December 2018, Vol. 245, No. 12

Editor's Notebook

Colorado Voters Reject Proposition 112

By Joe Hollier

Colorado’s oil and gas industry breathed a sigh of relief as voters rejected a proposal to require oil and gas wells be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, waterways and other areas deemed vulnerable. Had Proposition 112 passed it would have made the half-mile buffer state law everywhere except on federal lands. Currently in Colorado, there is a 1,000-foot set-back in place for schools and hospitals, as well as a 500-foot buffer for residential properties.

“We’re grateful that Coloradans stood with the energy sector to oppose this measure,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, in a statement. “I want every Coloradan to know that we are committed to developing our resources in a responsible manner that protects the environment and keeps our employees and communities healthy and safe.”

Neil Ray, president of the Colorado Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners added, “We’re incredibly grateful that Colorado voted against Proposition 112. Beyond the devastating economic impact, Proposition 112 would have stripped mineral owners of their property rights by placing large swaths of the state off limits for mineral development.”

There are over 600,000 mineral owners with property rights in Colorado that Proposition 112 would have affected negatively, along with an estimated 4.6 % in industry job loss. 

Colorado Rising, the group backing the measure, was outspent nearly 43 to one. Protect Colorado, funded almost exclusively by the oil and gas industry, poured in more than $36 million to offset the attack. 

Proponents of the setback increase argued a larger buffer is crucial to preventing adverse health and safety impacts for people who live and work near oil and gas operations. They contended that health risks from being exposed to a heavily industrialized activity like hydraulic fracturing are too high under the current distance restrictions set by the state. They cited methane and cancer-causing benzene as just two of dozens of potentially harmful compounds associated with oil and gas activity.

Kelly Nordini, executive director with Conservation Colorado, said the defeat of Proposition 112 doesn’t mean that “voters want an oil and gas rig closer to their homes, schools, or hospitals,” adding, “Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure. The fact remains the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved.”

Opponents argued the increase would dislodge an industry crucial to Colorado’s economy and would put the brakes on energy extraction as companies moved from Colorado to explore less restrictive states. 

Wouter Van Kempen, CEO of DCP Midstream, a Denver-based natural gas pipeline and processing company, predicts the oil and gas industry will work with the Colorado legislature to keep a near-ban like Proposition 112 from happening again and at the same time, give local communities some measure of comfort about drilling.

“I don’t think the last word has been written on oil and gas in the state,” Van Kempen said. “There are still going to be a couple other chapters.”


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