Not a setback: Prop 112 failure still leaves local citizen groups encouraged
Seeking to establish new setback restrictions between oil and gas operations and homes, Proposition 112 was shot down by Colorado voters on Tuesday as oil and gas facility statewide setbacks will remain 500 feet from residences.
While the proposal received both widespread criticism and support from officials throughout Colorado, just being on the ballot, which required nearly 100,000 signatures from Colorado residents, may open the door for future setback rules discussion in Colorado, supporters said.
The current setback rules, established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2013, set a 500-foot statewide setback from residences, as well as a 1,000-foot setback from high occupancy buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals.
As of just before 10 p.m. Tuesday, the measure was failing in the statewide vote by a nearly 58 percent margin for those opposed.
Though shot down by voters on Tuesday, Prop 112 sought to push that setback to at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas.
“We’re certainly disappointed it lost,” said Leslie Robinson, chairwoman for the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a citizen group in Western Colorado, who along with other advocacy groups were among the loudest local voices in support of the initiative throughout the election.
“We are, however, encouraged that since (Jared) Polis won we will be revisiting setbacks,” she said of the governor’s race. “It’s one step back, but with a Democrat winning we might be able to get two steps forward in 2019 through the legislative process.”
She added that setbacks will be a topic the group remains vocal on as they seek to push oil and gas operations further from homes, schools and other building.
“It’s a bummer we didn’t win, but I’m not concerned,” she added. “I’m encouraged we got as much support as we did. Colorado Rising didn’t even raise $1 million to fight against $40 mill [from the oil and gas industry].”
Since it received enough signatures to be put on the ballot, opponents of the proposition often referred to it as a ban on oil and gas as they claimed it to be too extreme for Colorado.
“Proposition 112 would have hurt more than just the natural gas and oil industry, as 77 percent of the 43,000 jobs it would have eliminated in year one would have come from outside the energy sector…” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said after the vote. “We now turn to a new year, in which we will continue substantive, serious dialogue with our colleagues on the other side of this debate.”
Many local and statewide officials spoke out against the initiative, including Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who was just voted in by voters for another four years, as well as Polis and his Republican opponent in the governor’s race, Walker Stapleton.
While policymakers are celebrating a big drop in Colorado’s individual health insurance prices for 2020, they’re also scrambling to combat the sharp decline in the number of carriers in rural parts of the state where 22 of 64 counties have just one option on the Obamacare marketplace.