UPDATE: Legal threats appear to have greased the proverbial wheels, AP:
Sponsors of a proposal to limit oil and gas drilling in Colorado say they’ve recovered thousands of voter petitions supporting the measure that were taken out of state by an Oregon signature gathering firm.
Colorado Rising says it hopes its dispute with Direct Action Partners of Portland doesn’t jeopardize its efforts to get its statutory measure on November’s ballot.
As the Denver Post’s Joe Rubino reports, “yikes” is the word:
A group working to get a measure on Colorado’s November ballot that would make it illegal to operate oil and gas wells within 2,500 feet of an occupied building says a company it was paying to gather signatures for the initiative has taken seven boxes of signed petitions and left the state.
Activists with Colorado Rising have filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against Direct Action Partners Inc., a signature gathering company based in Oregon. The suit, a Replevin claim aimed at wrongfully taken private property, seeks the return of seven boxes of signed ballot petitions for Initiative 97. The would-be statewide ballot measure seeks voter approval to set new, much-greater minimum well setbacks from homes, schools and water sources.
The seven boxes contain petitions with between 15,000 and 20,000 voter signatures, Colorado Rising claims. The group is seeking to collect more than 98,000 certified signatures to get its measure before voters this fall. Former Democratic Colorado attorney general candidate Joe Salazar is representing Colorado Rising in the case.
We’re not sure what to make of this situation, but it’s always frustrating to see a campaign held hostage by its contractors. We don’t have any evidence to suggest that this contractor might have been compromised in some way by the initiative’s well-heeled opponents in the oil and gas industry, but we can’t separate this situation completely from the aggressive “decline to sign” campaign the industry has been running to vociferously shadow individual gatherers and dissuade potential signers.
We’re also not making any judgments in this post about the merits of Initiative 97, which would dramatically extend setbacks between oil and gas operations and surface development on nonfederal lands throughout Colorado. There is considerable debate even among environmentally-minded Democrats as to whether this measure’s large and inflexible setbacks make sense applied to every part of the state. What we do know is that the oil and gas industry really, really doesn’t want to fight this initiative–and we wouldn’t put anything past them to avoid having to spend the millions it would take to defeat it.
With all of that said, we’ll all have to wait and see how this dispute shakes out. As the old saying goes, don’t attribute to malice what can be as easily chalked up to incompetence.
But there are…exceptions to that rule. And they happen in politics.