Environmentalists failed in a final attempt to get an anti-hydraulic fracturing constitutional amendment on the ballot in Colorado in November.
State officials previously concluded that environmentalists didn’t get the required 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot for two different ballot inviatites. Activists filed a legal challenge to this, but ran out of money to support it.
Green supporters of the ballot initiatives claimed to have “over 100,000 signatures” for each measure, but state officials have confirmed that a number of signatures were invalid. Activists previously stated that they likely needed “over 130,000 signatures” to absolutely ensure that the measures would be on the ballot.
Controversial ballot initiatives 75 and 78, if approved by voters, would have added language to Colorado’s state constitution allowing local governments to virtually ban fracking. Initiative 78 would require a 2,500-foot distance between hydraulic fracking and public areas like parks or hospitals. The initiative would have cost $14.5 billion in lost economic output and 104,000 jobs, according to a study by economists at the University of Colorado.
Colorado’s Supreme Court earlier this year concluded that only the state government has legal authority to govern fracking, since any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.” Any law that would thwart the state’s court directive would likely find its way back in court. Fracking bans are also vehemently opposed by Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Several state and federal courts agree with Hickenlooper that only the state government has the legal authority to regulate fracking.The oil and gas industry of most states is historically regulated by state, not local, government.
Environmental groups Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch, and others currently support local bans on fracking in the state. Recent campaign finance disclosure reports show that the initiatives’ backers have donated blood and treasure to supporting the measures.
Energy is a huge portion of Colorado’s economy and fracking spawned an economic boom in rocky mountain state. 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.
The fracking industry in Colorado is expected to expand too. Parts of western Colorado have upwards of 40 times more natural gas than previously believed, making the state the second largest natural gas-producing formation in the America, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) officials said in June.
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