Add a Western Slope water entity to the growing list of institutions coming out against a state initiative to require 2,500-foot setbacks between oil and gas development and homes or vulnerable areas.
The Colorado River District's Board of Directors is unanimously opposing Proposition 112, the drilling setback measure. It likewise is opposing Amendment 74, which requires state or local governments to compensate property owners if laws or regulations reduce the fair market value of property.
The 15-county, taxpayer-funded river district is the lead water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin in Colorado.
The district board's resolution on Proposition 112 characterizes it as "an overly-aggressive proposal creating a de facto statewide ban on oil and gas production with attendant adverse impacts on essential state and local services, employment and infrastructure."
The river district says the measure also would significantly reduce state severance tax revenues that support water projects in Colorado, including environmental, conservation and water-quality programs administered by the state.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has estimated that the measure, which wouldn't apply to federal land, would prevent drilling on 85 percent of private land and 54 percent of all land in the state. That analysis found that much of the reason for so much land being affected is because of its provision for protecting vulnerable areas such as streams and recreation areas.
Entities including Mesa and Garfield counties' boards of commissioners, the Colorado Mesa University Board of Trustees, and a statewide coalition including the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Club 20 oppose the measure.
Colorado Rising, the group behind it, says it is needed to protect residents and the environment. The group questions the COGCC analysis and says the measure wouldn't shut down drilling because of the federal-lands exclusion and the ability to drill laterally underground for miles through the use of horizontal drilling.
Under Amendment 74, a law or regulation resulting in any decrease in fair market value of property would become a regulatory taking requiring compensation. The current legal standard in Colorado is that a taking must involve almost a total loss of value or use.
Among other things, the change could result in mineral owners filing claims if a government limits oil and gas development, reducing the value of the mineral ownership.
The river district says in its resolution that the measure "would severely limit the ability of Colorado's state and local governments to do anything that might even indirectly or minimally affect the fair market value of private property, including establishing protective water quality standards or fulfilling Colorado's interstate water compact requirements."
It predicts that Amendment 74 would result in dramatic and often prohibitive increases in delays and costs for responsible, widely supported water supply projects.