Both of Colorado’s anti-fracking initiatives fail to make the ballot

Two ballot measures aimed at giving Colorado communities more control over oil and gas drilling failed to collect enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot, Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced this morning.

Ballot initiatives require 98,492 valid signatures from registered Colorado voters to qualify. Initiative 75, which sought to give local governments the authority to limit or ban oil and gas development, turned in 107,232 signatures. Initiative 78, which sought mandatory 2,500-foot setbacks between new oil and gas development and schools, playgrounds and hospitals, turned in 106,626 names.

But the state’s standard signature verification process, which typically eliminates at least a quarter of all submitted signatures, estimated that the two measures only collected 79,634 and 77,109 valid signatures, respectively. Anti-fracking activists have attributed their relatively high validity rate — about 80 percent for both measures — to the high level of investment their petitioners, many of them volunteers,  had in their cause.

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 an opposing “decline to sign” effort, and anti-fracking activists say they faced harassment from opponents while trying to gather their petition signatures.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission said in a statement that “Coloradans have sent a clear message that they don’t want to resolve these complex issues at the ballot box,” saying that the failure of both measures to make the ballot protects working families, industry and the business community.

But environmentalists engaged in the anti-fracking battle say the fight is, in fact, about protecting families.

“If the state is willing to allow fracking facilities into our neighborhoods where not just the quality of life is affected but also the health and safety of our families are put at risk, we will not rest until this stops,” said Maria Orms of Adams County.

Suzanne Spiegel of Frack Free Colorado added that the fight is far from over. “We will not be cowed by the anti-democratic efforts of the oil and gas industry,” she said. “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.”

Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking, the campaign behind 75 and 78, says it is currently reviewing the ruling and the invalid signatures to determine whether to file a challenge. They have 30 days to do so.

Initiative 96, a proposed amendment that would require ballot campaigns to collect signatures from every district in Colorado — making it more difficult and expensive for groups to get initiatives on the ballot in the future — qualified with 183,691 signatures. That measure has the support of the oil and gas industry and industry associations across the state.