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Ballot initiatives aim to reverse new oil & gas regulations if they become law

New oil and gas regulations haven't passed yet, but there's already an effort underway to repeal the changes through a ballot initiative should Senate Bill 181 become law.

DENVER — The Colorado Senate approved the oil and gas bill and sent it to Governor Polis for his signature on Wednesday morning. 

Not much can be done to stop it from becoming law at this point, but voters could end up deciding this November whether to repeal the changes.

Former Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney and Weld County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer hope to get measures on the ballot that would reverse Senate Bill 181 while also changing the makeup of the state commission.

That commission reviews permits and decides if what’s underground is worth drilling.

RELATED: House passes oil and gas bill that Dems say would prioritize health and safety

If SB 181 passes, fewer members of the oil and gas industry would be a part of this group, and one would be added with an expertise in public health. When making decisions, they’ll have to put an emphasis on what’s going on above ground. Public health and safety need to be more of a consideration.

Brackney said he believes SB 181 makes the commission inherently partisan. He wants to change that.

“Our process is truly independent,” Brackney said. “The Governor and the highest-ranking member of the opposite party pick a pool [of possible commissioners], and retired judges, who have to come from different parties, would pick the final commissioners based on their knowledge and based on their demonstrated history of being balanced and thoughtful and collaborative decision makers.”

That commission would then decide what role local governments would play. This is a much different strategy than SB 181 would call for, which would give local governments the final say about drilling in their communities.

“The new ballot measures that have been filed are yet another unfortunate example of the oil and gas industry trying to buy influence over public policy in Colorado,” said State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, the primary sponsor of SB 181. 

“The Legislature has a clear responsibility to address the very real health and safety concerns around oil and gas development in this state, and that is exactly what we have accomplished with SB 181. Though we included industry in a robust stakeholder process, we did not allow them to write the bill, so it's not surprising they would file ballot measures to repeal our efforts and rewrite the laws for their financial benefit. "

"The passage of SB 181 will create certainty for both communities and the industry, and these divisive ballot measures threaten the constructive process we've made."

The initiatives to repeal SB 181 are not officially on the November 2019 ballot. Here's a timeline of the process, according to Brackney.

  1. Review and comment meeting with Legislative Council is set for April 4 at 10 a.m. (revisions that are not substantial can be made if they are in direct response to a comment from legislative staff. They'll file the initiatives with the Secretary of State for Title Board review by 3 p.m. on April 5)
  2. Title Board will consider the initiatives at its last meeting on April 17 and set the title.  (The Title Board considers only whether the proposed initiative meets the single-subject requirement and determines the wording of the title and submission clause.)
  3. If someone objects to the Title Board’s decision and files a motion for rehearing, the Title Board rehearing would be held on April 26. (The final decision can be challenged in court within the following five days)
  4. Once the title is final, the petition format is submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Signature gathering can only begin once the petition format is approved.
  5. Petition signatures need to be submitted to the Secretary of State by 3 p.m. on or before August 5. They need to gather 124,632 valid signatures in order to get it on the ballot.

Click or tap here to read the language of the repeal effort.

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