Anti-Fracking Measures Inch to Colorado Ballot

     DENVER (CN) — Inching toward the November ballot, an environmental group says it has gathered enough signatures for one ballot initiative that lets cities ban fracking and another that expands safety areas around fracking sites.
     Elections officials must still verify the signatures before the propositions can be included on the ballot. Citizens organized the initiatives last year after the Colorado Supreme Court struck down two citywide fracking bans, in Fort Collins and Longmont. The court said state laws pre-empted the city laws.
     The “Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking” committee and Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development now say that the more-than 200,000 signatures they gathered in a five-month drive are enough to put Initiatives 75 and 78 on the ballot.
     “I am thrilled that the people of Colorado will have their voices heard,” Health and Safety Over Fracking executive director Tricia Olson said in a statement. “I am so, so grateful to our hundreds and hundreds of Colorado volunteers and to the organizations that stepped forward.”
     The Colorado secretary of state confirmed that the signatures had been turned in by the Monday deadline. That office will randomly sample 5 percent of the signatures for validity. As only 98,492 valid signatures are needed, the initiatives seem likely to make it to the ballot.
     Initiative 75 would allow cities to impose moratoriums and bans on fracking, and allow Fort Collins and Longmont to reinstate their ordinances.
     Initiative 78 would require fracking sites to be at least 2,500 feet away from public spaces, such as schools and playgrounds. State law today bans fracking sites only within 500 feet of homesteads.
     The oil and gas industry, not surprisingly, opposes the initiatives, saying they will hurt the state’s economy. The Protect Colorado website calls the initiatives “irresponsible” and says they “could threaten private property rights and could even cost Colorado residents hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits.”
     Protect Colorado spokeswoman Crummy called the initiatives “a backdoor fracking ban that would be economically devastating for our state.”
     “If passed, they would eliminate 90 percent of all new oil and natural gas development,” Crummy said in a statement. “This means more than 140,000 of our friends and neighbors will lose their jobs, and everyone in the state will surrender $217 billion in economic activity over the next 15 years.
     “These initiatives would also allow the government to take private property, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in compensation costs.”
     The “fracktivists” who support the initiatives include Earth Guardians, Vibrant Planet and Frack Free Colorado.
     Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial subject in Colorado. A 2013 fracking accident leaked carcinogenic chemicals into Parachute Creek, and several people have been killed in work-related accidents at fracking sites. Earthquakes have been found to occur more frequently near fracking waste injection sites.
     A study by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business found that fracking generated more than 102,000 in Colorado from 2012 to 2014. Colorado has more than 73,000 active fracking wells.
     On a recent campaign visit, Hillary Clinton said she supports local governments’ rights to limit fracking.
     “I have long been in favor of states and cities within states making up their own minds whether or not they want to permit fracking,” Clinton told Channel 9 News.
     Signature-gatherers needed to collect 5 percent of the number of votes cast for all candidates for Colorado secretary of state in the last general election.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that the signature-collection efforts are not necessarily enough to ensure that the anti-fracking measures make the ballot. The signatures must first be counted and verified.

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