Hickenlooper Abandons Special Session, Future of CO Fracking Uncertain

Last Wednesday morning Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced that he is foregoing plans to hold a special session focused on passing oil and gas regulation in an effort to head off votes on state-wide ballot measures to ban fracking this November.

“Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners, we have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session,” Hickenlooper explained in a statement released on July 16.

Congressman Jared Polis, who worked with Hickenlooper and oil and gas companies Anadarko and Noble Energy to develop the failed legislation, remains supportive of local anti-fracking ballot measures. From The Coloradoan:

“Polis said one measure he wants to include on the state’s November ballot would give local governments the power to approve or reject fracking operations without fear of reprisal from the oil and gas industry. Another measure would allow residents to decide how far fracking wells should be from their homes and businesses.

Fracking may be appropriate far from residential neighborhoods and in rural and industrial areas, but communities must have the ultimate say over whether the wells can sprout up nearby, he said.

‘It’s perfectly reasonable for residents to feel that it shouldn’t be in residential neighborhoods. That should be up to them if they want it,’ Polis said. ‘If Loveland residents want fracking, they should be able to have it. If Fort Collins residents don’t, they shouldn’t be sued.’”

Meanwhile, organizers continue to gather support for state-wide fracking restrictions in hopes that they will make an appearance on the November ballot. The North Colorado Business Report outlines one such measure:

“Initiative 89, proposes an environmental bill of rights that includes language authorizing local control of oil and gas development.

Organizers had gathered more than 42,000 signatures apiece on the petitions as of Thursday, said Mara Sheldon, spokeswoman for Coloradans for a Safe and Clean Energy, the Polis-backed group leading efforts to gather signatures. The group must gather more than 86,000 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 4 to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

‘We definitely expect to not only meet the required petition signatures, but to go over that amount,’ Sheldon said. ‘We’re seeing a tremendous amount of support in the communities.’”

Senator Mark Udall, who has been criticized by re-election opponent U.S. Representative Cory Gardner for not taking a clear stance on anti-fracking measures, released a statement shortly after Hickenlooper expressing opposition to the proposed initiatives:

“Colorado has served as a model for the nation on finding the right balance between protecting our clean air and water, the health of our communities, and safely developing our abundant energy resources. In my view, these proposed ballot initiatives do not strike that balance.”

Poling indicates that Udall-Garner race is a toss-up, and “the oil and gas issue is a fracturing one for Democrats, who often count on an environmental base. Opposition to the initiatives could put them at odds with other Democrats,” according to The Colorado Statesman.

Oil and gas companies are gearing up for a battle to defeat any potential fracking initiatives on the November ballot. The Washington Post and Bloomberg report that “Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Whiting Petroleum Corp. and Encana Corp., which are drilling in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, one of the nation’s richest oil and gas fields, said on July 16 they will spend $50 million to fight the measures. Drilling in the basin has helped make Colorado the nation’s sixth-largest natural-gas producer and ninth-biggest oil producer.”