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15,000 signatures for controversial oil and gas ballot measure now missing

DENVER -- A controversial oil and gas measure is facing a major setback with just days to go before they must submit valid signatures to the state.

Colorado Rising, a group trying to enact a 2,500 foot setback rule in Colorado, has lost 15,000 signatures.

"To have this company stoop to the level of theft to an issue that is so important to Colorado -- it's sickening," said Suzanne Spiegel, a Colorado Rising organizer.

Spiegel is alleging Direct Action Partners, a signature gathering firm, left the state with the signatures even though it was paid for its efforts.

State Rep. Joe Salazar has filed a lawsuit to try to get the signatures back.

"We will be going before a judge. I have petitioned the court for a rapid turnaround on a hearing," Salazar said at a news conference Thursday.

"This is a run of the mill contract dispute," Direct Action Partners said in a statement. "We are working on a resolution with the campaign. Commenting now would be improper and only serve to sensationalize an ongoing discussion. We're happy to give a statement at the appropriate time."

This is not the only issue Colorado Rising has faced.

For weeks it has posted online videos of hecklers showing up when they are trying to gather signatures.

"It's scary when people are following you around and you are insisting to stop," sad Anne Lee Foster, an organizer.

The oil and gas community has denied any coordinated campaign effort.

"I'm not aware of any such effort," said Matt Dempsey with Western Wire, a pro-energy organization.

Dempsey suggested the event Thursday was to rally supporters in an attempt to save a struggling campaign.

"They got a lot of problems. They called it a nightmare scenario today," Dempsey said.

The oil and gas community is running commercials telling Coloradans to not sign the petition, saying it would threaten jobs and the economy.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Congressman Jared Polis, the Democratic nominee for governor, have spoken out against a 2500-foot setback in the past.