Nov. 07–A lone pump jack pumps away during sunset in northern Fort Collins off of East County Road 58 and North County Road 11 in late January. (Davis Bonner/For The Tribune)
Proposition 112, which would have increased setbacks for new oil and gas development in Colorado, has been defeated 56.75 percent to 43.25 percent, according to preliminary results.
Amendment 74 defeated
Amendment 74, which would have required the state or local government to compensate property owners for laws or regulations reducing the property owners’ fair market value, was defeated 53.96 percent to 46.39 percent.
Weld County voters supported Amendment 74, with 54.05 percent for and 46.04 percent against.
By 9 p.m., several statewide media outlets called Proposition 112 defeated.
Stephanie Toubeaux, operations manager of oilfield trucking company Focus Energy Services in Greeley, said the proposition was a threat to her family, as well as the 16 other employees who work at the company and their families.
“We’re a part of our great community of Greeley … we take responsibility in our environmental health and our safety very seriously,” Toubeaux said. “It’s not easy for us to start an oilfield trucking company with one truck, which is what we did.”
Proposition 112 would have required all new oil and gas development to be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources and other areas designated as vulnerable, including recreation areas. Under the current setback requirements — 500 feet from homes and occupied buildings and 1,000 feet from heavily occupied buildings such as schools, health care facilities, correctional facilities, child care centers and neighborhoods with at least 22 buildings — about 8.55 percent of Weld County is off-limits to oil and gas development. Under the proposed setbacks, it’s estimated more than 78 percent of the county would have been declared off-limits.
According to a REMI study of the economic impact of the proposition, employment in the first year would have been reduced by 33,500 to 43,000 jobs. The direct loss in state and local tax revenue would have totaled between $201 million and $258 million in the first year, according to the study. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said she thought the proposition’s failure was good for the families working in the industry.
“We’re relieved and happy it’s not passing,” she said. “I think for the families, it was about their jobs.”
Proponents of Proposition 112 argued opponents overstated the economic impact of the new setbacks. On its website, Colorado Rising pointed to the 2014-15 drop in oil prices and the resulting lull in the state’s oil and gas industry. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicated the state’s overall economy continued to increase in that time, according to Colorado Rising.
Opponents pushed back against claims the increase in setbacks would reduce health risks from oil and gas production. In April, the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus conducted a study that suggested a lifetime cancer risk eight times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk threshold. Larry Wolk, then-executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement that the state has found a low risk for cancer and other health problems at distances of 500 feet and greater.
Toubeaux, who said her son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, said Proposition 112 proponents exaggerated the health risks associated with oil and gas development.
“This proposition and the supporters, they hide behind all of these false statements and accusations like that children just catch cancer like they catch the flu — knowing that there’s absolutely no evidence that supports any of this,” Toubeaux said.
Greeley Mayor John Gates, fresh out of a city council meeting, said he had yet to see the results.
“If it did fail, I think the voters got it right, in the interest of jobs and our economy,” Gates said. “The measure was really extreme.”
In Weld County, voters were far more decided than they were across the state: 75.28 percent voted against the proposition. Looking ahead, Gates said he would expect something similar to Proposition 112 to turn up.
“I hope those that would bring up something similar to 112 next time wouldn’t make it so extreme because it sounds as though the voters have spoken,” he said. “They certainly have in Weld County.”
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