State Supreme Court OKs ballot measures for drilling rules

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday signed off on three proposed ballot measures that would allow local governments to approve setback rules for oil and gas drilling that are as much as five times greater than state law.

Regardless, though, at least two of the most stringent proposals, Initiatives 86 and 87, aren’t expected to be pursued because proponents of the measures to limit drilling activities in populated areas said they would only push one.

That measure, Initiative 85, calls for allowing local governments to approve setbacks to as much as 1,500 feet, which is three times greater than the 500 feet the state currently sets.

Currently, the issue committee, Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, is gathering signatures to get at least two measures onto the ballot. It has proposed nearly a dozen of them, but currently isn’t trying to get them on the ballot.

“It’s a shame that the oil and gas industry has wasted so much of the court’s time in an attempt to delay or obstruct the ability of everyday Coloradans from having their voice heard on these measures,” said Nick Passanante, campaign director for the group. “We look forward to continuing a robust dialogue with the voters, and are confident that Coloradans will come down on the side of commonsense protection for our kids and families in November.”

The second proposal the group is gathering signatures for would create an “Environmental Bill of Rights” for local governments, giving them the authority to enact any law on oil and gas drilling that is stricter than the state’s.

Passanante said the first week of gathering signatures before its Aug. 4 deadline netted more than 15,000. It needs at least 86,105 signatures of registered voters to make the ballot.

Dan Hopkins, spokesman for the opposition group, Coloradans for Responsible Reform, said that’s actually a paltry amount given that the petitioners actually need to collect about 120,000 signatures because many end up being declared invalid for one reason or another.

In an unrelated matter, the high court also returned a proposed ballot measure dealing with water issues back to the Colorado Title Board that reviews and approves measures meant for the ballot.

The court said the Title Board erred when it allowed a surrogate representative of Initiative 103 to propose changes to the measure, which would change water law by doing away with the state’s long-held premise of senior water rights.

The move effectively kills the idea for this year because there is no time left to correct the measure and allow proponents to get signatures before the August deadline.

DENVER — Colorado’s attorney general has ordered the Boulder County clerk to stop issuing gay-marriage licenses by today.

Republican Attorney General John Suthers told County Clerk Hillary Hall in a letter dated Friday that the licenses “cannot be recognized.”

A spokesman for the attorney general said Monday afternoon that Hall had not responded to the letter.

Colorado’s constitution bans same-sex marriage, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last week in a Utah case that states cannot ban marriages based on the genders of people participating. Hall responded by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The 10th Circuit put its ruling on hold, however, pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Suthers pointed out in his letter that Hall is the only one of Colorado’s 64 clerks issuing marriage licenses.

Suthers suggested that the state appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court to determine whether Hall has the authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Also Monday, six same-sex couples from Colorado announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging the court’s stay.


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