Ballot fight over fracking could be shaping up in Colorado

Colorado has plenty of advocates on opposite ends of the argument, but "also a very sizable middle ground, people who are willing to talk through it," said Christopher Weible, an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs who studies fracking policy debates. "Maybe it's a thing about Colorado, maybe we have a lot of pride in our natural resources and how we can get along."

DENVER | Environmentalists and the energy industry have fought decisive battles over fracking in New York, Oklahoma and Texas, but the outcome is unclear in Colorado, where the issue could go to a ballot fight in the 2016 election.

A task force convened by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper tried to find a compromise over who should regulate the industry — the state or local government — and to what extent. But fracking critics were bitterly disappointed when the panel suggested leaving regulatory power in state hands and avoided recommending specific health, environmental and safety rules.

“I think the fossil fuels industry won,” said Karen Dike, a member of Coloradans Against Fracking.

Fracking Colorado

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, an activist waves a placard calling for the ban of fracking during a news conference outside the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Environmentalists and the energy industry have fought decisive battles over fracking in New York, Oklahoma and Texas, but the outcome is unclear in Colorado, where the issue could go to a ballot fight in the 2015 general election. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Karen Dike

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, Karen Dike, center, a nurse from Longmont, Colo., talks to anti-fracking activists outside the Colorado Convention Center, in Denver. Environmentalists and the energy industry have fought decisive battles over fracking in New York, Oklahoma and Texas, but the outcome is unclear in Colorado, where the issue could go to a ballot fight in the 2015 general election. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Fracking Colorado

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, a protester holds up a placard bearing the likeness of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper outside the meeting of the Oil and Gas Task Force to put the final touches on recommendations for Hickenlooper to consider in the settlement of disputes over oil and gas drilling in Denver. Environmentalists and the energy industry have fought decisive battles over fracking in New York, Oklahoma and Texas, but the outcome is unclear in Colorado, where the issue could go to a ballot fight in the 2015 general election. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.

Dike and others won’t say whether they plan to put measures that would restrict fracking on the 2016 ballot, but they don’t rule it out.

Frank McNulty, a Republican former state lawmaker who sponsored a pro-industry ballot measure in 2014, expects fracking opponents to turn to voters next year.

“I don’t think that it’s settled,” he said.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, injects water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to crack open underground formations and make it easier to recover oil and gas. The industry says it’s safe.

Opponents won a significant victory in New York, where regulators formalized a statewide fracking ban on June 29, citing environmental and public health risks.

In May, the industry prevailed in Texas and Oklahoma, where new state laws prevent local governments from banning fracking.

Colorado hasn’t imposed sweeping measures favoring either side, in part because of a nearly even three-way electoral split among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.

Colorado has plenty of advocates on opposite ends of the argument, but “also a very sizable middle ground, people who are willing to talk through it,” said Christopher Weible, an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs who studies fracking policy debates. “Maybe it’s a thing about Colorado, maybe we have a lot of pride in our natural resources and how we can get along.”

Hickenlooper, a Democrat and an energy industry supporter, formed the task force last year. Competing ballot issues on fracking threatened to draw a wave of conservative voters and campaign donations into the 2014 election, so Hickenlooper negotiated a truce: Both sides withdrew their ballot issues and the task force went to work.

After five months of meetings, the panel suggested giving local governments a consulting role but not the power to set their own oil and gas rules. The task force rejected proposals to require disclosure of all the chemicals used in fracking and to give surface property owners more leverage if someone else owns the minerals under their land and wants to drill.

Hickenlooper praised the recommendations, but Democratic congressman Jared Polis, who favors more restrictions, was disappointed. Polis supported ballot issues in 2014 that would have given local governments more control and required new wells to be at least 2,000 feet from houses, but withdrew them in the truce.

Polis said fracking could be on the 2016 ballot if state officials don’t further regulate the industry. He stopped short of saying whether he would organize the effort, but he wants lawmakers and regulators to adopt three proposals that weren’t formally recommended by the task force.

One would let local governments impose stricter rules than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating drilling statewide. Another would change the commission’s role from facilitating oil and gas development to simply regulating it. The third would set up a panel to resolve disputes between energy companies and local governments or property owners before they land in court.

If opponents try to limit fracking in 2016, McNulty said he’ll fight them. He co-sponsored a 2014 ballot issue to deny oil and gas tax revenues to local governments that ban drilling, but withdrew it as part of Hickenlooper’s compromise.

Colorado already has some of the toughest energy regulations in the country, said Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group.

“We choose to work together with communities to find solutions for concerned citizens, and not to worry about the activists who just want to put industry families on the unemployment line,” he said.

  • KevinPTatom

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  • GaryMKingery

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  • gofastgo

    Why work? Why pay taxes? Why be bothered with those issues? Why do something you don’t care to do? Why do anything at all? Ban everything but dope and free stuff!

    • Just Say NO

      Druggie moron.

  • disqus_Nc13bJ8iDr

    From the ariticle’s chair of COGA>“We choose to work together with communities…” BS! They worked to kill Aurora’s easy-to-fulfill mitigation measures of landscaping and fencing around wellpads. And they worked to kill the reasonable equipment height lmits that were in effect PRIOR to drilling. And, they ignored common industry safety reviews that would have pointed out the risk of a wellpad fire, such as occured at a Conoco wellpad. The industry chooses to steamroll over the most basic local regulations, as seen in Aurora.

