Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a last-minute compromise that will keep initiatives 88 and 89, pushed by Congressman Jared Polis, off the November ballot. Initiative 88 would have required 2,000-foot buffers between oil and gas wells and buildings, while Initiative 89 would create a constitutional environmental bill of rights and more local control.
Polis agreed to pull his ballot measures if Reps. Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg removed initiative 121 from the ballot, which would prohibit cities and towns that have banned fracking from receiving severance tax revenue generated by oil and gas development elsewhere in the state. After a bit of posturing, McNulty and Sonnenberg agreed. Colorado Concern, a pro-business group, also agreed to pull initiative 137, which would require a petition circulated for signatures to include an initiative’s estimated fiscal impact.
Now the Governor will convene a 18-person task force to craft recommendations to reduce land-use conflicts related to the proximity of oil and natural-gas facilities near homes, schools, businesses and recreation areas. The group will make recommendations to the legislature with a two-thirds majority, or issue majority and minority opinions.
As part of the deal, Hickenlooper will ask the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to dismiss litigation challenging the City of Longmont’s ordinance banning fracking. The Governor is also prepared to enforce a setback rule that encourages oil and gas companies to locate wells 1,000 feet from buildings rather than the current 500 feet.
Kudos to Governor Hickenlooper for crafting a palatable compromise. Congressman Polis’s measures were not polling well and this, as well as pressure from the Democratic party, undoubtedly played a role in his decision to withdraw his measures from the ballot.