Colorado governor doubts fracturing ballot success

OREANDA-NEWS. August 29, 2016. Colorado initiatives aimed at restricting hydraulic fracturing are not likely to make the ballot in November, governor John Hickenlooper said.

Environmental group activists on 8 August submitted signatures to Colorado's secretary of state to place two initiatives on the ballot. One of them would allow local governments to limit or prohibit oil and gas development within their borders. The second would change the state's constitution so that new oil and gas wells have to be located nearly 0.5 mile (800m) away from any occupied structure.

"Neither of those two initiatives are going to have the signatures," Hickenlooper said yesterday at the Rocky Mountain Energy summit hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in Denver. "I do not think either of them is going to be on the ballot."

Each measure needs to have 98,492 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The coalition of activists behind the initiative, called Yes for Health and Safety, was not immediately available to comment. But it said earlier this month it submitted about 100,000 signatures for each initiative.

The secretary of state has until 8 September to review the signatures and determine whether the measures will appear on the ballot on 8 November. That conclusion is expected next week, the office of the secretary of state said.

The campaign for the oil and gas measures was "not very professionally run," industry group Western Energy Alliance government affairs head Kathleen Sgamma said.

The governor's statement is a welcome news to the industry, which opposed both initiatives. The minimum setback requirement would place 90pc of Colorado off limits to exploration, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association said.

Colorado crude production reached a record 327,000 b/d last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration, up from 90,000 b/d in 2010. Marketed natural gas output in the same period increased by 11pc, to 4.6 Bcf/d (130mn m?/d) in 2015.

A boom in oil production and rising gas output has contributed to an increase in economic activity in Colorado. But the industry still has to struggle to win broader public acceptance of hydraulic fracturing, a key technology behind shale exploration.

"I think you need honest actors on both sides of the issue, people who are willing to be transparent and listen to the other side," Hickenlooper said. He attributed the predicted lack of success by the environmental activists in placing the anti-fracturing measures on the ballot to the "efforts put in by both sides to sit and listen to each other."

Concerns about a cleaner environment have to be weighed against private property rights, job creation and keeping energy inexpensive, Hickenlooper said. "There has got to be a balance in our conclusions and if we do that well enough, then we avoid these gigantic battles at the ballot."