuck with the same cycle, the same state enforcement of corporate rights, even overriding democratic, local citizen initiatives," she said. "And so here we are, this is the alternative."

Groups have until Aug. 8 to collect more than 98,000 signatures to get the initiatives onto the November ballot.

The report is online at theintercept.com. Details of Initiative 40 are at sos.state.co.us.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO