A push is underway in Colorado to put on this November’s ballot a question asking voters to expand the amount of space between new oil and gas development and such structures as houses, school, and hospitals.
Advocates of Initiative 97 won a preliminary victory this spring when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the language for the question was valid under state election law requirements.
But a group called Colorado Rising for Health and Safety, which is spearheading the effort, has since been tasked with trying to secure the signatures of just over 98,000 voters in order to actually get the initiative on the fall ballot.
Two years ago a similar effort also made it past the state supreme court, only to fail for a lack of signatures.
To be on the safe side, advocates of Initiative 97 say they hope to produce as many as 145,000 signatures before a mandated deadline of August 6.
As proposed, the initiative would increase the current 500-foot buffer zone that is now required between oil and gas development and any residential structure to 2,500 feet. The zone for school and hospitals, now at 1,000 feet, would also be increased to 2,500 feet.
Colorado Rising officials, contending that toxic emissions from fracking can lead to birth defects and cancer, have also noted that there have been more than a dozen oil and gas development related explosions in Colorado in just the last year alone.
Opponents of the measure, officially organized as a group called Protect Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, argue that the initiative, if passed, would mean that up to 85 percent of non-federal land would no longer be open for oil and gas development in the state.
Protect Colorado also argues that such a restriction on the amount of available land for drilling would ultimately deprive Colorado cities and towns of up to $1 billion in tax revenue they currently receive from the oil and gas industry.
Instead of expanding the buffer zone, some oil and gas industry representatives have called in the past for shortening it to 350 feet.
By Garry Boulard
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