Fracking debate heats up, state offers to create task force to review issues

DENVER - Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Rep. Jared Polis and others announced the framework for a compromise Monday on fracking in Colorado.

Hickenlooper asked activists to withdraw their petitions to put anti-fracking and pro-fracking measures on the November ballot. In exchange, he's offering to create an 18-member task force to work on how to best continue oil and gas drilling while making it, "safe for our residents, supports jobs and the economy, respects private property rights and protects our health and environment."

The group will be made up of members of the oil & gas industry, agriculture industry, home building industry, conservation community, local governments, and health and civic leaders and will have the authority to make recommendations to the state legislature, Hickenlooper said.

The governor said the group will be asked with trying to, "solve the complex issues around local control and land use in our state."

"I think we can all agree that responsible oil and gas development in Colorado is critical to our economy, our environment, our health and our future," Hickenlooper said.

"This is a great deal for homeowners and families across Colorado," Rep. Jard Polis (D-Boulder) said. "There's lots of work to be done, but today represents real progress."

Polis has been supporting anti-fracking measures, according to the Washington Times. One would increase the minimum property setback on rigs from 500 feet to 2,000 feet. The other would create a state environmental Bill of Rights.

"Today’s announcement regarding the terms of this potential compromise are truly a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible protections and safeguards around fracking," Polis said. "Through this commission, citizens will be on equal footing with the oil and  gas industry and will be able to directly negotiate to protect their property rights, home values, clean water and air quality."

However, one of the proponents of the pro-fracking measures said he doesn't know anything about the compromise.

"I have heard of a deal, but nobody has talked to me," said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg. "I have been on this merry go round before. My initiative is a stand alone as I have worked on this legislation for a couple of years. Again, I was not a part of any negotiation or discussion."

Sonnenberg and Representative Frank McNulty turned in signatures Monday morning for proposed measure 121, a statutory amendment supporters say would ensure the fair distribution of oil and gas revenues in Colorado by prohibiting the allocation of energy revenues to communities that ban energy development.

The Associated Press reported that Monday is the deadline to turn in signatures to put the fracking questions on the November ballot.

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