A press release from Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams announces the unsurprising news that Initiatives 75 and 78–measures that would have clarified local control rights for communities seeking to regulate oil and gas drilling and mandates large setbacks from existing development for new drilling–did not obtain the necessary signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot:
Two proposed ballot measures aimed at adding more limitations on oil and natural gas drilling in Colorado failed to make the November ballot because supporters didn’t collect enough valid voter signatures, Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced today.
Citizens who are trying to get an issue on the ballot must submit 98,492 voter signatures. Supporters of the two measures collected more than that for each proposal, but not enough to compensate for the number of signatures that were rejected during the random sample. 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 proponents have 30 days from today to appeal the decision to the Denver District Court.
The energy proposals were among nine citizen-initiated measures that were submitted for the November ballot. The other seven efforts were successful.
After the failure of the task force created in 2014 to address these issues, which resulted from a deal to pull similar measures off that year’s general election ballot, the failure of the groups pushing Initiatives 75 and 78 to make the ballot is a huge (pun not intended) setback. There will be more to discuss in the coming weeks about the tactics employed by the oil and gas industry against this petition drive, specifically what appears to have been a very aggressive “decline to sign” campaign disrupting the efforts of individual signature gatherers.
But the fact remains that proponents submitted far fewer signatures than other ballot measure campaigns this year, and it was therefore always unlikely that they would be able to meet the margin of sufficiency with only a few percentage points’ worth of signatures over the threshold. To proponents credit they do appear to have a pretty decent validity rate, estimated around 80% for both measures by the Secretary of State. But it wasn’t enough, and in the end the pro campaigns must own their failure.
This certainly isn’t the end of the debate over oil and has drilling in residential areas of Colorado. As the Front Range continues to urbanize over mineral rights considered as sacrosanct as surface dwellers’ rights to peace, clean air and water, the issue will continue to bedevil the state until a better deal for local communities is brokered–in the legislature and/or at the ballot box.
For today, the industry and their allies have scored another big win for the status quo.