Fractious issue of fracking may reach voters
DENVER — One way or another, Colorado voters could be voting on a measure restricting the use of hydraulic fracturing in the state.
While Gov. John Hickenlooper and some members of the Colorado Legislature struggle with trying to introduce some compromising referendum in the waning days of this year’s session, nearly two dozen citizen initiatives await approval that could strictly limit or even ban the practice.
Hickenlooper, who long has said he opposes any outright ban on fracking, said he’s been working with both sides of the issue, adding that there’s still only a 50-50 chance a compromise will reach the Legislature before it ends this year’s session on Wednesday.
“Whether it’s local government or state government, I don’t think government should come in and snatch somebody’s property,” the governor said of a ban.
“At the same time, there’s clear sentiment across the state that communities want a stronger voice in negotiating circumstances by which someone gets access to those minerals.”
Opponents of the idea aren’t waiting for the Legislature to act.
A large coalition of well-known Democrats and Republicans has already formed an issue committee to fight any ban or restriction on fracturing, which is the now-controversial practice of pumping water and chemicals into the ground to loosen formations to help release natural gas deposits.
That group, Coloradans for Responsible Reform, says the effort to ban fracking isn’t taking into account several factors, not the least of which is that there is little evidence that fracking, which has been used in Colorado for decades, has posed any health risk.
Additionally, banning it would devastate the state’s economy, causing the loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues, they said.
Members of the coalition say those anti-fracking groups don’t really care about Colorado’s economy or any potential health aspects here. Several are out-of-state environmentalists who merely want to end the use of fossil fuels, they say.
“These new proposals have nothing to do with local control, but are actually all about shutting down any business someone may not like,” said Greeley Mayor Tom Norton, a former Republican president of the Colorado Senate.
“(One proposal) states that any business in a community could have its right to operate eliminated. That’s not local control, that’s local tyranny.”
Several of the proposed ballot measures are being backed by Tom Steyer, a San Francisco billionaire and climate-change activist. He and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., are financing several of the proposals.