Energy

Lawmakers Are Rallying To Protect Fracking From Environmentalists In Colorado

Reuters/Jim Urquhart

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter

A group of bipartisan lawmakers denounced an initiative brought by environmentalists in Colorado that could effectively ban oil and gas production in the state.

Colorado Rising, backed by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Frack Free Colorado among others, is leading a grassroots effort to introduce a statewide ballot measure that would ban oil and gas development within 2,500 feet of “vulnerable areas.” The group collected 171,000 signatures in support of putting the proposal, called Initiative 97, on a ballot, the oil-and-gas industry backed media group Western Wire reports.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association invited a panel of a dozen bipartisan lawmakers — four Democrats and eight Republicans — to speak at its annual energy conference. All but one lawmaker publicly rejected the measure, and the one that did not reject it is far from supportive of it.

“I’m in the unique position in that I’m a Democrat who represents Broomfield, who has not endorsed Initiative 97, and whose Republican opponent has,” state Democratic Rep. Matt Gray, the one lawmaker that did not outright reject the measure, told Western Wire.

“I didn’t [reject the measure], I have not endorsed 97. Both of those statements are true at the same time,” Gray said. “My biggest concern about 97 is that it doesn’t treat rural operations and voluntary operations — people who want the drilling to occur — differently than people that don’t want it to occur.”

Gray went on to call the measure “inflexible.”

Initiative 97 would outright ban oil and gas development near “vulnerable areas” broadly defined as “playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks, and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government,” according to the ballot measure. (RELATED: REPORT: Banning Oil And Gas Production In Colorado Would Cost The State Billions)

If passed, the law could lock away $180 billion worth of fuels underground and cost mineral rights owners roughly $26 billion. Between 85 percent and 99.6 percent of the surface area in Colorado’s top five most productive oil and gas counties would be rendered inaccessible for future oil and gas development.

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