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Ballot Initiatives Make it to Colorado Secretary of State’s Office

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by Frances Folin

Earlier this month, proponents of competing ballot initiatives affecting oil and gas exploration and development made their way to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Certification by the Secretary of State that proponents have obtained the required 98,492 valid signatures is the final step to getting the initiatives on this November’s ballot.

As discussed in a prior blog, there were approximately ten different initiatives which signature gatherers were out canvassing for prior to the August 6, 2018 signature deadline. Proponents of only two of the proposed initiatives returned signatures for the Secretary of State’s certification: Initiatives 97 and 108.

Initiative 97, if passed by voters, would effectively ban all oil and gas development, including fracking, within 2,500 feet (or approximately ½ mile) of occupied buildings and “vulnerable” areas, making much of Colorado unavailable for energy development. Initiative 108 would amend the Colorado Constitution to require property owner compensation for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations, and was specifically submitted by its proponents as a direct response to Initiative 97.

Although term limited from future election, Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper has made public statements that he is against both initiatives. The Governor has stated that Initiative 108 would make it more difficult for local governments to conduct their business because the language of the initiative is much broader than just oil and gas development.  He has also stated that the increased setbacks contained in Initiative 97 are potentially a taking, that mineral owners would likely go to court seeking redress, and that the State could be subject to financial damages to those affected by the proposal should it pass.

This is not the first time measures like Initiatives 97 and 108 have been proposed for inclusion on Colorado’s ballot. Governor Hickenlooper was critical in past election cycles in finding compromise positions between pro- and anti-development groups when similar ballot initiatives were poised to be on the ballot.  Rep. Jared Polis, a current candidate for Governor in Colorado, supported and financed prior measures similar to Initiative 97 in 2014 and 2016.

Review by the Secretary of State’s Office of the signatures submitted for the Initiatives should be completed soon.