Colorado Right to Local Self-Government Amendment (2014)

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The Colorado Right to Local Self-Government Amendment did not make the November 4, 2014 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would have declared that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities, including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights. It also would have declared that such local laws were not subject to preemption by any federal, state or international laws.[1][2]

The measure would have granted local governments the power to ban the practice of extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.[3] In 2013, there was talk of a measure, supported by the group Protect Our Colorado, that sought to ban fracking statewide.[4] The 2014 form of the measure was sponsored by the Colorado Community Rights Network.[3]

The measure would have amended Article II of the Colorado Constitution by adding a section to it.

Background

See Fracking in Colorado for a full explanation of how fracking is affecting that state.

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.[5]

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.[6] They further contend that fracking significantly increases domestic oil output and could eventually lead the United States to energy independence.[7]

In 2013, local ballot measures in four Colorado cities sought to put a moratorium on fracking. All four got the green light from voters.[8] 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.[9] Naturally seeping oil was found by settlers in Colorado as far back as 1876.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13][14][15]

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.[16][17] 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.[18]


Local lawsuits

Broomfield

On November 5, 2013, voters in the consolidated city and county of Broomfield, Colorado, approved Question 300, which prohibited fracking for five years. A recount was held because the election results were so close. The recount upheld the original results, revealing the measure was approved by a margin of only 20 votes. 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 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 monitors during the ballot counting process.[19] The lawsuit 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, upholding the enactment of Question 300.[20][21]

Longmont

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.[22][23]


Text of measure

The exact text was being debated until May 22, 2014. The Ballot Title Setting Board set the title for this measure on April 2, 2014, but the proponents appealed this ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court. The ruling on May 22, 2014 confirmed the board's action.[24]

Ballot title

If the measure had gathered enough signatures, the language would have appeared on the ballot as:[1]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government, and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities, including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities, and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights; and declaring that such local laws are not subject to preemption by any federal, state, or international laws?[25]

Constitutional changes

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

Support

  • Colorado Community Rights Network
  • Clifton Willmeng, primary proponent
  • Lotus (no last name), second proponent

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado & Amending the Colorado State Constitution

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. The supporters announced they would be terminating efforts for 2014 and, instead, look to a 2016 ballot placement in mid-July 2014.[26][27]

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

BP-Initials-UPDATED.png
Suggest a link

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Colorado Secretary of State, "Results for Proposed Initiative #75 Ballot Title Setting Board 2013-2014," accessed May 23, 2014
  2. Colorado Secretary of State, "Full text of proposed initiative 75," accessed May 23, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Denver Post, "Proposed ballot measure would give Colorado communities power to ban fracking," January 3, 2014
  4. Aspen Daily News, "Ballot measure on Colo. fracking ban in the works," August 17, 2013
  5. Politico Magazine, "How Fracking Could Break Colorado Democrats," April 15, 2014
  6. Frac Focus chemical disclosure website
  7. Bloomberg, "Fracking Boom Pushes U.S. Oil Output to 25-Year High," December 11, 2013
  8. National Geographic, "Results Mixed on Colorado and Ohio Fracking Ban Initiatives," November 6, 2013
  9. 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
  10. Daily Reckoning, "Oil Shale Reserves," accessed April 23, 2014
  11. 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
  12. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, "Fracking on BLM Colorado Well Sites," accessed May 9, 2014
  13. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  14. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Oil and Gas Odor and Dust Permitting," May 12, 2014
  15. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) 805 series requirement," September 28, 2009
  16. The Denver Post, "Colorado adopts tougher air rules for oil, gas industry," February 25, 2014
  17. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  18. 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
  19. Daily Camera: Broomfield News, "Broomfield fracking: Recount finds 5-year ban wins by 20 votes," December 3, 2013
  20. Broomfield News, "Broomfield election challenge going to trial Feb. 20," February 6, 2014
  21. Broomfield Daily Camera, "Judge upholds Broomfield election; fracking ban remains in effect," February 27, 2014
  22. Coloradan.com, "As Fort Collins awaits similar fracking lawsuit, Longmont racks up $69,000 in legal fees," May 2, 2013
  23. Inside Climate News, "Colorado: Judge Strikes Down Town's Fracking Ban," July 25, 2014
  24. Colorado Judicial Branch, "5-22-14 Court Order - Title Board Action Affirmed," filed May 22, 2014
  25. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  26. The Coloradoan, "Anti-fracking group calls off petition drive," July 14, 2014
  27. The Denver Post, "Community rights ballot measure pulled due to lack of signatures," July 14, 2014