Signature drive starts for local control initiatives, while talks continue on compromise

An image of a fracking well being drilled just a few hundred feet from a row of homes in northern Colorado, as depicted in the first TV ad from Coloradans for Local Control, the group pushing a ballot measure to allow cities to ban fracking.

An image of a fracking well being drilled just a few hundred feet from a row of homes in northern Colorado.

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DENVER — As talks around a legislative local control compromise sputter on, proponents of the ballot measures the hypothetical compromise aims to stave off launched a signature gathering effort on Wednesday.

“As of Tuesday evening, there had not been an agreement as to whether a special session would occur to deal with this issue from a statutory basis,” said Nick Passanante, the campaign director with the group Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy.

“Absent such a legislative solution, CSCE is moving forward with its citizen initiative campaigns to allow Colorado voters the opportunity to decide how to best deal with the impacts of fracking in our state.”

Petitions are being circulated for Initiative 89, which would enable local communities to regulate and even ban drilling, Initiative 85, which would set the distance drilling rigs must be from homes at 1,500 feet and Initiative 88, which would establish a 2,000-foot setback.

The existing state requirement is 500 feet.

Boulder Congressman Jared Polis is putting his significant financial resources behind the ballot measures, which will likely spark a $50 million campaign fight this fall that could impact his fellow Democrats facing reelection.

Polis has agreed on a compromise legislative solution brokered by Gov. John Hickenlooper and also agreed to by the state’s two largest oil and gas operators that would allow cities and counties to extend setbacks and enact additional noise ordinances around drilling sites but not to go as far as banning fracking altogether.

Polis would pull his funding from the set of initiatives this year if the legislature is able to pass the bill in a special session this summer, but proponents of the deal have found broad support hard to come by with a number of Democratic state senators and all of the chamber’s Republicans resistant to going along with the compromise.

Backers need to collect 87,000 valid signatures by August 4 to get the measures certified for the November ballot.

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