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Will Local Control Be On Colorado’s Ballot? Initiative 40 Backers To Start Collecting Signatures

Jim Hill
Pictured here in 2012, a drill rig operates in the buffer space between a Mead, Colo. neightborhood and I-25.

Despite efforts by Gov. John Hickenlooper to head off citizen ballot measures limiting hydraulic fracturing, a measure that would do just that is now collecting signatures to get on the ballot.

The petition format for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, also called Initiative 40, was approved by the Colorado Secretary of State's title board Wednesday.

The proposed amendment is a project of the group Coloradans for Community Rights, and was developed in reaction to recent court decisions that curbed local governments' authority to limit hydraulic fracturing within their borders. Courts decided against the towns of Fort Collins, Lafayette and Longmont after each passed either a ban or a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in their borders and were sued following those bans. Longmont and Fort Collins' cases were appealed, and are pending a decision by the state Supreme Court.

After years of conflict between communities wanting more control over energy development, several measures were headed toward the state's ballot in 2014. They were headed off in a compromise by Gov. Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, and the state formed a task force over the issue. The intent of the task force was to make recommendations and set policy to help concerned citizens and local governments reach middle ground with energy companies.

Yet according to many involved, the task force largely failed to address the issues local governments were facing. That's why the state is seeing more attempts to bring the issue to the ballot.

According to a press release from Coloradans for Community Rights, the proposed amendment "is the strongest measure addressing the inherent conflict between the fundamental rights of communities, people, and their environments and the legal authority given to corporations."

If passed, in addition to giving local governments more authority of energy development, it would also allow them to do things like set their own minimum wage, or ban other types of industrial activities.

Petitioners need to collect nearly 100,000 valid signatures by early August 2016 in order to get the measure on the November ballot.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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