Coloradans reject measure that would have increased oil and gas well setbacks

A measure increasing the buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and occupied structures failed on Tuesday, with Colorado voters rejecting the measure that opponents feared would cripple the state’s oil and gas industry.

An oil rig in Commerce City, March 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

An oil rig in Commerce City, March 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

A measure increasing the buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and occupied structures failed on Tuesday, with Colorado voters rejecting the measure that opponents feared would cripple the state’s oil and gas industry.

Colorado Secretary of State figures showed that as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Proposition 112 was being rejected 57 to 42 percent by Colorado voters. More than 1 million people voted against the measure.

The measure would have changed setback requirements for new oil and gas operations to 2,500 feet from occupied structures, including public spaces. The current minimum setback is 500 feet.

The measure also would have added “vulnerable” sites, like community drinking water sources, to the list of places where setbacks would be necessary. That designation would be made by the state or a local government.

It would have applied only to state lands, and a study released in July suggested that if passed, 85 percent of Colorado’s non-federal land would be off-limits to new developments.

Anne Lee Foster, a spokeswoman for the measure’s primary backers, Colorado Rising, said that “while Prop 112 will not pass, we are excited that almost 800,000 Coloradans voted for a safer distance from drilling and fracking despite a massive opposition campaign.”

“The outcome of this election does not change the fact that oil and gas operations are dangerous and should not be happening so close to Colorado homes, schools and drinking water,” Foster said in a statement. “Frequent explosions, serious health impacts and an increasingly unwanted presence in our communities demand action. This coalition will not stop until our Colorado neighborhoods are safe from dangerous drilling and fracking.”

The measure’s organized opposition group, Protect Colorado, called it an “extreme ballot measure” in a release Tuesday. The organization’s communications director Karen Crummy said they “appreciate Colorado voters who realized what a devastating impact this measure would have had on our state’s economy, school funding, public safety and other local services.”

“The oil and natural gas industry and its employees look forward to discussing concerns with reasonable people looking for reasonable solutions,” Crummy said. “Our paramount concern is always the health and safety of the public and our employees, and we want to ensure our friends, neighbors and communities understand how committed we are to our state, its environment and its economy.”

The conservative organization Colorado Rising Action also celebrated the measure’s failure.

“Colorado already has some of the strongest oil and gas regulations in the country. Proposition 112 was just a thinly veiled attempt to kill the industry — and fortunately, it failed,” Colorado Rising Action executive director Michael Fields said in a release.