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, a method of extracting oil and gas known as fracking. Question 300 was put on the ballot through initiative petition, with signatures gathered by the group Our Broomfield.[1][2] A lawsuit was brought against Question 300 by the Broomfield Balances Energy Coalition and was ultimately decided in favor of the city and Question 300 on February 27, 2014 by Judge Chris Melonakis of the Colorado Seventeenth Judicial District Court, upholding the enactment of Question 300.[3][4]

Election results

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.

Vote re-count

Broomfield Question 300
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 10,361 50.04%
No10,34149.96%
[5]

Text of measure

Ballot language

The question on the ballot:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

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?[1]

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" and which was, according to anti-fracking activists, prejudicial and did not reflect the intent of the initiative. Our Broomfield filed a lawsuit over the ballot language when the city, which was unyielding, claimed that they had prepared the ballot language according to the procedures given by law. The city then asked the courts to throw out the lawsuit.[6] 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.

Support

OurBoomfield.jpg

Supporters

  • Our Broomfield (Petitioner)[7]

Arguments in favor

YesOn300Broomfield2.jpg

Supporters of fracking bans argued that the fracking process allows methane gas and carcinogenic and toxic chemicals to be released into groundwater. And 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.[8]

The group Our Broomfield pointed out that the effects of fracking are not yet fully known and that a five year ban will 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

OurBroomfieldToo.png

Opponents

  • Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition (BBEC)[2]
  • It's Our Broomfield, Too[9]
  • Former state Representative Don Beezley
  • a Republican, and former RTD board member Lee Kemp, who last year ran for state Senate as a Democrat

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 are trying to reach moderation by endorsing a "no" vote on Question 300, but by also 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 reportedly strict environmental and regulatory restrictions on any drilling within city limits.[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.

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 alleges that a ban may infringe on the property rights of the oil and gas companies. 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.

The group turned in 3,382 signatures to the city clerk, who required only 2,082 valid signatures 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."[10]

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 is the main plaintiff in the new court case against the city and county of Broomfield, alleging in Broomfield District Court that the elections division failed to provide the proper BBEC election monotors during the ballot counting process. This lawsuit was ultimately decided in favor of the city and Question 300 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, the method of extracting oil and gas known as fracking. The measure was approved by nearly 60% of voters. Two lawsuits were filed against Longmont over this ban. The most recent was initiated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and was recently joined by the state's Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. 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.[11]

Similar measures

Local

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative

Statewide

See also

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