Nov. 07–Proposition 112, the initiative that would dramatically increase oil and gas drilling setbacks from homes, businesses and waterways, was decisively defeated Tuesday night following a contentious campaign in which the industry spent tens of millions of dollars to derail the measure.
As of 10 p.m., the measure was losing by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin with more than 75 percent of the vote tallied, according to the Associated Press.
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 also facing defeat, trailing 54 percent to 46 percent. The amendment needed 55 percent of the vote to become law.
Both measures had tallied more than 1.7 million votes each.
Proposition 112 opponents, led by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, claimed victory Tuesday with a statement that thanked Coloradans who “stood with the energy sector to oppose this measure.”
“I want every Coloradan to know that we are committed to developing our resources in a responsible manner that protects the environment and keeps our employees and communities healthy and safe,” COGA president and CEO Dan Haley said.
But Kelly Nordini, executive director with Conservation Colorado, said the defeat of Prop 112 doesn’t mean that “voters want an oil and gas rig closer to their homes, schools, or hospitals.”
“Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure by fear-mongering about jobs,” she said. “The fact remains (that) the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved.”
Russell Mendell, who is with the pro-112 group Colorado Rising, said no matter the final result, “we are continuing the momentum” in being a check on the fossil fuel industry in the state.
“I think it really expands what is possible across the state and the nation to take back our rights, heath and safety from corporations, and from this very dangerous practice,” he said.
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 said 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 cited methane and cancer-causing benzene as just two of dozens of potentially harmful compounds associated with oil and gas activity.
Their measure proposed a 2,500-foot setback for new oil and gas development.
The industry disputed the health impacts of drilling and fracking and claimed that the larger setback around every building and waterway in Colorado would 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. Haley said that the advocates of Proposition 112 ultimately wanted to ban new extraction efforts in the state.
But Backers of 112 questioned how severely oil and gas companies would be deprived of access to underground minerals should the measure pass, especially given the lateral reach that horizontal drilling provides nowadays. In turn, they said the industry is exaggerating economic hardship claims to curry favor with voters.
The dispute about the amount of minerals that would be rendered off-limits by Proposition 112 continued right up to last week in a flurry of competing reports, claims, counterclaims, assertions and denials about the percentage of subterranean deposits that would be impacted.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot was Amendment 74, which many politics watchers believe the oil and gas industry supported as a strategic counter punch to Proposition 112.
The amendment, which would have allowed 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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