By Steve Raabe | The Denver Post via the Broomfield Enterprise
Two more ballot initiatives that could limit oil and gas drilling have been approved for gathering of petition signatures by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Initiative 88 would require new oil and gas wells to be located at least 2,000 feet from the nearest occupied structure. Current state law establishes well setbacks at 500 feet.
Initiative 92 would give local governments the authority to limit or prohibit oil and gas development within their jurisdictions. The measure proposes that if state and local laws conflict, the more restrictive laws would govern drilling.
Both initiatives would be amendments to the Colorado constitution, making them harder to overturn than statutory amendments.
Both also are backed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.
The two initiatives approved last week for signature-gathering are among 11 seeking to get on the ballot that would tighten state regulations on energy development or give more control to local governments.
To make it to the ballot, backers must gather at least 86,105 valid signatures for each initiative. Backers have said they will gather signatures for one local-control measure and one setback measure.
Initiative 75, one of the most sweeping measures that would give local governments authority over oil and gas drilling or any other types of businesses, received the go-ahead for petitions last month.
Business groups are fighting the measures, saying they could have severe repercussions on the economy. Among the opponents is Coloradans for Responsible Reform, or CFRR, a coalition of business advocates.
“These bans are job killers and CFRR is preparing to aggressively fight them,” said Dan Hopkins, a spokesman for the group.
Backers of the initiatives contend that cities and counties are best suited to regulate oil and gas drilling, taking into account local impacts that are not addressed in state laws.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is working to build support for compromise legislation that would head off the ballot initiatives.Polis has said that if compromise legislation can be passed he would withdraw support for the ballot measures.
Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, which is promoting the initiatives, has received $1.45 million from a Polis-backed group Coloradans for Local Control.
The draft bill would give local governments the ability to negotiate setbacks beyond the state requirement, inspect local oil and gas operations and adopt health and safety rules more stringent than state requirements.
It would also limit the time a local government can take in evaluating a permit, reinforce the right of oil and gas companies to access their reserves and limit the use of moratoriums to stop drilling.
“I personally would love to see the legislature go much further than the proposed draft that is being circulated by the Governor’s office,” Polis said in a statement.
“Despite the draft not being perfect, I stand ready and willing to support the compromise and I appreciate all the work that has been done to craft this bill,” Polis said. “My constituents need relief now and local control is the best solution.”