Proposition 112 in the 2018 Colorado election: What to know about oil and gas setbacks

This is the one that would require new oil and gas operations to be at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, water sources, and areas designated as vulnerable.
2 min. read
An oil rig in Commerce City, March 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kevin J. Beaty

Proposition 112 asks if Colorado should increase minimum distance requirements for new oil and gas exploration, drilling, production or processing.

Here’s the language you’ll see on your ballot:

Proposition 112 proposes amending the Colorado statutes to:

  • require that new oil and natural gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures,
    water sources, and areas designated as vulnerable.

How would it work?

Colorado already limits oil and gas operations from being closer than 500 feet to a home or other occupied building and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings like schools, hospitals, jails and neighborhoods with at least 22 buildings. The measure would add 2,000 feet to that requirement, although it does not apply to federal lands, which makes up about 36 percent of Colorado. It also adds "vulnerable" sites, like community drinking water sources, to the list of places where setbacks would be necessary; that designation could be made by the state or a local government.

Also, current setback rules are allowed to be waived by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and a building owner. Proposition 112 does not include language to allow such waivers.

Who’s for it and who’s against it?

Colorado Rising is the leading organization in support of the measure. Their endorsements page lists 118 groups who back their effort, which includes environmental groups like and Greenpeace, government groups like Boulder's city council and other special interest groups like the American Friends Service Committee and the Four Winds American Indian Council. Colorado Rising points to the oil and gas-linked 2017 explosion in Firestone as a reason for larger setbacks, as well as health problems like cancer that they say are linked to exposure to oil and gas production. The Colorado Democratic Party has also spoken in favor of the measure.

Protect Colorado is the leading organization against the measure. Their website lists 81 organizations, 108 former and active elected officials and 28 counties and municipalities who also oppose Proposition 112. Among those listed are Governor John Hickenlooper, Former Governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter, Walker Stapleton, Jared Polis, the American Petroleum Institute, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Centennial, Thornton and Greeley. Protect Colorado characterizes proposition 112 as: "Reckless energy setbacks being pushed by extreme out-of-state groups [that] would wipe out thousands of jobs and devastate Colorado’s economy for years to come."

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