  • parched

    What IF the comment of Dan Haley, CEO of Colorado’s oil and gas industry association GOGA, was true? Whose regulations are stricter is an inconsequential or petty game that industry plays to sidetrack us from the important issues. The important thing is the results. Is the air around fracking, or downwind (remember how Canada’s fire polluted our air early this month),
    healthy to breathe? Is it void of VOCs that cause ozone issues affecting life and Climate Change? Does your water have the chemical signature of fracking fluid poisons and/or other chemicals, radon, and such that are pulled out of the deep earth by fracking? Is our water quality put at risk by spills and by drilling through it? Consider that we are in a Global Water
    Crisis, and ask: Is our water quantity threatened by the sale of water to the oil and gas industry, which uses it to extinction so that it can never again be safely in the planet’s water cycle? How does this effect our basic “survival kit” for life? If we poison the air and water, that puts our National Security at risk, as well as our planet Earth.

    The side-tracking technique and other tricks may be linked to the PR firm that the oil and gas industry hired – the same one that worked many years for the tobacco industry! From that alone we can logically figure that the industry is hiding a lot and that fracking and its related activities are indeed too dangerous to even regulate and must be stopped. There are no jobs at all on a dead planet. But there are jobs in the renewable, sustainable energy field! Check out the Solutions Project spearheaded by Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson – there’s a plan for each state in the USA, and plans for other countries are being worked on too. Once you change your mindset, it’s easier. The Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver has solar panels; you can get
    them too or you can invest in a solar “farm” for your own electricity! …

    • Frank2525

      What a sales job? Now I will ask question that all should be asking? Those solar panels will deteriorate with time, and need to be removed. How will you recycle them, at what expense? I have a solar guy in California who is also selling panels. I answered him one time, and he asked for owner of house. I told him I was. He immediately went into a pitch, and I interrupted him, rudely: “I am 85 years old. There is no way for me to recover the overall cost, unless you signed contract to pick up all expenses incurred? ————–My anger is based on fact. My son and wife bought a California home in Suisun City, Calif , with two panels on adjoining roof of house and garage, to keep 80 gallon water tank hot. This past year, the house and garage needed roof replaced. Panels had to be removed to do that. Cost him more to have those two panels removed, recycled, than the roof job cost. He now has a 40gallon tank, with new igniter system for gas. Anyone contemplating solar installation needs to consider the cost of removal, unless they intend to sell, before the solar quits.

      • parched

        Sounds so annoying! I have been getting calls for about a year now from sales people in India who say I have computer problems; crazy.

        Good news: A friend in the Denver area tells me that when she had her roof replaced recently — due to hail damage — her INSURANCE PAID for several solar panels (NOT damaged at all) to be removed and then put back on after the roof was completed.

        • Frank2525

          I had new roof few years ago as I stated in other postings, no damage, and those who suffered damages most were north of Colfax. But FEMA had 2 guys walking our streets asking at each door of damage, and I have record of 10 different cold calls ‘of having a guy in my area who saw damage from the sidewalk, and wanted to come and walk my roof. Really???? I suspect that is why my insurance jumped for the next year with all those who claimed damage, whether roof was or not. I saw some in near neighborhood, and shingles used in replacement not the quality I have. Also your friend now has notice at lenders (if still paying) and will be paying for that job over next few years. My roof here, had been installed in 1975, so lasted well beyond warranty years, is reason I paid entire replacement myself. No entry on my insurance policy showing a claim, so I pay the collective increase. And there was those who walked street, hanging a paper on door knobs. I also had new endless drains and down spouts with the roof job.
          I don’t want those guys walking my roof, when not wearing shoes that don’t create problems. We still have most asphalt shingles in Colorado, though some have gone to other types. .

        • Frank2525

          2nd comment; new issue. When I had my front porch built few years ago, I had the TREX material used for the flooring, instead of using plain, treated lumber. Does not need as much maintenance, painting, etc. , in future, and does not bend or warp. Smooth surface. I checked cost of that versus lumber, and about same in Colorado for either. But listing for California about 4 times higher. I suspect that was also part of the recycling cost of two panels for my son, since they feel they are cutting edge on improving the planet with clean air and water, and other so-called green energy. Yet they put in solar farms in the desert, that cooks birds as they fly over, and it kills all vegetation underneath, if there was any. We have a solar farm as part of our city, and to rent 10 panels, produces 750 watts. That is 3/4 of a kilowatt. I pay 4 cents per kilowatt for first 500, then pay 9 cents per for remainder. Of course they nail the crap out of me for the fees, taxes, reading the meter, with city, county, state, and federal getting a cut. Same for water. Used to be $1.74 per 1000 gallons. Now over $5.40 per 1000, with doubled above 9000, with attendant fees and charges. Last month I paid $38.00 for water, and over $50.00 for those charges they tacked on. Government monopoly does that.

  • Matthewbush

    Some Different Ways of on-o-r-s-e-n-i-n-e-