The activists, environmental groups and community members behind two proposed anti-fracking initiatives have chosen not to fight the Secretary of State’s ruling that they didn’t collect enough signatures to qualify the measures for the ballot, the campaign announced this morning.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced in late August that the Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking campaign failed to turn in enough valid signatures for either of its two ballot initiatives — #75, which would have established mandatory setbacks between oil and gas development and residential structures, and #78, which sought to grant communities local control over fracking — to make the November ballot.
Activists have spent weeks poring over the disqualified signatures, even knocking on the doors of voters who signed petitions with incorrect or incomplete information, hoping to appeal the ruling. But, in the end, the grassroots groups supporting the initiatives “determined that the costs and time involved would be too great to move forward with an appeal,” Yes for Health and Safety said in a statement.
Now, those involved with the campaign are putting their energies into another fight: defeating Amendment 71, which is more commonly known as “Raise the Bar.” The amendment would make it harder — and, groups say, prohibitively expensive — for citizen-driven initiatives to qualify for the ballot. Rather than simply needing to collect signatures from 5 percent of recent Colorado voters (which the anti-fracking movement failed to do), campaigns would have an even more daunting task of having to gather signatures from 2 percent of each of Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts.
According to Micah Parkin of the environmental group 350 Colorado, “Raise the Bar would make it nearly impossible for ordinary Colorado people to participate in one of the last vestiges of direct democracy: the ballot initiative process.”
Fractivists say the impact on environmental advocacy would undeniable.
“Make no mistake about it. Raise the Bar is an effort to prevent future initiatives designed to protect communities from fracking,” said Razz Gormley of Frack Free Colorado. “This is corporate money, primarily from the oil and gas industry, being spent to take direct democracy away from citizens.”
While collecting its signatures, Yes for Health and Safety fought an uphill battle against a multi-million dollar opposition campaign, funded primarily by the oil and gas industry. Now that its fight against the anti-fracking measures is over, that opposition campaign, known as Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, has recently funneled $1 million of its funds into support for “Raise the Bar.”
In addition to the oil and gas industry, “Raise the Bar” has support from state associations of realtors, dairy farmers, casino owners and business strategy group Colorado Concern. Opponents include the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Fiscal Institute, environmental group Conservation Colorado and voting outreach group New Era Colorado.
Registered Colorado voters will have the opportunity to cast ballots for or against Amendment 71 on November 8.