Protect Colorado

Easton Dean of Taylor Petition Management, right, handles petitions for Protect Colorado on Thursday, July 30, 2020. The pro-energy advocacy group collected more than 185,000 signatures each on two proposed ballot issues they have since withdrawn, based on a deal with Gov. Jared Polis.

Protect Colorado, the coalition that supports ballot initiatives that promote responsible oil and natural gas development, touted the more than 185,000 signatures it collected for two initiatives in support of Colorado's economic future.

Today, the group presented boxes of signatures from Coloradans who support consumer choice for natural gas and ballot cost transparency. The display of support comes nearly one week after the industry's deal with Gov. Jared Polis to avoid oil and natural gas ballot battles.

The governor published an op-ed in Colorado Politics last week saying he wouldn't support further changes to energy regulation at the ballot box through 2022 to give Senate Bill 181 time to work.

The sweeping regulatory measure was passed by Democrats in the legislature last year.

"Over the past four election cycles, our industry has been forced to protect our employees and our business from divisive ballot measures that would effectively ban new oil and natural gas development in Colorado," Protect Colorado spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano said Thursday.

Protect Colorado shut down signature-gathering last Friday, Colorado Politics was first to report.

"As soon as we learned that the Governor’s op-ed had been published on Friday, we put out the word far and wide to shut down signature collection," Cipriano said. "As of today, we have collected more than 185,000 signatures for each ballot initiative. The validity rate is right at 70%, which is incredibly high and impressive given the atmosphere surrounding collection."

This year, 124,632 valid signatures, per initiative, were required by August 3 to get them on the November ballot.

"We appreciate and respect the Coloradans who signed our petitions and we will continue to engage them to protect Colorado’s energy industry and provide residents with an environmentally sound and cost-effective source of energy," Cipriano said. "Our agreement with Governor Polis is a win for all Coloradans. The oil and natural gas industry is vital to Colorado’s economy. Natural gas, in particular, is a critical part of a clean energy future."

She called the tax revenue the industry creates vital to schools, parks, roads and water projects.

"Our employees are essential workers and continue to provide affordable and reliable energy for Colorado produced right here at home," Cipriano said.

She said both ballot measures would have likely made the ballot.

Colorado's validity rate averages about 70% on petition, so the signatures Protect Colorado had collected as of last Friday means both measures would have qualified, given they still had until the Aug. 3 deadline to collect more.

If organizations not party to the agreement decide to pursue ballot measures, Cipriano said, "We will defend our employees, investors, customers and Colorado itself."

"We will continue to work collaboratively with the Governor, General Assembly, and key stakeholders to ensure SB 181 is implemented smoothly," she continued. "We will respond if adverse measures are filed or regulations are advanced that don’t reflect a collaborative process."

In a statement to Colorado Politics, activists Suzanne Spiegel and Anne Lee Foster noted that while "Polis has been a progressive leader for Colorado and has taken many worthwhile strides for the state," he is not the decider on what environmental groups do.

They wrote, that "when it comes to addressing oil and gas extraction in Colorado, Polis continues to play politics instead of taking a strong protective stance for communities and the environment.

"How is it possible for one man and a few of his hand-picked environmental groups, who have no history of spearheading oil and gas ballot initiatives, to announce that 'the environmental community' will not pursue community protections via a citizen’s ballot initiative? We’re here to set the record straight: Colorado Rising and Safe & Healthy Colorado are the two groups that have run ballot initiatives on fracking in 2018 and 2020, and neither group has signed on to any such agreement. In fact, both organizations consider running a 2022 ballot initiative to be very much on the table if the COGCC fails to enact truly protective regulations."

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