With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, you may have missed the news late Friday that supporters of "Initiative 75," one of several potential fracking-related ballot measures, have received judicial approval to begin the signature-gathering process. As the Denver Post reported:
The measure, backed by Colorado Community Rights Network, would give local governments "the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with (local) fundamental rights."…
Gov. John Hickenlooper is attempting — so far without success — to find consensus among energy firms, business groups and local governments for legislation that would address some of the community concerns over drilling and head off the ballot initiatives.
Supporters of any proposed ballot measure looking to find a home on the November ballot need to submit at least 86,000 petition signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State's office by August 4. There is no firm deadline for negotiations to conclude on a potential legislative agreement that could remove all contentious fracking ballot measures from the picture (any agreement would ultimately require Gov. Hickenlooper to call for a special legislative session), but the longer discussions continue, the more difficult it will be to convince all parties to halt preparations for a November campaign.
The Governor has been meeting for weeks with stakeholders representing various different perspectives on the issue, but it appears as though there are a handful of hardliners in the business community that continue to stand in the way of any potential compromise. As the Post reported in a separate story last week, "Business groups representing homebuilders, agriculture and oil and gas" have thus far rejected any effort to meet in the middle here, particularly on the topic of giving more local control to cities and counties to make decisions on setbacks and drilling locations. It's difficult to view this approach as anything more than a bluff, however, since both recent polling and local election results have made clear that voters are much more inclined to support expanding local control. You can't draw a line in the sand when the ground is rapidly shifting beneath your feet.
As we've written before in this space, any hardline approach against "local control" is curiously devoid of logic from a practical political perspective (say that three times fast). The oil and gas industry has threatened to throw millions of dollars at defeating any fracking ballot measures, though it is unclear just how much money it might actually cost them to win in November. Remember, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) spent nearly $1 million last fall in an effort to defeat four local fracking-related ballot measures (in Fort Collins, Lafayette, Boulder, and Broomfield); despite massively outspending supporters of the initiatives, COGA failed to turn the tide in any of the four campaigns. If pro-fracking voices couldn't stop local ballot measures from succeeding in an off-year election, what makes them think that they will be able to change the outcome in a statewide battle — particularly when local control supporters will have millions of dollars of their own?
As anyone who has ever played poker (or listened to Kenny Rogers) well knows, "you've got to know when to hold 'em/ know when to fold 'em." It's hard to bluff when everyone at the table knows what cards you are holding.