Among the legislative issues facing Coloradans in the voting booth this November is the highly controversial initiative 63, or the “Right to Healthy Environment” Initiative. The petition still needs to clear the nearly 100,000 signatures required to become an official part of this November’s vote, but if it is put on the ballot, it could spell trouble for the oil and gas industry in the state.
On paper, initiative 63 seems pretty unobjectionable. After all, who would possibly disagree with the first part of the proposal? It states, “ the people of the state of Colorado find and declare that a healthy environment is an essential component to the health, safety, and welfare of natural persons.”
That political gold; no one could possibly disagree with that sentiment. However, when you get into the meat of the petition, it states that local governments have the power to enact laws which override state laws if and when that law is deemed “more protective of a healthy environment”. Since oil and gas are currently subject only to state oversight, this would open the industry up to local interference. In other words, it’s entirely possible that local governments could — in the wake of the initiative’s passing — swiftly enact laws that essentially outlaw any kind of oil and gas work in certain areas of the state.
Without overstating it, this kind of legislation is somewhat shortsighted. The conversation on oil and gas, particularly the practice of fracking, is particularly heated. Such a volatile environment can lead to rash, ill-informed reactions on a local level. Simply put, the facts on the table indicate that — when handled responsibly — fracking is not only safer than the alternatives, its potential hazard to the environment is decreasing on a daily basis (and don’t take our word for it).
Initiative 63 may sound good on paper, but it’s really just instant social gratification. It would allow local governments the ability to legislate based on the waxing and waning tides of public opinion, which might work from moment-to-moment, but is never beneficial in the long term.