Activists weigh ballot initiatives

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 05: Anti fracking protesters take to the streets in downtown Denver, October 05, 2015. Several hundred protesters marched down 17th Street to the State Capitol. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Anti fracking protesters take to the streets in downtown Denver, October 05, 2015. [Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post]

The internets were all abuzz this week as activists weighed and measured 3 proposed ballot initiatives under consideration for the upcoming 2016 election cycle.

Last December, Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED) submitted paperwork for 11 ballot initiative proposals to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Eight of the 11 addressed mandatory well setbacks from homes and schools, and the rest focused on public health and local control over oil & gas development, including the right to ban fracking. As of Tuesday eight of the proposals had been withdrawn, leaving three still in the running.

In a conference call Tuesday night, CREED spokesperson Tricia Olson enlightened listeners (including but not limited to supporters, media reps, industry spies, curiosity seekers, and me) with details about the 3 proposed ballot initiatives.

According to Olson the process is underway to decide which of the 3 proposals to present to voters in the 2016 election. “While we didn’t want to eliminate any proposals, we always knew that we could only run one to two. At this point, it’s a process of elimination to get down to one or two.”

The 3 ballot initiative proposals currently under consideration include No. 63, No. 75 and No. 78.

No. 63 would ask voters to approve a right to a “healthy environment,” defined as “safe and sustainable conditions for human life, including health air, water, land and ecological systems.” The proposal would allow anyone to file suit seeking damages for failure to “abide by or enforce the provisions of this fundamental right to a healthy environment.” Click here to read No. 63

No. 75 would ask voters to allow local governments to assume primary authority over oil and gas operations within their borders, authority that currently lies with the state. The proposal would allow local governments to adopt laws or regulations over oil and gas operations, including the authority to ban those operations from their jurisdictions. Click here to read No. 75

No. 78 would ask voters to approve a mandatory setback of at least 2,500 feet for new oil and gas facilities, including wells that are fracked, from occupied buildings or “areas of special concern.” Areas of special concern are defined as including drinking water sources, lakes, rivers, streams or streambeds, creeks, irrigation canals, riparian areas, playgrounds, sports fields, public parks, open space or amphitheaters. Click here to read No. 78

Several participants in the Tuesday phone conference called for all three proposals to move forward. But Olson explained that the costs plus the workers needed to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures for each initiative are major hurdles for mounting such an aggressive campaign on three fronts. Olson stressed that members of CREED feel the focus should be on the one or two proposals that stand the best chance of winning over Colorado voters in the fall.

In a statement to FTS on Wednesday, Olson summed it up this way: “If the state will not adequately protect Coloradans and communities, then we, the people of Colorado, must do it, and that requires a change to Colorado law. Our beautiful state should not be further overwhelmed by wells, pads, and other industrial oil and gas operations plunked down next to neighborhoods, schools and our rivers and streams.”

A separate ballot initiative is in the works from another citizens’ rights group. Colorado Community Rights Network plans to put a “community rights” amendment to the state Constitution before the voters. The Proposed Colorado Community Rights Amendment does not specifically address oil & gas drilling. Instead the amendment addresses the right of the people through their local governments “to enact local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare by recognizing or establishing rights of natural persons, their local communities, and nature …” In March the group will circulate petitions to collect the required signatures to get their proposed amendment on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the oil & gas industry is sending out squadrons of “ambassadors” to fight the public information wars ahead of expected ballot initiatives. Anadarko engineer and self-appointed “faith, family, and fracking” evangelist Rebecca Olson has been busy proselytizing the gospel of fracking to an innocent and totally clueless sector of the population – teens – the majority of whom aren’t eligible to vote yet – thankfully.

I am not making this up.

Anadarko Rebecca Johnson

Anadarko engineer Rebecca Johnson preaches “faith, family and fracking” to Windsor High School students.

In Colorado’s political crosshairs, oil firms fight back
Anadarko anoints ‘brand ambassadors’ to fight off drilling bans

Windsor High School junior Kamille Hocking worried a dozen oil wells on her family’s 132-acre Colorado homestead might sicken them. Then, Rebecca Johnson, an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. engineer, used a blender in her chemistry class to show the interaction of swirling frack sand, city water and friction reducer.

“We heard a lot of stories about how it could get into the water and pollute the land,” said Hocking, who is 16. “I’m going to tell my parents that fracking fluid only makes cracks in the rock the size of a hair that the sand gets into and holds open.”

