Robert Oppenheimer, upon witnessing the first detonation of the weapon he invented, remarked: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," quoting from Bhagavad Gita.
Oppenheimer remained positive about his invention and regretted that it was not ready in time to use against Nazi Germany. But after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Oppenheimer's guilt and moral confusion set in. He remarked to President Harry Truman, "I'm afraid I have blood on my hands."
Over time, Oppenheimer slid into reclusion and deep regret, living alone on an island with his family and working to emphasize the beneficial applications of his invention.
We're willing to wager that the creators of Proposition 112 (formerly known as Initiative 97) and Amendment 74 (formerly known as Initiative 108) will share Oppenheimer's regret if either one passes in November.
It's a tad hyperbolic to compare ballot measures to nuclear weapons, but it's hard to overstate how bad these measures are. They are both nuclear options and both cataclysmically bad.
How they both ended up on the ballot is a story of nuclear escalation leading to mutually assured destruction.
Proposition 112 would alter state law to require any new oil and gas development to be located at least 2,500 feet from any occupied structure and any other area designated for "additional protection," whatever that means.
The devastating impacts of 112 on the state's oil and gas industry are well-established by now. New drilling would come to a screeching halt in the most productive areas of Colorado, particularly the Denver-Julesberg Basin near Greeley. The industry is rumored to be planning an exit strategy in the event 112 passes.
If Proposition 112 is a Minuteman Missile aimed directly at Colorado's oil and gas industry, the response from the industry is nothing short of a nuclear-laden stealth bomber.
Amendment 74, the industry's response, appears sensible and harmless: "Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution requiring the government to award just compensation to owners of private property when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?"
But it's not harmless; it's lethal.
Current "takings" law requires that the government compensate a property owner when the value of the property affected by government action is diminished completely. If the state knocks down your home to build a highway, it must compensate you for the fair value of your home. Amendment 74 would allow compensation for any impact to the value of property by government action.
The intended consequence of Amendment 74 is to allow the oil and gas companies to recover all of the impacts from the setback requirements of Proposition 112. That's bound to be an enormous number, far beyond anything the state could pay – initially or over time.
But the unintended consequences are the real problem. For example, if the city of Grand Junction were to pass a zoning law change that allowed for multi-family dwellings in the vicinity of a high-rent neighborhood, you can bet an industrious lawyer would assemble the owners in the high-rent district to sue for the tiny relative impact to their home values.
If 100 houses valued at $1 million each see a 5 percent impact to their value as determined by some "expert," that's a $5 million lawsuit. Cases like this involving local actions as innocuous as a zoning or land use change would play out all over the state. The legal costs, judgments and settlements against every city and county in the state would be nothing short of breathtaking. Municipal bankruptcies could be followed by a near-complete shutdown of local government action.
The Daily Sentinel editorialized against these measures before they officially made the ballot. Now they will be on your ballot. They are simply awful statecraft. This is not hyperbole. These are truly dangerous ballot initiatives that must fail.