Faced with the potential for two anti-fracking measures on the Colorado ballot this November, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and state lawmakers have been working for weeks to develop a legislative compromise to avoid putting the issues to a popular vote. Hickenlooper’s proposal would have placed some additional restrictions on fracking, but would have clarified that local governments could not ban fracking altogether. Last week, however, Hickenlooper announced that there would be no special legislative session on the proposal because he lacked the support to get a compromise deal done. With legislative compromise effectively off the table, both sides of the fracking debate will be gearing up for a fight this fall.
The Colorado ballot measures 88 and 89, which would take effect as amendments to the Colorado Constitution if successful, would give local governments authority to regulate oil and gas development and would mandate setbacks of 2,000 feet from occupied structures for new oil and gas wells. While phrased as a setback requirement, opponents claim that initiative 88 would effectively ban fracking across Colorado because the overlapping setbacks cover most of the state. Opponents also claim that the initiatives would cost some 68,000 jobs, $567 million in tax revenue and $8 billion in GDP within five years.
The ballot measures have garnered major attention and concern from both ends of the political spectrum. Democrats—including Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall who are running for re-election this fall—fear that the ballot measures could harm their re-election chances with millions in outside political spending. Republicans, who generally oppose any bans on fracking, see an opportunity to win crucial seats in the upcoming elections.
The deadline to gather enough signatures to place both measures on the November ballot is August 4th.