Facing 10 possible ballot initiatives restricting fracking, Anadarko has deployed 160 landmen, geologists and engineers such as Johnson to Rotary clubs, high schools and mothers groups. They demonstrate how drilling works and try to convince people that the technique and the accompanying chemicals and geological effects don’t harm the environment or public health.

These de facto ambassadors are proving effective in deflecting the effort by Colorado municipalities to gain greater control over drilling. They have been so successful that the Woodlands, Texas-based company also trained 2,000 additional employees in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Texas to answer questions posed to them by community members. The Coloradans use a smartphone app that supplies basic fracking facts. Others elsewhere get colorful printed materials …

… Johnson, who’s personal motto is “faith, family and fracking,” told students in Windsor that she’s supervised 1,000 fracks in the course of her 24-year career without harm to the environment.

“I live right here,” Johnson said when she visited the school 60 miles north of Denver this month. “My family is here. My mother-in-law graduated from your high school. She turns 80 this year. We would know if something’s wrong.”

Colorado’s pending ballot proposals seek to restrict fracking, a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is forced down a pipe to crack rock and release oil and gas …

What’s next? Hey kids! It’s the Lego Minecraft Fracking Town, includes drilling rig, a compressor station, pipelines, a tank farm, AND your very own injection well. Now with earthquake simulator!


Related news articles —

Bill requiring compensation for fracking bans dies in Colorado Legislature
Democrats kill measure in House panel party-line vote

DENVER – Democrats in the state Legislature on Wednesday killed legislation that would have required local governments to compensate mineral-rights owners in the event of a ban on hydraulic fracturing.

House Bill 1181 was sent to the controlling Democrats’ House bill committee.

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed the measure on a 5-4 party-line vote.

Similar legislation also died last year …


Proposal would make Colorado Constitution changes harder
Ease of amending document has created conflicts

DENVER – Coloradans could be asked this November to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution.

A bipartisan group has submitted ballot language stemming from a statewide listening tour, in which voters were asked their thoughts on budget and elections issues.

The Building a Better Colorado coalition underscored conflicts within the state constitution, which some attribute to how easy it is to amend.

Only 98,492 signatures are required to make the ballot, with a simple majority to pass an initiative.

Under the proposed ballot question, signatures would need to be collected in all 35 state Senate districts before they qualify for the ballot. Signatures would need to come from at least 2 percent of registered voters in each district. Once qualified, constitutional provisions would need 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Existing provisions in the constitution could be repealed by the same simple majority …


Colorado activists set their sights on a ballot measure to limit drilling
Previous attempts have been blocked and current regulations disappoint

Over the past two years, plummeting natural gas and oil prices have caused energy companies in Colorado to lay off thousands of employees, and put state and local governments in a pinch from declining tax revenue.

But if you thought this might cool the anti-fracking fever on the populated Front Range, you were wrong.

As 2016 began, two organizations filed petitions for statewide ballot measures that would allow communities to ban drilling and fracking within their boundaries, or effectively prohibit new drilling by greatly expanding setbacks between development and homes or other buildings. Activists are unhappy with state-level efforts to regulate the industry, and there’s enough new drilling along the populated and oil-rich area north of Denver to portend a new boom, should prices recover.

“There’s no foot coming off the gas,” says Merrilly Mazza, a councilwoman in Lafayette, near Boulder, and president of the Colorado Community Rights Network …


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2 Comments on “Activists weigh ballot initiatives”

  1. Mark Richardson Says:

    Personally I like all three of the remaining proposed ballot issues, though #75 and $78 would help Colorado’s people, towns, and cities protect themselves the most in my opinion. A 2500-foot setback would protect homes, businesses, and schools, and in my opinion is the most-important of the three issues.

    While giving local government the authority to ban O & G or even coal-mining activity within town boundaries would solve a lot of today’s problems with State control, it would also open towns and cities up to lawsuits over mineral recovery issues too, which many of our cities and towns ill-funded to go against taxpayer-supported mineral companies.

    So when do we start offering petitions? Also, is there any way to guarantee that petition ownership can’t be bought-out at the last minute like two years ago? Perhaps an entire group of people should all be petition owners so that one individual can’t be bought as happened last time.

  2. Bob Winkler Says:

    When will we be invited to debate the slanted opinions the industry is preaching to our young people. I thought in a free society we were able to challenge the lies being spread.

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