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POLITICS: PennAve

Colorado groups to shelve fracking ballot measures

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Politics,Senate,Colorado,2014 Elections,PennAve,Energy and Environment,John Hickenlooper,Fracking,Zack Colman,Oil,Natural Gas,Cory Gardner,Mark Udall

Colorado's fracking ballot fight appears to be over.

Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy, a group backed by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., that had been pushing initiatives to restrict the drilling method, said Tuesday it would withdraw them because industry-aligned and pro-fracking group Protect Colorado pulled their twin proposals.

The move comes a day after Polis and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper outlined a deal to form an 18-member commission that includes residents, industry and elected officials to review oil and gas drilling in the state and make recommendations to the state.

"We are pleased an agreement could be reached and that we can balance protections for Colorado families with responsible energy development," said Mara Sheldon, a spokeswoman for Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy.

The issue had rocked Colorado politics in recent months. Hickenlooper, a fracking advocate, is facing a tough re-election fight. So is Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who didn't take a position on the fracking ballot initiatives (he eventually opposed them) until July but had faced increasing pressure from opponent and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who long rejected the effort.

Sheldon's group sought one measure that would have quadrupled the distance hydraulic fracturing sites could operate from existing buildings and another in which the most restrictive of conflicting local and state laws would take precedence. Sheldon and other fracking detractors were concerned about possible groundwater contamination — the process injects a high-pressure mixture of sand, water and chemicals into tight rock formations to access hydrocarbons buried deep underground — and declining property values from being near drilling sites.

Campaigners said the ballot effort was necessary following a failed legislative compromise to add new regulations to fracking in the state.

The Polis-Hickenlooper plan also earned praise from the oil and gas industry, which had fought against the ballot initiatives along with the pact state lawmakers were working on that collapsed in July.

“Short-sighted initiatives that threaten responsible energy production and undermine job creation do a disservice to Coloradans who want a more reasoned discussion. Today’s call could clear the path for a more balanced and inclusive conversation that will preserve Colorado’s leading role in America’s energy revolution, and we look forward to participating in that dialogue," said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard on Monday.

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