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Anti-fracking ballot measures’ failure is a win for Colorado, but it’s only temporary

The announcement today by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office that Initiatives 75 and 78, two anti-energy measures targeting hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas natural resource development and endangering property rights throughout the state failed to gather sufficient signatures to make the November ballot, was certainly welcome news for us at the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center. It shows that calls to “keep it in the ground” when it comes to Colorado’s bounteous resources that are already developed in a measured and responsible way is outside the mainstream of Colorado public policy and demonstrates that Colorado voters don’t want to fall victim to misleading and flagrantly hyperbolic arguments against oil and gas disguised as “local control” initiatives.

Energy In Depth has a wrap up of today’s news, including allegations that the anti-fracking measures may have contained forged signatures.

But as we all know, the folks opposed to affordable, reliable, and responsible development of natural resources want to “keep it in the ground” and will not stop their aggressive pursuit of shutting down this vibrant sector of Colorado’s economy that provides billions in economic activity, thousands of jobs, and state and local revenue in the forms of severance, property, and other taxes, while also setting up the state to pay billions in takings to the state’s mineral rights owners.

Since at least 2012, anti-fracking activists at both the state and national level have targeted Colorado as a political petri dish to experiment with various ways in which to secure an eventual ban of all oil and gas activities within the state, up to and including an outright ban among the measures proposed this year. Our Energy Policy Center analyst Simon Lomax has been tracking the ballot measures and the activities of anti-energy activists throughout Colorado since January. Check out his weekly column archives.

The Independence Institute has led in coverage of the debate over hydraulic fracturing going back as far as 2013, and you can check out all of our work from our old Energy Blog archives. One of the first projects I worked on upon returning from DC that year were the local control ballot measures that were overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court this May.

As we know, neither the setbacks at the Colorado Supreme Court, the 2014 11th hour Hickenlooper “grand compromise” and blue ribbon commission, nor the failure at signature gathering this cycle will persuade the anti-fracking folks to cede this issue. Be prepared for more rhetoric and another round of measures in 2017/18, both at the local level and once again across the state.

Meanwhile, WildEarth Guardians have opened up a separate theater of action by filing a lawsuit targeting oil and gas leases on nearly 380,000 acres of federal lands in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado:

Today’s suit challenges the Obama Administration’s leasing of 379,950 acres of public lands to the oil and gas industry. Leasing conveys a right to companies to drill and frack as long as they want, meaning large swaths of public lands have been transformeded into major industrial sites at the expense of recreation, wildlife, and clean air and water. (Photos here.) In recent years, beloved landscapes, including Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Utah’s Red Rock Country, and archeological hotspots around New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon have all been leased for fracking.

“Americans want and expect their public lands to be managed to protect pristine air and crystal clear water, not creating smog alerts and fracking waste spills,” said Dr. Catherine Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “In addition, the health impacts from climate change — from extreme weather events to lethal heat waves — make clear we must draw the line. We can’t allow this drilling. Its climate health impacts are far too great.”

While it might be easy to sit back and relax after today’s announcement, we here at the Independence Institute know that safeguarding property rights, preserving economic growth, and providing affordable and reliable energy are keys to keeping Colorado strong.

The Energy Policy Center remains committed to keeping you informed and up-to-date, whether it’s through Simon’s weekly columns, background papers on hydraulic fracturing, or providing a forum for the exchange of ideas on the public policy aspects of the technology and oil and gas development in general.