Nov. 07–Proposition 112, the initiative that would dramatically increase oil and gas drilling setback distances from homes, businesses and waterways, was behind 58 percent to 42 percent in the first returns Tuesday evening.
Amendment 74, which would allow property owners to seek compensation from government any time a government action or regulation devalues a person’s property, was trailing 53 percent to 47 percent. The amendment must receive 55 percent of the vote to pass.
Results are still very preliminary with many votes still to be tabulated
Proposition 112 has proved to be one of the most contentious — and expensive — issues to hit Colorado ballots in recent memory.
Proponents of the setback measure say that the health risks of being exposed to a heavily industrialized activity like hydraulic fracturing are too high under the current distances set by the state — 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. They cite methane and cancer-causing benzene as just two of dozens of potentially harmful compounds associated with oil and gas activity.
The industry disputes the health impacts of drilling and fracking and claims that a 2,500-foot setback around every building and waterway in Colorado will relegate new drilling to such limited swaths of land that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues forfeited.
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has said that the backers of Proposition 112 ultimately want to ban new extraction efforts in the state.
“I think this setback distance was meant to eliminate oil and gas operations altogether,” Haley said in September.
Backers of 112 question how severely oil and gas companies will be deprived of access to underground minerals should the measure pass, especially given the lateral reach that horizontal drilling provides nowadays. In turn, they say the industry is exaggerating economic hardship claims to curry favor with voters.
“I don’t think you can take their economic claims seriously,” said Russell Mendell, a campaign director with Boulder-based Earth Guardians.
The dispute about the amount of minerals that would be rendered off-limits by Proposition 112 continued last week in a flurry of competing reports, claims, counterclaims, assertions and denials about the percentage of subterranean deposits that would be impacted by the measure.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot is Amendment 74, which many politics watchers believe the oil and gas industry supported as a strategic counterpunch to Proposition 112.
The amendment, which would allow private property owners to file takings claims in the event a government action or regulation devalues their property, has been lambasted by high-profile politicians on both sides of the aisle as a reckless initiative that would degrade local governments’ land-use authority and result in billions of dollars of litigation from property owners seeking compensation.
While Amendment 74 was officially put forward by the Colorado Farm Bureau, the oil- and gas-funded Protect Colorado issue committee has poured millions of dollars into selling the measure to voters. And COGA has praised the amendment as “a good-government measure that strengthens rules to prevent both property takings and property damages.”
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