Coloradans support setbacks

In the face of enormous odds and attacks from all sides, the Colorado Rising team reports an overwhelming groundswell of support from Coloradans over the past weekend. Today they delivered over 171,000 signatures for the “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” initiative to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Initiative 97 requires at least 98,462 valid signatures to make the November ballot.

In 2016, Initiative 78 for mandatory 2,500-foot setbacks between new oil & gas development and schools, playgrounds and hospitals, required about 99,000 signatures. Volunteers turned in 106,626 but the state only validated 77,109 signatures.

From now on it’s a numbers game. Secretary of State Wayne Williams will need to invalidate 72,539 signatures in order to reject Initiative 97. That’s about 42 percent, almost half. Will the state dare to deny the voice of the people?

This grassroots effort was led by more than 750 Colorado volunteers from across the state. Their passion and determination for protecting the health and well being of their families overcame a series of obstacles.

Harassment:  Volunteers in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, and Greeley have reported that paid protestors showed up with signs and shouted slogans at potential petition signers. They followed volunteers from one location to another and in some cases to their homes to record where they live. Colorado Rising volunteers were able to link text messages broadcasting locations of petition canvassers to Anadarko and Protect Colorado, a pro-industry group actively opposing Initiative 97.

Petition theft:  Direct Action Partners, one of the signature gathering companies hired by Colorado Rising, abruptly left the state last month, refused to pay over 300 employees and took approximately 15,000 signatures out of state, which were returned after the group filed a lawsuit.

Signature gathering company paid to quit:  A second company hired by Colorado Rising, Petition Connection quit last week. The company’s representative told Colorado Rising volunteers: “They’re going around and buying people.” “They” is a reference to a pro-industry group like Protect Colorado, though he didn’t name a specific company or group.

Initiative 97 creates 2500-foot buffer zones between oil and gas operations and homes and schools, water sources and playgrounds. The distance of 2500 feet — almost one-half mile — aligns with studies that show increased risk of negative health impacts within this zone. The setback distance also matches the emergency evacuation radius used by first responders when faced with explosions, fires, and toxic leaks.

In 2017 alone, there were 15 oil and gas industry fires and explosions in Colorado including the tragic Firestone home explosion that killed two men and severely burned a schoolteacher. More than 1,000 complaints have been filed in Colorado in a single year about contaminated water, inability to sleep or work due to noxious fumes and extremely loud noise, headaches, nosebleeds, asthma and other grave health impacts.

“This industry robbed me of my peace of mind of when they began construction of a 24-well pad site behind my son’s school,” said Patricia Nelson mother of a student at Bella Romero Academy and volunteer for the campaign. “They have money and power, but we have things that cannot be bought. The love for our children and our community has driven us to succeed. This has been a labor of love. We are ready to be a voice for our children and the future of Colorado.”

“Oil and gas development has exploded over the last seven years in Weld County, and I have witnessed a change in the way people view the issue,” said Therese Gilbert school teacher from Greeley. “As more people experience what it is like to have fracking happen so close to where they live — the explosions, weekly spill reports, their children getting asthma — they are now saying ‘enough is enough.’ When the frack wells started going in right behind schools, a line was crossed. The industry cannot be allowed to take risks with our children.”

“We are proud and thankful for this monumental effort by the people of Colorado to create a common sense setback from this increasingly brazen and destructive industry. We are committed to protecting our neighborhoods from this explosive and toxic industrial development that risks our children’s health and jeopardizes the safety of our homes,” said Colorado Rising President Tricia Olson.

“With nine out of eleven bills killed in our legislature and hundreds of heartbreaking testimonies given to the COGCC with no action, it’s time our citizens are heard with this ballot measure. It is long overdue, and I am pleased with the outpouring of support from so many statewide. The state has failed to protect us, so we’ve taken it into our own hands,” said Heidi Henkel, founder of Broomfield Moms Active Community.

The next hurdle Initiative 97 faces is approval from the Secretary of State. Then the November election.

Initiative 97 is a statutory, not constitutional amendment, therefore volunteers were not required to gather signatures from from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts statutory, and it will not be required to pass with a 55 percent margin, as required in Amendment 71. However as a statutory amendment, if it passes it could be vulnerable to legislative tampering.

Go to the Colorado Rising Facebook page and thank the team!

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