Colorado Environmental Rights Amendment (2014)

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The Colorado Environmental Rights Amendment did not make the November 4, 2014 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would have declared the environment as common property of all Coloradans, the conservation of the environment a fundamental value and that it should be protected and preserved for generations to come. It would have further declared that the citizens of Colorado have a right to clean air, pure water and natural and scenic values. It was known as Initiative 89.[1][2] Supporters of the measure specifically wanted to address the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, if the measure had been approved.[3] If approved, the measure would have inserted an environmental bill of rights into the state’s constitution as a way to give communities greater control of the expansion of fracking across the state.[4]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The title set by the Ballot Title Setting Board was as follows:[5]

An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado’s environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs.[6]

The ballot title and submission clause given by the Board was as follows:[5]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado’s environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs?[6]

Constitutional changes

See also: Colorado Constitution, Article II

The measure would have amended Article II of the Colorado Constitution by adding a new section to it: Section 32. The full text of the proposed section can be read here.

Background

See also: Energy policy in Colorado and Fracking in Colorado for a full explanation of how fracking is affecting that state.

Failed negotiations

Governor John Hickenlooper (D) had hoped to provide a legislative solution to the ongoing debates between environmentalists and the energy industry in Colorado. In an attempt to avoid any ballot measure on energy and related issues, Hickenlooper had been conducting negotiations in hopes of creating bipartisan legislation that would have avoided the matters going to the ballot. Draft legislation was developed that would have provided local governments with more control over oil and gas drilling including the ability to place moratoriums on such activity, but it would not have allowed them to ban fracking outright. The legislation faced opposition from several sides. The inability to ban fracking was seen as a major flaw by some groups, while industry stakeholders were reluctant to support the measure. Hickenlooper would have had to call a special legislative session in order to pass any compromise. Ultimately, no session was called, and Hickenlooper announced that the measure could not gather sufficient bipartisan support.[7][8]

Democrats across the state have worked to create a strong coalition of progressives throughout the decade prior to this measure's proposal. According to Politico, however, this coalition has become threatened as Democratic state leaders have split over fracking policy in Colorado. Had this measure appeared on the November 4, 2014, general election ballot, this potential split could have made the presence of a state-wide fracking ban on the Colorado ballot a balancing act for those who ran for office in November.[9]

Fracking in Colorado

Policypedia
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Policy and Elections
Energy policy was a major issue in Colorado. Find out more about Colorado Energy policy.

Fracking is the process of injecting fluid - mostly water and sand but with additional chemicals - into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks, releasing the oil and natural gas inside. This practice is controversial, as many of the chemicals used are alleged by opponents to be toxic or carcinogenic. Activists who are against the method argue that it releases methane and harmful chemicals into nearby ground water. However, supporters of the process argue that, in fact, none of the chemicals are dangerous.[10] They further contend that fracking significantly increases domestic oil output and could eventually lead the United States to energy independence.[11]

In 2013, local ballot measures in four Colorado cities sought to put a moratorium on fracking. All four got the green light from voters.[12] One of the local Colorado fracking measures was approved by such a thin margin that a recount was held. The recount upheld the original election results, showing the measure was approved 50.04 to 49.96 percent.

Fracking has been occurring in Colorado since 1969.[13] Naturally seeping oil was found by settlers in Colorado as far back as 1876.[14] In 1901 the first recorded oil well was drilled in the Pierre Shale formation. Then, in 1969, an early form of hydraulic fracturing was used near Rifle, Colorado. Massive fracking occurred in the Watternberg Gas Field beginning in 1973, and was one of the first large-scale fracking operations.[15]

Map of oil and gas permits in Colorado

The map to the right shows active oil and gas permits in Colorado as of June 1, 2014. A green dot indicates that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that oversees the oil and gas industry, has issued a permit, but does not necessarily indicate that an oil or gas well is there. The light blue areas are oil and gas basins.

When it comes to regulating fracking, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees a significant portion of oil and gas activity in Colorado because it occurs on land they manage.[16] At the state level the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) oversees the permitting and tracking for all oil and gas wells in the state. This process includes reviewing and permitting all new wells, approving reclamation of well pad areas once drilling has been completed and reviewing mechanical equipment tests. The COGCC works with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on dust and odor permitting.[17][18][19]

In Colorado, large oil and gas producers have been working with environmental groups and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to limit methane and VOC emissions. Colorado was the first state to regulate methane emissions. These rules require companies to control or capture 95 percent of emissions. Operators have 15 days to repair methane leaks and are subject to routine inspections. These regulations are expected to cost the industry between $40 million and $100 million.[20][21] Another controversial issue in Colorado has been the distance between homes, schools and other buildings and oil and gas wells. Before 2013 oil and gas wells were required to be 350 feet from high-density areas and 150 feet from homes. In 2013 the COGCC revised their standards and increased the setback minimum to 500 feet, although this setback can be waived.[22]


Support

Safe. Clean. Colorado. logo.png

Supporters

Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-2) were the primary supporters for this initiative.[23] They also supported another initiative to increase well setbacks.

