Nov. 02–Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday suggested a special legislative session is possible to “minimize the unintended collateral damage” that could come if voters approve new limits on oil and gas drilling.
In an interview with CBS4, Hickenlooper said if Proposition 112 passes Tuesday, he’d meet with proponents of the measure, leaders in the oil and gas community and the governor-elect to decide whether a special session is required.
“These initiatives are often bare bones,” Hickenlooper said, according to CBS4. “They don’t go on 40 pages of what happens in this case or that case. You want to minimize the unintended collateral damage.”
The governor’s office said his comments should not be construed as an official announcement.
“The Governor was asked if he would call a special session if 112 passes,” Jacque Montgomery, Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman said in a statement. “He responded saying we’ll look at it closely and try and bring stakeholders together. He added that the stakeholders should be the ones who have a voice in whether you call a special session”
Still, the possibility of a special session adds a new wrinkle in one of Colorado’s hottest contests.
Proposition 112 would require all new oil and gas drilling to take place 2,500 feet away from occupied buildings and other “vulnerable” areas. Current setbacks range from 500 to 1,000 feet. Supporters of the effort argue the current limits are a health risk. Oil and gas companies, however, see the measure as an existential threat to their industry.
The governor, in the interview, suggested Proposition 112 would trigger an economic recession.
Hickenlooper and dozens of other officials — as well as both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton — have come out against the ballot question. However, some Democratic leaders, including House Majority Leader KC Becker, have endorsed the effort.
“I have not talked to Gov. Hickenlooper about the idea of a special session,” Becker said in an interview with The Denver Post. “But I think it would be inappropriate to call a special session to revise what voters have just approved. It’s a real slap in the face to voters.”
Becker said she is open to tinkering with what voters approve, but only after it’s put into effect.
There has been little public polling on Proposition 112, which the oil and gas industry has spent more than $30 million trying to defeat. An online poll conducted by the University of Colorado’sAmerican Politics Research Lab last month found the question passing by a slim margin.
Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley, who has helped lead the fight against 112, said in a statement that she welcomed the idea of special session.
“Proposition 112 would devastate Colorado’s economy to such a degree that a special session would be appropriate and needed,” she said. “We would certainly welcome the opportunity to work with the Governor’s office, lawmakers and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of this job-killing measure should it pass.”
Colorado Rising, the group behind Proposition 112, criticized the governor in its own statement, saying Hickenlooper is more worried about his donors than voters.
“To say that he will undermine the will of the voters, on behalf of special interests, all while using dramatically inflated economic stats, is a violation of the democratic process and a clear statement that Hickenlooper does not have the best interest of Coloradans in mind,” the group said.
— Denver Post reporter John Aguilar contributed
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