Hickenlooper and Polis Reach Drilling Compromise, 4 Ballot Measures Dropped

Representative Jared Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper have come to an agreement that will result in four of the fracking-related initiatives being dropped from the November state-wide ballot. This includes initiatives 88 and 89, which would have increased setback limits and allowed municipalities to ban fracking.

As part of the compromise, Hickenlooper proposed that “an 18-person blue-ribbon task force will examine the issue of local control of drilling over the next six to nine months and to come up with recommendations for the Legislature to pass,” according to the Denver Business Journal.

Polis views the most recent agreement as a win for Coloradoans seeking more control over drilling in their communities. From the LA Times: “’For the first time, citizens will be on equal footing to the oil and gas industry, and able to negotiate directly for regulations that protect property rights, homes values, clean water, and air quality,’ Polis said in his statement. ‘I am pleased that we were able to come together, and today’s agreement is meaningful progress toward sensible fracking regulations.’”

The announcement comes after Hickenlooper failed to gather enough support for a special session aimed at creating oil and gas legislation that would head off any state-wide measures included on the ballot in November.

In response to Polis and Hickenlooper’s agreement, Representative Frank McNulty and Representative Jerry Sonnenberg announced that they would stop collecting signatures for Initiative 121, a pro-drilling measure that would have prohibited localities who instituted fracking bans from receiving state severance-tax revenue.

Similarly, businessmanPat Hamill withdrew support of Initiative 137, which would have required a fiscal impact estimate for all state ballot initiative proposals.

Although Polis financially backed Initiatives 88 and 89, political pressure may have played a role in his compromise with Hickenlooper. The Associated Press reports that “Polis’ involvement in the initiatives also raised concern in his party that taking the issue to voters would negatively impact Democrats in November by increasing fundraising for Republicans who generally support oil and gas development and possibly boosting GOP turnout.”

Colorado Public Radio reports that “U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who opposed the ballot measures, released a statement Monday congratulating Hickenlooper and Polis. ‘This deal — which averts a divisive and counterproductive ballot fight over one-size-fits-all restrictions — is welcome news and underscores how all of Colorado benefits when we find common ground,’ Udall said.”

Meanwhile, many environmentalist groups view the compromise as a setback in the fight to regulate drilling in Colorado.

“This deal does nothing for the Broomfield residents who voted last November to get more information on the health and property impacts of fracking. It will not protect us. We are severely disappointed that politics are being played with families and our lives,” said Laura Fronckiewicz with Our Broomfield to KUNC.