Initiatives Protecting Health and Safety from Fracking to Be on State Ballot
A locally-led coalition of groups have obtained enough signatures to place initiatives #75 and #78 on the November ballot, permitting Coloradans to decide on fracking.
On August 8, a grassroots coalition called Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking submitted enough signatures to place two initiatives on Colorado’s November ballot. The initiatives, #75 and #78, are designed to address shortcomings in state law and regulations around hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and natural gas.
Initiative #75: “Local Governmental Control of Oil and Gas Development,” recognizes that oil and gas development, like every other industry, should be subject to local jurisdiction. Using state rules as a foundation, the measure would give local governments a wide range of options to protect their communities and neighborhoods from the harms associated with oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing.
Initiative #78, “Mandatory Setbacks from Oil and Gas Development,” establishes a buffer zone of 2,500’ (less than ½ mile) between new oil and gas development, including fracking, and homes, hospitals, schools, and sensitive areas like playgrounds and drinking water sources. Improving on the current, arbitrary setback of 500’ from homes, a 2500’ setback takes its basis from health studies showing elevated health risk to human health within ½ mile of “fracked” wells. It also takes into account the perimeters of real-life explosion, evacuation, and burn zones.
Tricia Olson, Executive Director of Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking, said: “I am thrilled that the people of Colorado will have their voices heard. I am so so grateful to our hundreds and hundreds of Colorado volunteers and to the organizations that stepped forward.”
Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain Region Director of Food and Water Watch, said: “This is a good day for Colorado, and it’s a good day for Democracy. These initiatives will give communities political tools to fend off the oil and gas industry’s effort to convert our neighborhoods to industrial sites. This is a significant moment in the national movement to stem the tide of fracking and natural gas.”
The coalition that gathered the signatures was led by local anti-fracking and health and safety organizations running on a relatively small budget and using mostly volunteer petitioners. The Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking campaign stood against an unprecedented counter-campaign mounted by the oil and gas industry–and led by Texas-based company Anadarko–that has poured tens of millions of dollars into Colorado in recent years.
Maria Orms of North Metro Neighbors for Safe Energy, said: “This is what a true grassroots campaign looks like. It’s moms and dads, grandparents taking action to protect all that we hold dear. The oil and gas industry thought it could silence us by spending millions on advertising, but our state is not for sale.”
During signature gathering alone, the industry spent millions of dollars in its campaign “Decline to Sign,” which was perpetrated by various front groups and PR firms to promote the appearance that it was Colorado-based. The unprecedented campaign produced a deluge of industry advertisements in radio, television, and print. In the final weeks, men hired by front groups for as much as $25/hour took to the streets to harass and intimidate petitioners and to keep interested parties from signing petitions.
Once the petitions are confirmed by the state’s auditing process, a new round of campaigning is expected, with the coalition continuing to build support throughout the state.
Therese Gilbert of Weld Air and Water, said: “Thousands of Weld County residents signed because they have first-hand experience of what it’s like to have toxic fracking wells in their backyards. Farmers signed. Oil workers signed. Republicans signed and Democrats signed. This is a non-partisan issue because it is a health and safety issue. Our elected officials have not listened to our concerns, and more and more families across Colorado are now having to fight industrial fracking sites going in right next to their children’s schools. ”
Jeanette Pidanick of North Metro Neighbors for Safe Energy, said: “The failure of the state to protect our health and safety has forced the people to take matters into their own hands.”
Once the petitions are confirmed by the state’s auditing process, the coalition will build on its existing support throughout the state to get the backing of Colorado voters in November.
Check out the great photos with this Denver Business Journal article.
Supporters of ballot proposals to curb oil and gas operations in Colorado delivered thousands of petition signatures to Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office by Monday’s deadline, potentially kicking off a multimillion-dollar campaign fight over the fate of the industry in the state.
Initiatives Nos. 75 and 78 would change Colorado’s constitution to make it harder to drill for oil and gas in the state.
Supporters needed to gather at least 98,492 valid signatures and deliver them to Williams’ office no later than 3 p.m. Monday.
They showed up at 2:30 p.m. carrying boxes from a U-Haul truck parked on the street in a last-minute charge through the lobby and up the escalator at 1700 Broadway in downtown Denver, where Williams’ office is on the second floor.
The organizers said they collected “over 100,000” signatures in support of each of the ballot petitions, but said they couldn’t be more precise about the final tally because they were still collecting signatures Monday morning.
“We were using every last minute that we had,” said Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food & Water Watch, which has supported the petition effort.
Petrie said the petition gatherers were “hopeful” that both Nos. 75 and 78 will get on the November ballot.
It could be days — even weeks — before it’s known whether the proposals will be on the ballot voters receive this fall.
Williams’ office first will do an initial count of the petitions turned in and the signature lines filled in. If that initial count falls below 88,643 signatures, or 90 percent of the requirement, the initiative will be barred from the ballot for insufficient signatures under the office’s rules.
Under the rules, if the initial tally is above 108,342 signature lines filled in, or 110 percent of the requirement, Williams’ staff then takes a close look at a 5 percent, random sampling of the signatures. His office has 30 days, or until Sept. 7, to announce whether there are enough valid signatures on the petitions.
If the tally falls between 88,643 and 108,342, then Williams’ staffers must go line by line counting each signatures to get a final tally of the number delivered on Monday.
A general rule of thumb among people who have worked on ballot campaigns over the years is that supporters should gather and turn in at least 140,000 signatures in order to comfortably clear the signature validation requirements.
Opponents of the proposals — who raised more than $13.4 million to fight the initiatives through the end of July — also could challenge the petitions in court …