DENVER, Colorado, September 1, 2016—Two anti-fracking measures, Initiatives 75 and 78, fell short of the required number of petition signatures an initiative needs to be placed on the state’s 2016 ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced Monday. Initiative No. 75 would have given local governments the authority to regulate oil-and-gas development, including banning fracking. Initiative No. 78 called for a mandatory 2,500-foot setback around oil-and-gas operations.
The idea behind these initiatives was not necessarily an outright ban on fracking but rather to tie the oil and gas industry up in reams of red tape as each political jurisdiction—city or county—could enact their own regulations.
Anti-energy zealots, who call themselves “frackivists” (yet drive SUVs), had been encouraged by bans in Boulder County, Ft. Collins and Longmont. The bans were largely for show, as there is no oil and gas development in those jurisdictions. With the current levels of production and low prices, there’s not a low of exploration either.
These bans were dealt a blow in May when the normally reliably liberal Colorado Supreme Court struck down the bans, recognizing that state law prohibited them. Their ruling upheld a lower court ruling.
Colorado’s state regulation of oil and gas production is the most stringent in the nation, Dan Haley, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s president, said at the time.
Liberals have a consistent agenda and they have the knowledge and finances to advance that agenda in a number of ways. Having failed to implement their fracking restrictions at the local level due to the State Supreme Court decision, they decided to place the same measures on the ballot.
In Colorado, a group has six months to collect signatures from the date the petition language is approved by the Secretary of State’s Title Board, and all petitions must be turned in three months before the election. The petitions these initiatives were delivered on the state’s August 9 deadline in a big public display.
At the time, it was noted that some of the boxes contained very few petitions, which was curious as almost 99,000 valid signatures were required to place these initiatives on the ballot. Based on a random sample, however, the Secretary’s office estimated that they achieved only about 78-81 percent of that number.
In Colorado law, there are restrictions on how signatures may be collected. In practice, signatures are generally collected via paid signature collectors, often hired by out-of-state companies who specialize in this activity. Since the gatherers are paid by the signature, they have little incentive to verify whether someone signing the petition is eligible to do so. As a result, there are generally a large number of invalid signatures collected in this way, so proponents usually strive to collect quite a few more signatures than required.
In the case of Initiatives 75 and 78, 107, 232 and 106,626 signatures were submitted respectively. Based on the results, however, that was not enough.
The exception to the paid signature-gathering efforts were the recall petitions targeting Senators Morse, Giron, and Hudak. All the signatures collected were done by volunteer citizens. The 2010 Health Care Freedom initiative proved a mix bag, including a sizable number of citizen volunteers and paid collectors.
The oil and gas industry was mobilized to oppose the two anti-fracking initiatives. Had they made the ballot, there was a strong coalition to oppose them.
The issue committee Protect Colorado had formed a broad coalition of industry representatives, farmers, ranchers, and business leaders across the state to fight these anti-Colorado measures, which threatened to wipe out responsible oil and natural development and devastate the state economy.
Now, they won’t have to engage. Colorado voters can now focus on the bad ideas still remaining on the November ballot.