Broomfield Five Year Fracking Suspension, Question 300 (November 2013)

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A Broomfield Five Year Fracking Suspension, Question 300 ballot question was on the November 5, 2013 election ballot for voters in the consolidated city and county of Broomfield, Colorado. It was approved, with a final vote re-count margin of only 20 votes.

This measure put a clause in the charter of Broomfield establishing a five year prohibition on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method of extracting oil and gas. Question 300 was put on the ballot through an initiative petition, with signatures gathered by the group Our Broomfield.[1][2] A lawsuit attempting to invalidate Question 300 through questioning the process used to count the election results was filed by the Broomfield Balances Energy Coalition and was ultimately decided in favor of the city and county elections offices and Question 300 supporters on February 27, 2014, by Judge Chris Melonakis of the Colorado Seventeenth Judicial District Court, thereby upholding the enactment of Question 300.[3][4]

Election results

Vote re-count

The following election results are from the recount of ballots that followed the extremely narrow victory of Question 300:[5]

Broomfield Question 300
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 10,361 50.04%
No10,34149.96%


Original vote count

Broomfield Question 300
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 10,350 50.04%
No10,33349.96%
These final, official results are from the Broomfield City and County elections office (dead link).

Text of measure

Ballot language

The question on the ballot:[1]

Question 300: Shall Broomfield's Home Rule Charter be amended for five years so as to prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City and County of Broomfield and to prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process?[6]

Controversy

The original ballot language proposed by the petitioning group Our Broomfield was rejected by the city council and replaced by a ballot question that did not mention "public health and safety." The anti-fracking activists who supported Question 300 saw the city council's ballot question as prejudicial and claimed it did not reflect the intent of the initiative. Our Broomfield filed a lawsuit over the ballot language when unyielding city officials claimed they had prepared the ballot language according to the procedures given by law. The city asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit without a hearing. In Broomfield District Court, Judge Patrick Murphy asked the two sides to attend a mediation and attempt to resolve their differences outside of the court room. Lawyers from the city and from Our Broomfield wrote up language that was acceptable to both parties. That language is displayed above.[7]

Support

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Supporters

  • Members of the group Our Broomfield were behind the initiative and collected signatures to put it on the ballot.[8]

Arguments in favor

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Supporters of fracking bans argued that the fracking process allows methane gas and carcinogenic and toxic chemicals to be released into groundwater. In general, they claimed that fracking is harmful to the nearby air and water and that citizens have a right to ban it in populated areas like cities and towns.[9]

The group Our Broomfield pointed out that the effects of fracking were not yet fully known and that the five year ban proposed by Question 300 was designed to give researchers and scientists time to study it and discover whether or not there are significant harmful effects to the air and water in areas where fracking is utilized.[2]

Opposition

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Opponents

  • Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition (BBEC)[2]
  • It's Our Broomfield Too[10]
  • Former state representative Donald Beezley (R-33)
  • Lee Kemp, a former Republican and RTD board member who ran for state Senate as a Democrat in 2013

Arguments against

Opponents of fracking bans tend to point out that no harmful effects of the controversial oil and gas drilling method have been conclusively demonstrated and that the oil and gas companies produce jobs that are important to the community.

The two groups specifically opposed to Question 300 said that they were trying to reach moderation by endorsing a "no" vote on Question 300 but supporting green energy such as solar and wind power. They also supported dialogue between the city and the oil and gas companies, as well as the resulting oil and gas drilling restrictions proposed by the city.[2]

BBEC argued that oil and gas companies are essential to the community since they create valuable jobs and tax revenue, and that banning their activity in the city would harm the economy and society.[2]

BBEC's website stated: "When discussing the need to ban fracking along the Front Range, the risks of this tried and true practice are often overstated, and the benefits are not even mentioned." The group also alleged that a ban could infringe on the property rights of the oil and gas companies, pointing out that this could potentially lead to costly lawsuits.[2]

Path to the ballot

The anti-fracking group called Our Broomfield was established when the company Sovereign decided to drill and employ fracking nearby the Prospect Ridge Academy.

Our Broomfield activists turned in 3,382 signatures to the city clerk. Only 2,082 valid signatures were required to put the initiative measure on the ballot. Jackie Houle, who volunteered her time in support of Our Broomfield, said, "Now the next step is working on educating the community and getting people out to vote."[11]

Related lawsuits

On the night before the completion of the election results recount, opponents of the ban filed a lawsuit claiming the election was not conducted properly. The Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition was the main plaintiff in the court case against the city and county of Broomfield, which alleged in Broomfield District Court that the elections division failed to allow the BBEC's election watchers the proper access during the ballot counting process. This lawsuit was ultimately decided in favor of the city and Question 300 supporters on February 27, 2014, by Judge Chris Melonakis of the Colorado Seventeenth Judicial District Court. Melonakis said in his ruling, "The steps taken (by Broomfield) were a reasonable, if imperfect attempt to insure full extension of the franchise and prevention of voter fraud."[5]

In 2012, Longmont voters approved a citizen initiated charter amendment to ban hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a contentious method of extracting oil and gas. The measure was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters. Two lawsuits were filed against Longmont over this ban. The most recent lawsuit features the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the state's Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as plaintiffs. According to a Colorado Open Records Act request, both lawsuits together had already cost the city of Longmont almost $69,000 in legal fees as of March 31, 2013. On July 24, 2014, Boulder District Court Judge Dolores Mallard overruled the ban, saying that the city of Longmont "does not have the authority to prohibit what the state authorizes and permits." Mallard cited Voss v. Lundvall, a 1992 court ruling that gave states, rather than cities, control over oil and gas extraction regulations and bans. Question 300, however, remains in effect, since the ruling was immediately put on hold due to an appeal by Question 300 supporters. Anti-fracking lawyers and activists have pledged to take the appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if that is what it takes. Although Mallard's ruling will be counterfeited by a ruling from a higher court, it sets in motion a process likely to result in a judicial precedent that could apply to all of the many local ballot measures that seek to ban fracking in Colorado.[12][13]


Similar measures

Local

ApprovedaOverturnedot Longmont City Fracking Ban, Question 300 (November 2012)
Approveda Broomfield Five Year Fracking Suspension, Question 300 (November 2013)
ApprovedaOverturnedot City of Lafayette "Community Rights Act" Fracking Ban Amendment, Question 300 (November 2013)
Approveda City of Boulder Five Year Fracking Suspension, Question 2H (November 2013)
Approveda City of Fort Collins Five Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 2A (November 2013)
Defeatedd City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative (June 2014)

Statewide

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Distribution of Oil and Gas Revenue Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Environmental Rights Amendment (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Mandatory Setback of Oil and Gas Wells Amendment (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Right to Local Self-Government Amendment (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)


See also

External links

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Suggest a link

Additional reading

References