Signature collection began on Thursday for a state wide ballot initiative that would increase setbacks for oil and gas drilling.
Safe & Healthy Colorado, the group behind Initiative 174, says the measure would create a 2,500 ft. safety zone around homes, schools, and waterways from any new oil and gas operations.
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Anne Lee Foster with Safe & Healthy Colorado, the group behind Initiative 174, says that despite legislation passed in 2019 that changes how oil and gas is regulated, setbacks have not been addressed and still need to be increased.
“The idea of (SB) 181 is that the way oil and gas is regulated would change, but we have not actually seen that come to fruition yet, and that is part of the reason that we feel it is necessary to bring this initiative forward again, and attempt to put scientifically based regulations on the ballot,” she said.
Many of the groups involved with Proposition 112, a measure that was on the 2018 state wide ballot, are now involved in this new initiative. The two initiatives are almost identical in requiring 2500 ft setbacks. Initiative 174 adds superfund sites to the areas that would see a larger setback from new drilling.
Earlier this month Colorado Rising, the group behind Prop 112, announced it would not collect signatures to put a similar plan on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. They cited concerns over signature gathering during the COVID-19 crisis as the reason.
Anne Lee Foster and Suzanne Spiegel were listed as the proponents for that initiative. Foster says in the light of new regulations that allow signatures be collected electronically, they decided to continue to try to get something on the ballot. They formed a new coalition Safe & Healthy Colorado to put forward Initiative 174.
“A group of us, grassroots leaders that have been working on this issue for a long time, felt that we wanted to continue to pursue the effort especially with the new executive order, we felt that gave a lot of potential, and also just created an entirely new playing field, for this type of citizen democracy and we wanted to see that through.”
The oil and gas industry has spent considerable money to defeat similar ballot measures in the past including Prop 112 which saw tens of millions of dollars being spent by the industry to defeat it.
If Initiative 174 makes it to the ballot in November, there will be several other state wide measures as well as the Senate race. A recent report in the Colorado Sun showed that oil money is already flowing into that race towards Cory Gardner.
Fracking is still an issue in the Senate Democratic primary with John Hickenlooper’s history of leading fights against communities trying to enact local control over drilling when he was the governor of Colorado. Anne Lee Foster says the other primary candidate, Andrew Romanoff supports their initiative.
“It’s very important for whoever gets the nomination to understand the impact that this industry has had and to really be willing to take a stand. Both candidates had taken stances previously against initiatives, but Romanoff has since endorsed which I think says something about his further understanding of the issue.”
Organizers must submit more than 124,000 valid signatures by early August to qualify for the ballot.