Anti-Fracking Ballot Measures Fail to Make Colorado’s November Election

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced Monday that proposed anti-fracking initiatives 75 and 78 failed to make the November ballot because supporters didn’t collect enough valid signatures.

With this news, a heated, well-funded debate over the future of energy development in Colorado is tabled, at least for now.

Initiative 75 would have given local governments the authority to regulate oil and gas development. Initiative 78 would have greatly increased the minimum distance between oil and gas operations and structures like homes and schools and also parks.

According to a report from the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission, the proposed new setback measure would have placed about 90 percent of land in the state off-limit to new development.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, an industry trade association, is pleased the proposed measures fell short of the required signatures.

In a statement, president of the association Dan Haley wrote: “Coloradans have sent a clear message that they don’t want to resolve these complex issues at the ballot box. The good news is that after this long and unnecessary battle, our state emerges as the winner.”

Environmental groups behind the two initiatives didn’t immediately return calls for comment. They have 30 days to appeal the decision to District Court.

Some serious money has gotten wrapped up in these issues, though the opposition raised 35 times as much money as the committees behind the measures. According to the most recent data available, the committees behind the ballot initiatives had collected $424,021, mostly in contributions from individuals. The committees opposing the initiatives had collected $15,040,665, much of it from industry.

For more on how the funding broke down, view Inside Energy’s Jordan Wirfs-Brock’s  animated graphic.

Here are some key numbers from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office relating to Monday’s announcement:

  • 98,492 signatures are required to get an initiative on the 2016 November ballot in Colorado. Check out the equation behind that number here.

Petition 75

  • Total number of signatures submitted: 107,232
  • From a 5 percent random sample, 25.7 percent of signatures were thrown out
  • Petition 75 is projected to have gotten 80.85 percent of the required valid signatures

Petition 78

  • Total number of signatures submitted: 106,626
  • From a 5 percent random sample, 27.7 percent of signatures were thrown out
  • Petition 78 is projected to have gotten 78.29 percent of the required valid signatures

According to the Secretary of State’s office, around 30 percent of signatures submitted for most initiatives are found to be invalid. Ben Schler, with the Elections Division, walks us through the complicated, tedious process of signature counting here.

Initiatives 75 and 78 won’t be on the November ballot, but that doesn’t mean the issues of local control and setback distance are resolved. In fact, this fight is an extension of recent legal battles around local control. In 2014, those issues also stayed off the Colorado ballot, thanks to a deal Gov. John Hickenlooper brokered between activists and industry.

 

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