In slightly more than three weeks, advocates of a measure to expand the distance between where new oil and gas wells can be drilled and the nearest residential home will know if their effort will make it to the November ballot.
More than 171,000 people in the last several weeks signed a petition spirited by a group called Colorado Rising calling for a significant buffer zone expansion between any new wells and houses, playgrounds, schools, and hospitals.
Currently, Colorado law limits that space to 500 feet. But what is officially called Initiative 97 would expand that distance to 2,500 feet.
The idea has sparked the vigorous opposition of Colorado’s oil and gas industry.
A response group representing those interests, called Protect Colorado, is contending that if the proposal makes it to the November ballot and is then passed, it would result in the loss of more than $10 billion in annual revenues from the industry that goes to local governments and schools in the state.
In its website, Protect Colorado argues that Initiative 97 would tell “private property owners what they can and cannot do with their own land.”
The same group has said that a successful Initiative 97 would end up banning drilling in more than half of the state.
Just the prospect of the initiative passing, according to the Denver Business Journal, has depressed the price of stocks for three exploration companies operating in Colorado by anywhere from 9 to 10 percent.
Although an earlier petition effort in 2016 failed for a lack of signatures, the petition to put Initiative 97 on the Colorado ballot has secured roughly 72,000 more signatures than the minimal amount required.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is expected to announce by September 6 how many of those signatures are valid, in effect deciding whether or not the initiative would be on this November’s ballot.
By Garry Boulard
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