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All Fracking Initiatives Pulled Off the Ballot in Colorado
"Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday unveiled a delicately balanced compromise on local control of oil and gas drilling that will remove all the initiatives on the issue from the November ballot," writes Mark Jaffe of The Denver Post.
The two anti-fracking initiatives, Initiatives 88 and 89, mandated a 2,000-foot setback of drilling rigs from homes and added an environmental bill of rights to the state constitution and give local governments the power to enforce it, respectively. They were described earlier with a third initiative dropped from the ballot.
Backers of two industry-supported measures — Initiative 121, which would have withheld state oil and gas revenue from communities banning drilling, and Initiative 137, which required a fiscal impact note for all initiatives — said they, too, would pull back.
"In exchange, the state would create an 18-person task force to study the effects of drilling near homes and schools, with several members drawn from affected communities. The state would also drop a 2012 lawsuit filed against a Northern Colorado city, Longmont, that had crafted its own restrictive oil and gas rules," writes Jack Healy of The New York Times.
"For the first time, this puts citizens on an equal footing with industry," said U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder in an interview with The Denver Post, who was bankrolling Initiatives 88 and 89. He agreed to withdraw both of them, which greatly upset some of the measures' supporters, reports Alex Burness of the (Boulder) Daily Camera.
Settling the squabble between the two camps was critical to "vulnerable Colorado Democrats," writes Healy. The governor and Sen. Mark Udall are up for re-election. In addition, "(t)he ballot battle was shaping up to be the most expensive campaign in the state's history," writes Jaffe.
As for Hickenlooper's political skills, "University of Denver political science professor Peter Hanson said creating a commission was 'a pretty smart move by the governor to lower the temperature on this issue and take it out of election-year politics,'" writes Jaffe.
However, Inside Climate News' Zahra Hirji provides a different perspective, writing that the compromise was "a sudden slap in the face for green groups."