Tuesday, 19 Oct 2021

Colorado Rising ends efforts to get oil, gas well setbacks on November ballot, citing disruptions due to pandemic

Colorado Rising, the group behind a 2018 failed effort to mandate 2,500-foot buffers around new oil and gas wells, is ending a campaign to get similar measures on the ballot this year.

The environmental organization’s board of directors sent a letter to supporters Wednesday saying that the stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus made it impossible to physically collect signatures. The restrictions were imposed just as the organization was getting gearing up for fundraising, according to the letter.

“More importantly, we were not willing to ask any volunteer or paid signature gathers to put their lives on the line to collect signatures,” said the letter signed by Tricia Olson, board chairperson.

Five of the five initiatives proposed for this November’s statewide ballot would have mandated that new oil and gas wells be at least 2,000 feet to 2,500 feet from occupied buildings, waterways and other sensitive areas. A sixth proposal would have dramatically increased the bonds companies must pay to ensure well sites are properly shut down and cleaned up.

In 2018, Colorado voters rejected Proposition 112, a measure promoted by Colorado Rising that would have required new wells be at least 2,500 feet from buildings, waterways and other areas.

Joe Salazar, Colorado Rising’s executive director, said he “was totally disappointed” about ending the initiative campaign.

“But we recognize that there are some things you just can’t control, and Mother Nature is one of them,” Salazar said. “It’s responsible to remove ourselves from this so we don’t get anybody sick.”

The group would have had to collect more than 124,000 valid signatures from registered voters to win a spot on the ballot for each proposal.

Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order in May authorizing the secretary of state to create temporary rules allowing signatures for ballot issues to be collected by mail or email due to concerns about the coronavirus. A coalition of business leaders has sued, saying the governor doesn’t have the authority to change how signatures are collected because the requirements are set by the state Constitution.

The rules require that signatures be gathered in person and notarized.

Salazar said even if the court upholds the governor’s executive order, there likely wouldn’t be enough time to collect all the signatures. He said Colorado Rising will stay involved with the development of new oil and gas rules mandated by Senate Bill 181, approved by the legislature in 2019.

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