The first of almost a dozen ballot proposals to allow greater local control of oil and gas development cleared an important hurdle Friday, winning clearance from the Colorado Supreme Court.
Known as Initiative 75, for now, the proposed constitutional amendment would give local governments more control over businesses and corporations that impact the health and safety of a community. That would include oil and gas drilling and hydrolic fracturing operations, which are regulated at the state level with some input from local governments.
The Colorado Community Rights Network, which successfully backed voter-approved fracking regulations in Lafayette, is heading up the initiative.
Lotus, who has no legal last name and works with the Colorado Springs branch of Community Rights, said he expects the Secretary of State to approve the petition language this week and for the group to start collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
This initative is the furthest along in the process of the 11 proposed constitional amendments. Opponents to the measure challenged the title and substance of the ballot proposal saying it was vague and unclear and dealt with more than one subject. The Supreme Court denied that challenge, clearing the way for the group to start circulating an approved petition.
It's likely all of the amendments will be challenged.
"Our plan at this point is to primarily focus on volunteers but we're also likely to get some funding and that may generate enough money to also hire people that collect signatures," Lotus said. "At this point we don't have enough money to pay people but we have volunteers from around 40 cities across Colorado at this point and we've only just begun."
The group will need to collect about 86,000 signatures from valid registered voters living in Colorado to get the issue on the ballot. Likely far more signatures will be needed because the Secretary of State will verify the residents are registered voters.
Lotus said the Colorado Springs region will kick off its efforts at a meeting 6 to 8:30 p.m. June 3 at the Penrose Library, 20 N Cascade Ave., for those interested in volunteering.
Not only the oil and gas industry, but many other business groups such as homebuilders and agricultural organizations are opposed to the measure they say could interfere with the economy and their ability to operate in Colorado.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has been trying to work out a legislative compromise that could satisfy concerns over health and safety impacts of fracking with the rights of companies to access the mineral rights they own.
Those discussions are ongoing and contentious.
Lotus said the Community Rights Network has not been included in those talks.
There are 10 other ballot titles proposed by two other groups, seeking to give local governments varying degrees of control, or to limit how closely oil and gas drilling can get to buildings.