DENVER – Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday he won’t call a special legislative session seeking to grant communities more control over Colorado’s booming natural gas and oil industry.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations between the Hickenlooper administration, the energy industry, and environmentalists. The goal was to try to stave off ballot measures that would restrict hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking. The energy industry has argued they would damage the state’s economy.
“We have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.
One proposed ballot measure would increase rig setbacks from homes from 500 feet to 2,000 feet. Another would create an Environmental Bill of Rights, giving local governments more control over drilling operations. Democratic Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is financially backing some of the proposals, and the negotiations were driven to try to get him to withdraw his support.
Backers of the initiatives argue that local governments deserve more say over how and when drilling happens to protect property values and the environment. Signatures to put the initiatives on the November ballot are due Aug. 4.
“Now, as it has become clear that the path to passing a legislative compromise has been obstructed,” Polis said in a statement, “we must turn to the people of Colorado to solve this problem.”
Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand or gravel and chemicals into underground rock formations to release trapped natural gas and oil.
The debate over fracking has highlighted a rift among Democrats.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, facing a tough re-election campaign, said Wednesday after Hickenlooper’s announcement that the state must continue to find “the right balance between protecting our clean air and water, the health of our communities, and safely developing our abundant energy resources.”
“In my view, these proposed ballot initiatives do not strike that balance,” he said in a statement. “I believe that Colorado can and must do better, which is why I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions.”