gavel court justice colorado

The proponents of four ballot initiatives to replace Colorado’s oil and gas regulatory body have withdrawn their request for the state Supreme Court to overturn the Title Board’s decision that denied a ballot title to the measures.

Initiatives 307-310 would have created a new, independent board to perform the duties of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. At its hearing before the Title Board, proponents cited the legislative redistricting commissions that voters approved in 2018 and the state's ethics commission as templates for a redesigned board with minimal political influence.

Among other provisions in the measures, the board would have veto power over certain rules from the air quality, water quality, state health and solid waste regulatory bodies. Local governments would have the ability to regulate oil and gas development, but their powers would have been restricted to five specified areas: flow lines, worker training, air quality monitoring, plugging abandoned wells and setback distances.

It was the latter provision constraining local governments' authority that prompted the three-member Title Board to deny the measures a title during the final meeting of the 2019-2020 ballot initiative cycle in April. The Title Board must set a title that appears before voters which is brief yet also encompasses all central features of a proposal, but only if the initiative adheres to a single subject.

“You’re shifting these governmental powers and I don’t think that is necessary to sort of revamping the COGCC,” Theresa Conley, the representative of Secretary of State Jena Griswold and the board’s chair, said prior to the vote. 

Designated representatives Diane Schwenke and David Davia appealed to the Supreme Court on April 30, but withdrew the request on May 14. The Title Board did approve a title for a similar initiative, #311, which excludes the language altering local governments’ jurisdiction. However, that and two narrower initiatives are undergoing separate challenges before the court.

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Schwenke, the president of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, said she could not comment immediately because this was the first she had heard about the withdrawal. However, in an emailed statement, she said that while she believed the Supreme Court would dismiss the remaining challenges, "we aren’t going to belabor an appeal with the ones that weren’t [given title] because we like very much the measures that the Title Board approved."

"Voters are sick and tired of partisan politics influencing decisions more than balance and common sense," added Davia, who is the president of the Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors. "We think it’s a winning issue and a way to take the politics and partisanship out of energy regulation — and we hope to take this thing all the way."

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