Ballot measure proposed to move new oil and gas drilling a half mile from homes, vulnerable areas

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-04 21:20:04-05

DENVER -- A local activist group has a message for oil and gas companies looking to drill in Colorado: take a half-mile hike. 

Colorado Rising is working on a 2018 ballot initiative that would mandate all new oil and gas development be set back 2,500 feet from buildings and “vulnerable areas.” 

“We’re gonna protect our communities and we’re gonna protect our homes,” Suzanne Spiegel of Colorado Rising said. 

Current setbacks are 350 feet from outdoor spaces, 500 feet from occupied buildings, and 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings like hospitals or schools. The new ballot measure would make it 2,500 from all occupied buildings including homes and schools, parks, playgrounds, open space, as well as drinking water sources like rivers, creeks, streams, or reservoirs. 

“It would limit where they can do it and it would increase their costs which is not our problem. Our number one priority is health and safety,” Spiegel said.

A similar ballot measure to increase setbacks to 2,500 feet failed in 2016, after petition signatures were invalidated. 

That same year, a study from Colorado’s Oil and Gas Commission found that a 2,500-foot setback from homes and water sources would essentially ban new drilling or production in 90 percent of Colorado. 

The group Protect Colorado fought the ballot initiative in 2016 using those numbers, and calling the setback ballot measure “a backdoor fracking ban that would be economically devastating for our state.”

This time, activists are pushing back with the argument over safety, in the wake of incidents like Firestone. 

“There is a timeliness to this because we’ve seen how dangerous this. We’ve seen how dangerous it is to live near this so there’s never been a better time to protect for communities,” Spiegel added.

The proposed initiative is still in the very beginning stages.

After a meeting with Legislative Council on wording, it will then go through a review, then activists will have to collect nearly 100,000 petition signatures to get it on the ballot. Most of those steps will come with expected challenges from the oil and gas industry.