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Big Oil Money Didn’t Make A Difference In Battle Over Broomfield’s Question 301

Vote No on 301 screenshot
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens was against Question 301

Opponents of stricter oil and gas regulations in Broomfield spent 10 times more money campaigning than supporters did.

Reports filed earlier this month show Vote No on 301 spent $475,000 on TV ads, mailers and phone calls.

That compares with $46,000 spent by two two groups supporting Question 301.

Fifty-seven percent of Broomfield voters approved the measure that requires the health and safety of residents to be considered in new oil and gas developments.

“The people really wanted this and they knew what it was about,” said Neil Allaire, who co-chaired the coalition for the initiative’s supporters. “It’s about their health and safety, their welfare and, of course, their environment.”

Most of No on 301’s campaign cash came from the Colorado Petroleum Council and Vital for Colorado, a business group that supports fracking. The group ran TV and digital ads, some featuring former GOP Gov. Bill Owens, who also recorded robocalls against the initiative.

Opponents also conducted a post-election phone survey on the initiative.

“The Vital for Colorado board felt strongly that this initiative was misguided and that we needed to correct the misinformation being pushed by the proponents,” wrote Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the group, in an email. “That’s why we invested the amount we did.”

Three-fourths of supporters’ funds came from the Sierra Club in the final week of the election.

Allaire said he’s pleased with the city’s efforts to implement the new measure in a community facing significant oil and gas development efforts.

But Coolidge said he believes efforts like the one in Broomfield are unlikely to be replicated at the state level.

“Colorado is a pro-energy, all-of-the-above state that supports oil and gas production,” he wrote. “A symbolic victory for the Sierra Club in the Boulder suburbs won’t change that at all.”

Sandra Fish is a Colorado data journalist specializing in politics and government. She’s worked for newspapers in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. And she’s written about politics for Politics Daily, the Washington Post, Al Jazeera America and Roll Call.
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