Backers of two ballot initiatives that would limit fracking in Colorado have failed to gather enough valid signatures to get these measures on the November ballot. This leaves voters with a mere nine issues to research and form an opinion about over the next few months. (Tip: Start reading now.)
But while the initiatives didn’t succeed this time, the battle over fracking isn’t remotely close to being resolved. Environmental groups have already filed fracking-related lawsuits regarding the use of public lands, and they still might file a challenge against the petition rejection. More legal action seems inevitable as the state legislature struggles to reach a compromise on issues such as local control and well setbacks.
It doesn’t help that Governor John Hickenlooper has been all over the proverbial map on this issue. He’s long been criticized by environmentalists for being too chummy with Colorado’s oil and gas industry, so much so that some greens are threatening to torpedo his nomination should a newly elected President Clinton appoint him to be her Secretary of the Interior. The governor brokered a fracking deal in 2014 that satisfied few and mostly sustained the status quo. But even though the 2016 ballot measures failed, he’s signaled a willingness to listen to fracking’s critics more closely. He’s also acknowledged that climate change is harming our economy enough that he’s considered taking executive action that would limit greenhouse gas pollution.
This all comes at a time when a complete picture of fracking’s risks is still far from focused. Although fracking’s advocates like to point out that it’s been performed safely for decades, more recent research has questioned its impact on climate change. It’s also been linked to increased earthquakes, a potential causality so concerning that even the heavily Republican (and thus pro-oil and pro-business) legislatures in Kansas and Oklahoma have placed restrictions on where drilling can occur. And just this week, questions arose about whether fracking is responsible for a spike in the asthma rates among Colorado children.
These troubling developments haven’t stopped politicians such as Senator Cory Gardner from railing against fracking’s opponents as if they’re tinfoil-hatted conpiracy theorists. It’s an example of the political mindset that sees leaving our children a mountainous federal debt as sending us down an immoral path to ruin, but leaving them an increasingly uninhabitable planet is just the cost of doing business.
One of the notable facets of covering politics in Colorado is how literally everyone—regardless of whether there’s an R or a D before their name—shares an undying love for our great state and its unparalleled landscape. This is largely because the enjoyment and use of our natural resources, from hiking to hunting, transcends any political or ideological differences. All the more reason we should be trying to find sensible, informed compromises on fracking while our state’s economy is strong rather than having our hand forced into a potentially unhealthy predicament the next time our fiscal outlook isn’t so rosy.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.