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A fracking protest outside Governor John Hickenlooper's mansion. (Photo: John Duffy/flickr/cc)

In Blow to Colorado Residents, Anti-Fracking Measures Fail to Make Ballot

Proponents, who faced a well-funded opposition campaign led by Big Oil, have 30 days to appeal the decision

Deirdre Fulton

Fracking opponents vowed to keep up the fight in Colorado on Monday after it was announced that measures seeking to restrict fracking in the state had failed to make the 2016 ballot.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams said Monday that supporters failed to collect enough "valid voter signatures" for Initiatives 75 and 78, which would have given local authorities more power to regulate fracking and implemented mandatory setbacks for oil and gas activity around schools, playgrounds, and hospitals, respectively. 

As Denverite explains:

The state office looked over roughly 5,000 signatures for each of the measures, per normal procedure, and rejected about a quarter of them for being "invalid."

The state then took that rejection rate and applied it to the total number of signatures collected, essentially knocking out a quarter of the submitted signatures and putting them below the requirement.

The state identified "several potentially forged signature lines" on Initiative 78. 

According to the secretary of state's office, proponents have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Denver District Court.

A statement from anti-fracking groups distributed Monday suggested organizers were still deciding whether to appeal.

"As we review the ruling, we want to assure our volunteers and supporters that we are as committed as ever to giving the residents of Colorado a say this November on whether their communities can regulate fracking," said Tricia Olson, executive director of Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking.

"That fracking is dangerous to the health and safety of the state's residents resonated loudly in every corner of the state," she said. "Today's announcement is not the final action on this issue as countless residents are now committed to protecting their children's schools, parks, and homes."

"We will not be cowed by the anti-democratic efforts of the oil and gas industry," added Suzanne Spiegel of Frack Free Colorado.

The Colorado Independent reports:

The failure of both measures to make the ballot comes after months of a costly, contentious and occasionally disorganized grassroots campaign. Industry groups poured money into a "decline to sign" effort, and anti-fracking activists say they faced harassment from opponents while trying to gather signatures to qualify the measures for the ballot.

Furthermore, the Coloradoan reported this month, opponents raked in more than 35 times the contributions of groups backing the measures, with about 90 percent of the anti-ballot measure donations coming from energy companies.

"The 'Decline to Sign' campaign only served to highlight the industry's stranglehold on the state government," said Spiegel. "The actions of the industry have only served to galvanize supporters and we intend to fight the destructive and dangerous fracking practices that harm our health and destroy our environment."

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a fracking supporter, was among those opposing the initiatives. He predicted last week that the measures would not make the November ballot.

Earlier this month, the New York Times wrote that if either measure should pass, "it would represent the most serious political effort yet in the United States" to stop fracking


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