Two Colorado Democrats announced a deal Monday over fracking in the state, an agreement that means Rep. Jared Polis will withdraw his support of two ballot initiatives that would curb fracking in the state, while Governor John Hickenlooper will attempt to get a state oil and gas agency to abandon a lawsuit against a city in Colorado that banned fracking.
One of the ballot measures would have required drilling rigs to be located 2,000 feet or more from homes, and the other would have inserted an “environmental bill of rights” into Colorado’s constitution. Polis previously supported the measures, spending millions of dollars to help keep them afloat. The lawsuit that Hickenlooper will seek to discard involves the Colorado Oil & Gas Association suing Fort Collins and Lafayette over their fracking bans, and attempts to block the bans completely.
Instead of the two ballot initiatives, a new task force will be created that will aim to figure out how to best avoid conflicts between oil and gas drillers and existing homes and schools. It comes after months of Democrats trying to work out a compromise on the issue.
“The work of this task force will provide an alternative to ballot initiatives that, if successful, would have regulated the oil and gas industry through the rigidity of constitutional amendments and posed a significant threat to Colorado’s economy,” Hickenlooper said Monday. “This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward.”
The American Petroleum Institute, which has opposed previous attempts at a fracking deal in Colorado, told the Wall Street Journal that it supports the new task force, and called the ballot initiatives “short sighted.”
Matt Lee-Ashley, director of the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress, said that it’s not yet certain what will come of the task force.
“The success of the agreement will hinge on whether this new task force will finally give the public a more meaningful say in the energy boom that’s happening in Colorado,” he said.
Polis’ decision to drop his support of the fracking measures comes in spite of a poll that found that the measures would likely pass in the state. Sixty-four percent of poll respondents backed the initiative that limits how close drilling operations can be to homes, and 64 percent also supported the initiative that would create an environmental bill of rights. A majority of respondents supported these initiatives even after arguments against them were read.