Arguments

The Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy campaign was called "Safe. Clean. Colorado." While the two measures the group supported for 2014 ballot placement were not explicitly about fracking, the campaign clearly stated that it was concerned with the regulation of fracking through these measures. On their campaign website, they stated,

Current laws allow fracking anytime, anywhere in Colorado. Last year there were 495 spills from fracking around the state. The people of Colorado deserve a solution that protects our health and well-being.[6]

—Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, [24]

Opposition

Opponents

Arguments

Gov. Hickenlooper and the group, Coloradans for Responsible Reform, opposed this initiative and Initiative 88. They focused on the possible economic harm that could be caused by the initiatives. Hickenlooper, in particular, advocated for more negotiation and debate on the matter.[25]

Vital for Colorado, a business group, asked for Rep. Polis to withdraw his support for this initiative and another to create mandatory well setbacks of 2,000 feet. In a letter to him, the group said,

We are writing to respectfully ask that you withdraw your support for all proposed ballot initiatives that would add language to our state constitution which will overly restrict the practice of hydraulic fracturing, limit energy development in Colorado and, as a result, create devastating consequences for our state. [...] We do not believe using the serious and permanent mechanism of a constitutional amendment is an appropriate approach to regulating the energy industry.[6]

—Vital for Colorado, [25]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado

Supporters were required to gather 86,105 valid signatures by Monday, August 4, 2014, at 3:00 PM for the measure to appear on the ballot. While supporters submitted signatures by the deadline, they later withdrew the initiative following negotiations.[26] Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who opposed this and another anti-fracking measure for fear they would hurt the state economy, and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-2), a proponent and financial supporter of the anti-fracking initiatives, struck a deal that kept all fracking-related measures off the 2014 ballot. Gov. Hickenlooper agreed to create a task force to come up with an alternative to the ballot measures and address residents' concerns about fracking, while Polis agreed to speak with the group supporting the anti-fracking measures, Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, in order to keep them off the ballot. Proponents of a pro-fracking measure, the Colorado Distribution of Oil and Gas Revenue Initiative, also agreed to withdraw their measure from the ballot.[4]

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

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Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading

References

  1. Colorado Secretary of State, "2013-2014 Proposed Initiatives," accessed July 22, 2014
  2. Colorado Secretary of State, "Final text of initiative #89," accessed May 28, 2014
  3. Colorado Public Radio, "Explained: The Colo. ballot initiatives that would limit oil and gas development," July 21, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Los Angeles Times, "Deal will keep fracking battle off Colorado ballot," August 4, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Colorado Secretary of State, "Results for Proposed Initiative #89," accessed July 24, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Colorado Public Radio, "Governor shopping around oil and gas compromise bill," June 6, 2014
  8. Colorado Public Radio, "Hickenlooper gives up on compromise to avoid oil, gas ballot initiatives," July 16, 2014
  9. Politico Magazine, "How Fracking Could Break Colorado Democrats," April 15, 2014
  10. Frac Focus chemical disclosure website
  11. Bloomberg, "Fracking Boom Pushes U.S. Oil Output to 25-Year High," December 11, 2013
  12. National Geographic, "Results Mixed on Colorado and Ohio Fracking Ban Initiatives," November 6, 2013
  13. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  14. Daily Reckoning, "Oil Shale Reserves," accessed April 23, 2014
  15. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  16. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, "Fracking on BLM Colorado Well Sites," accessed May 9, 2014
  17. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  18. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Oil and Gas Odor and Dust Permitting," May 12, 2014
  19. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) 805 series requirement," September 28, 2009
  20. The Denver Post, "Colorado adopts tougher air rules for oil, gas industry," February 25, 2014
  21. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  22. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  23. Safe. Clean. Colorado., "Campaign website homepage," accessed July 3, 2014
  24. Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, "Campaign website homepage," accessed July 24, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 Denver Business Journal, "Colorado business group asks Polis to withdraw his oil and gas ballot proposals," July 22, 2014
  26. Governing, "Last-Minute Deal Keeps Fracking Measure Off Colorado Ballot," August 5, 2014