United States: Signatures In On Petitions For Ballot Proposals To Restrict Oil And Gas Operations In Colorado

Last Updated: August 10 2016
Article by Melissa J. Lyon

Here in colorful Colorado today, activist groups with the hope of having anti-energy measures placed on the ballot this fall were faced with a deadline. They were required to gather at least 98,492 valid signatures of Colorado registered voters by 3 pm today.

According to the Denver Business Journal, they squeaked in just before the 3 pm deadline – delivering the signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's office at 2:30 pm.

Last week and this weekend, supporters of Initiative No. 75 (amending the state's constitution to provide more local government control over oil and gas operations) and Initiative No. 78 (mandating 2,500 foot setbacks for new oil and gas development facilities and any operation that used hydraulic fracturing) were pounding the pavement in Denver to get more signatures.  On Friday alone on my walk from the office to the gym only a few blocks away I was stopped by 3 people who unsuccessfully asked me to "sign their petition to help restrict fracking."

I was left walking and hoping that the people who did sign understood the real consequences of signing their name to that petition...

The Reality – Do people understand the consequences of the ballot proposals?

Will this situation be similar to Brexit – when many people who voted to leave the EU did not understand the potential consequences and wanted a "do over" the next day?

To avoid that buyer's remorse from happening here, we point you to the Energy In Depth article summarizing the three things to know about the anti-energy initiatives – the full text of the article can be found here.  It is absolutely crucial to be educated on these proposals and to understand their potential consequences; because, as noted by The Denver Post earlier this summer, there may be a hidden purpose behind Initiative No. 78 – in effect, to ban oil and gas production.

What is the most important potential consequence?

Hands down, the 2,500 foot setbacks mandated by Initiative No. 78 carry the most important potential consequences to future development.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ("COGCC") conducted a GIS-based assessment of the proposed ballot Initiative No. 78's impact on surface lands available for new oil and gas development facilities or hydraulic fracturing operations – A full copy of the assessment can be found here.

The Key Findings of the COGCC assessment of Initiative No. 78 were:

  • 90% of surface acreage in Colorado would be unavailable for future oil and gas development or hydraulic fracturing under the proposed mandatory setback requirement
  • 85% of surface acreage in Weld County, Colorado – the state's largest producing county, would be unavailable for new oil and gas development or hydraulic fracturing operations

The Denver Post asked a crucial question: "Did proponents know this when they wrote the initiative?  If not, they were reckless. If they did know, they were devious regarding their true intent, since their real purpose apparently was to ban oil and gas development while pretending to seek allegedly reasonable limits on its reach."

Luckily, many reportedly consider there to be a low probability of Initiative No. 78 being approved and passed.  Still, we must appreciate the true potential consequences of these proposals.

Did they gather enough signatures to have the proposals on the ballot?

Unfortunately, it is too early to tell.

The Denver Business Journal reported this afternoon in its article, "Thousands of Signatures Delivered for Anti-Oil and Gas Ballot Proposals," that organizers are claiming to have collected "over 100,000 signatures in support of each of the ballot petitions."

However, it will take some time for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office to sift through the petitions and tally up the actual number of signatures. The office reportedly has about a month, until September 7, 2016, to announce whether there are enough valid signatures on the petitions to have the proposals make the ballot.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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