Initiative 97: Oil and gas setback proposal makes November ballot

An oil storage tank and a drilling rig sit beside a ranch near the town of Mead in Weld County in 2017. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

The two sides around Colorado’s oil and gas fracas took different tacks this week as an Aug. 6 deadline looms to get on the November ballot.

The industry noted that only about half the money to support Initiative 97 appears have been raised in Colorado. (Never mind that most of the industry is based outside Colorado.)

The proposed ballot measure would require oil-and-gas operations to be at least 2,500 feet from a home, school or business. Proponents, working against logistical hurdles with a contractor, must turn in 98,492 signed petitions from registered voters by next Tuesday to qualify.

> RELATED: Drama over oil and gas ballot measure: Claims of stolen petitions, harassment

Vital for Colorado, a business coalition that backs the oil and gas industry, picked apart the opposition group’s fundraising Tuesday afternoon.

Vital notes that Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch is the initiative’s main supporter, contributing about $190,000 of the campaign’s $527,238 through last Friday. The effort raised about $250,000 in July.

“While Initiative 97’s proponents bill themselves as a grassroots movement, their campaign finances illustrate a different picture of out-of-state influence that Colorado voters should reject,” Colorado Concern president and CEO Mike Kopp said in a statement. “Boulder County may have the financial resources to weather the storm should 97 pass, but tens of thousands of Coloradans across the state will be out of work next year alone. Voters won’t let that happen.”

Supporters of the industry also plan a rally called Energy Proud on the west steps of the state Capitol in Denver Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Organizers tell Colorado Politics they expect to draw more than 2,000 people who make a living from Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

A roster of speakers includes Gale Norton, the former interior secretary under President George W. Bush, and Steve Foley, a former Denver Broncos safety who is now president and CEO of Englewood-based PetroShare Corp., an independent oil and natural gas exploration and development company.

A separate but related effort aims to the get state to regulate large-scale oil and gas in proximity to neighborhoods. Proponents of the effort delivered a letter this week to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“We strongly urge a paradigm shift in how large-scale oil and gas is developed, and we believe that shift warrants an updated set of regulations,” the said in their letter. “Multi-well mega pads do not belong near our homes, schools and water sources. The current COGCC rules are antiquated, arbitrary and address the regulations that were literally set up decades, if not a half a century, ago. “

The letter was signed by 25 north-metro elected officials:

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