After a long, much talked about campaign, Initiatives 75 and 78 have been defeated. The two anti-fracking ballot initiatives were aiming for inclusion on the November Colorado, but were defeated when the Colorado Secretary of State declared that proponents of the initiatives failed to produce the requisite number of signatures that would have seen the measures move forward. Though they have been defeated on this front, anti-fracking protestors have pledged to continue their quest to restrict hydraulic fracking projects across the state.
First, the good news. The defeat of ballot initiatives 75 and 78 means that the Colorado drilling industry has effectively avoided a $10 billion wrench in the works. The passage of these ballots would have effectively killed 80 percent of the state’s oil and gas projects and would have put several thousand people out of work. The ripple effect to the state’s economy would have been ruinous.
Now that initiatives 75 and 78 are out of the picture, there’s a little more breathing room for the oil and gas industry, perhaps enough for a long sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the fight to keep their stake in Colorado’s rich shale deposits will pick up speed sooner rather than later, and the next round may be particularly rough.
Democratic governor John Hickenlooper has taken up the reigns of the anti-fracking crusade (at least in the media), telling The Denver Post, “Maybe they didn’t get enough signatures, but tens of thousands of people signed those initiatives and want more local voice — and I listen to that.”
The governor’s statements almost immediately drew the ire of other local politicians. Republican state Representative Jerry Sonnenberg responded to the governor’s remarks thusly: “I have huge heartburn when a governor thumbs his nose at the legislator and the legislative process.”
While Gov. Hickenlooper steadfastly denied that his intention was to override the legislative process, it seems that’s exactly what the governor has planned if his words are more than just election year pandering (fifty-fifty shot, either way). The legislative process begins with the signature gathering step, and this time around that effort was unsuccessful. Period.
There is all the room in the world for anti-fracking activists to summon up the wording of a new bill and try to get people jazzed about ending jobs on the basis of speculative science during the next election cycle. This time around, though, they’re out of luck because they didn’t summon enough public support to even get their initiatives on the ballot. Anti-fracking protestors may be loud, but they’re clearly in the minority, and to lend their supporters any overt legislative favoritism is to subvert the will of the people rather than favor it, regardless of what Gov. Hickenlooper says.