What would an anti-fracking statewide amendment look like

(Sponsored Energy Section)

A ballot initiative filed with the state’s Title Board – the first step in getting a measure onto the state ballot – has economic leaders throughout Colorado particularly concerned about the potentially crippling economic consequences it would bring.

One such measure seeks to amend the state’s Constitution to give municipalities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community, to prevent such rights and powers from usurping or otherwise conflicting with the fundamental rights of people, their communities and the natural environment.”

Tamra Ward, the president and CEO of Colorado Concern, a pro-business alliance of top executives and civic leaders, has called the proposed measure “detrimental to Colorado’s ability to sustain business growth packaged innocuously as a right to local control.”

“While it is our belief this is a veiled attempt to end the energy industry’s use of hydraulic fracking as a means of extraction, the measure very specifically puts any for-profit business in its crosshairs,” she said.

Ward co-authored a guest column that appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of the Denver Post, outlining the adverse impact the measure would have on the state. The other co-authors were Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; and John Brackney, president and CEO of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.

“Stifling energy exploration and eliminating family-sustaining jobs – through a statewide patchwork of local statutes – is the aim of a new initiative that Colorado voters could see as early as this November,” the authors pointed out. “It’s important to sound the alarm bells early and often about this proposal, which is fraught with problems.

“The proposed measure would give local governments the power  –  without limitation,” they added.

“That’s a huge net that could snare thousands of responsible, productive and law-abiding businesses employing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans,” they continued. “Frankly, we aren’t even sure the drafters of this ballot issue understand its ramifications. Such a law could place regulation of air quality, water quality, rules of the road and anything else related to our “natural environment” in the hands of local government.”

Citing an economic study by the CU Leeds School of Business, Colorado Concern makes the case for oil and gas regulation that ensures environmental protections that don’t stifle economic development. Among the points:

•    More than 111,000 Colorado jobs are supported by the oil and gas development. More than $29 billion in economic activity and almost $1.6 billion in public revenue were contributed by the oil and gas industry to the state of Colorado. This $1.6 billion represents 16 percent of Colorado’s general fund, or $817 per household in taxes.

•    Colorado is a recognized national leader in energy regulation. In 2008, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission overhauled its existing regulations, adding 14 new rules and amending 66 others, to make Colorado the leader in having the most comprehensive and strongest rules in the nation. In late 2011, COGCC passed a new rule requiring operators to disclose chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process to FracFocus, a nationwide online database.

•    In 2013, COGCC passed a statewide baseline monitoring groundwater rule, the
    first of its kind, which required pre- and post-testing around well sites. Additionally, it passed an expanded well-setback rule, which increased the buffer zone required around buildings and homes, and mandated more communication from operators before they drill.

    The COGCC, the state entity charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, has taken steps to increase the breadth of its representation in an effort to include all interests, as it has increased the number of commission members from seven to nine.