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Colorado Initiative #97: The Petition Beats the Deadline but is it Enough?

The Office of the Colorado Secretary of State confirmed on Monday, August 6, 2018 that a petition for ballot Initiative #97 was turned in by the deadline period and will be considered for inclusion on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot. As we previously reported, Initiative #97 seeks to establish a 2,500-foot buffer zone that is free of new oil and gas development around defined “occupied structures” and “vulnerable areas” in the state. Occupied structures include homes, schools and hospitals, whereas vulnerable areas include playgrounds, permanent sports fields, public parks and open spaces, public drinking water sources, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks between homes and new oil and gas development.

Ballot initiatives in the state require the support of at least 98,492 valid signatures in order to be placed on the November 2018 ballot. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office has 30 days to review the information provided on the petition and determine whether the proposed measure has garnered sufficient valid signatures to be placed on the November 2018 ballot.

An impact assessment for Initiative #97 conducted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission during 2018 reveals that, if the 2,500-foot buffer requirement was made effective, an estimated 54% of Colorado’s total land surface, which total includes consideration of federal lands, would be unavailable for new oil and gas development. If the focus is shifted solely to non-federal land in Colorado, then 85% of the non-federal lands in the state would be unavailable for new oil and gas development.

Should a sufficient number of valid signatures be found on the petition such that Initiative #97 would be included on the November 2018 ballot, citizens in the state may expect three months of intensive campaigning on the proposal. Proponents of the initiative will likely assert the health and safety benefits of extending the setback distance from homes, schools and playgrounds whereas opponents of the measure will point to the possible destruction of the oil and gas industry in the state, including the loss of a significant number of jobs tied to the industry and the loss of sizable tax revenues derived from the industry.

Stay tuned as we await a signal from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office over the next month, telling us whether the initiative makes it on the November 2018 ballot.

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.