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Oil And Gas

Increased Oil, Gas Well Setback Measure Qualifies For November Ballot

Kirk Siegler
A drilling rig near Longmont, Colo.

Initiative 97, a ballot question that would increase Colorado’s minimum oil and gas well setbacks, has qualified for the upcoming midterm election.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced on Aug. 29 it had verified enough signatures supporting the effort.

If passed, the initiative would establish a new law mandating a half-mile buffer zone between new wells and occupied buildings like homes and schools. The state’s current minimum setbacks are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.

Anne Lee Foster, a lead organizer with Colorado Rising, said the pro-97 campaign’s next steps are more door-to-door canvassing, public events and running phone banks.

“Typical grassroots campaign activities,” she said. “(We want to) get out and have conversations with the electorate of why we need a safer setback from explosions.”

The new distance requirements would not affect existing wells.

Leaders in Colorado’s oil and gas industry who oppose the measure reacted to the news, saying it would cripple the state’s economy.

Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, said in a statement it would define the state’s economy and job opportunities for “generations to come.”

“If passed, Initiative 97 could devastate the economic livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, both in and out of the energy industry,” she said. “Entire communities would involuntarily find themselves closed for business.”

Neil Ray, president of the Colorado Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners, said in a statement many Coloradans still don’t understand the effect the new law would have on oil and gas development.

“We’ve proven that untapped minerals below Colorado’s Wattenberg Field represent nearly $180 billion dollars of working interest cash flow,” he said. “This is money that doesn’t just benefit oil and gas companies. It benefits everyday royalty owners.”

More than $2 million has already been poured into anti-97 campaign. The midterm election is Nov. 6.

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