In the News

Oil and Gas Local Control Initiative 75 Moves Forward

By Steve Raabe
The Denver Post

Posted:   05/23/2014 04:11:00 PM MDT

Initiative 75, one of the most contentious of the 11 oil and gas local-control ballot initiatives looking to get on the fall ballot, has received judicial approval to begin gathering petition signatures.

The measure, backed by Colorado Community Rights Network, would give local governments “the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with (local) fundamental rights.”

Oil and gas drilling is one focus of the initiative, but supporters and opponents agree the measure would have sweeping implications over all types of industries.

The proposal has local-control proponents and business groups diametrically opposed and teed up for a fractious campaign if the measure gets on the ballot.

The initiative is one of 11 seeking to get on the ballot that would tighten state regulations on energy development or give more control to local governments.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is attempting — so far without success — to find consensus among energy firms, business groups and local governments for legislation that would address some of the community concerns over drilling and head off the ballot initiatives.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday gave the go-ahead for petitions to circulate on Initiative 75, denying a challenge from business advocates that the measure’s wording was confusing and misleading.

Proponents intend to begin gathering signatures next week to place the issue on the November ballot in Colorado. All ballot initiatives this year require at least 86,105 valid signatures.

Cliff Willmeng, of Colorado Community Rights Network, said backers so far have raised about $35,000 — a fraction of the amount that many past initiatives have raised and spent — and will rely primarily on a network of volunteers to circulate petitions.

If approved by voters, the initiative would enable cities and counties to set their own rules for oil and gas drilling, regardless of existing state and federal laws. Local governments also could regulate or prohibit other types of businesses.

“Oil and gas has made us push the initiative forward, but it has more to do with the balance of power for people and communities,” Willmeng said. “The concepts of democratic self-determination and community rights are universal.”

Business groups find the measure alarming.

It’s one of the most blatant anti-business initiatives we’ve ever seen,” said Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. “It’s not just an anti-fracking initiative. It’s going to have rippling effects throughout the entire state.”

Kelly Brough, CEO of “the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the anti-initiative group Coloradans for Responsible Reform, said the initiative “would have a devastating effect on economic growth in Colorado. It could change the rules in ways that can’t even be fathomed.”

Willmeng acknowledged that the prospect of local governments banning or regulating businesses could have economic impacts.

“Democracy has all kinds of consequences,” he said.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, [email protected] or