Energy

Enviros Say They’ve Gotten Anti-Fracking Constitutional Amendments On A Ballot

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Environmental activists claim they turned in enough signatures late Monday to get a pair of anti-hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, amendments to the Colorado constitution on the ballot during the November elections.

Ballot initiatives 75 and 78, if approved by voters, would add language to Colorado’s state constitution allowing local governments to ban fracking.

The measures require more than 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Supporters of both ballot initiatives claim to have “over 100,000 signatures” for each measure, however, the number of invalid signatures is unclear at this point. Activists previously stated that they needed “over 130,000 signatures” to absolutely ensure that the measures would be on the ballot.

Several state and federal courts, including Colorado’s Supreme Court, have concluded that only the state government has the legal authority to regulate fracking, as any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.” The oil and gas industry of most states, including Colorado, has historically been regulated by state, not local, government.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made statements supporting local control while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has stated that she will respect the state Supreme Court’s decision.

Environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch, Earthworks and a local group called Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED) currently support local bans on fracking in the state. Campaign finance disclosure reports show that these environmentalist groups have donated time and money supporting these initiatives, including time to collect signatures and advertisements for signature gatherers on behalf of the initiative. Activists with the group are calling the initiatives “the biggest,” most important fight on behalf of the environment this year.

“Even if these out-of-state activist organizations manage to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, they face significant opposition from actual Coloradoans,” Randy Hildreth, Colorado Director for the pro-industry group Energy In Depth, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The state’s business community and prominent Republicans and Democrats –including Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet – stand with the thousands of Coloradans who are safely developing our energy resources, rather than national activist groups seeking to end the economic and environmental benefits oil and gas development brings to our state.”

Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, has bucked his own political party to oppose these local fracking bans for years, often fighting with the state’s environmentalists.

When The Denver Post asked Hickenlooper why he opposes the ballot measures, the governor responded, “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.”

“Out of state billionaire eco-radicals like Tom Steyer, need to leave Colorado the hell alone,” John Kinkaid, the commissioner of Moffat County in Colorado, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I hope that the defeat of the initiative signals a new day for the state. Better schools, better highways and a better lifestyle for everyone.”

One of the ballot initiatives is estimated to cost $14.5 billion in lost economic output and 104,000 jobs, according to a study by economists at the University of Colorado. The ballot measures were part of a larger green political campaign of 11 measures proposed to the state legislature in January.

Energy is a huge portion of Colorado’s economy and fracking has caused an economic boom. The oil and gas industry added $29.6 billion to Colorado’s economy in 2012, or about 10 percent of all annual economic activity in the state. The industries also supported 111,500 jobs, allowing the state to recover from the Great Recession faster than its neighbors.

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