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Top 10 Local Stories of 2018: No. 3 — Proposition 112 Fails As Communities Seek Ways to Govern Oil and Gas

December 29, 2018
Workers on a well next to the Colliers Hill subdivision in Erie in June.

Top 10 local news stories of 2018

Through Dec.31, the Times-Call will count down the top stories of the year, as selected by the newspaper’s editors.

10. Longmont high school teams post successful post-seasons

9. Longmont allows recreational marijuana shops

8. Police officers cleared in shooting death of Gillie Thurby III

7. Longmont adopts 100 percent energy-renewable goal

6. Mile-Hi Skydiving under scrutiny after skydiver death, noise controversy

5. Longmont passes affordable housing mandate

4. Rita Gutierrez-Garcia disappears, still missing more than nine months later

3. Proposition 112 fails as communities seek ways to govern oil and gas

After the Colorado Supreme Court in 2016 struck down a voter-approved fracking ban for preempting state law, communities around the state began to seek alternative routes to regulation.

In May, Longmont City Council decided its best option was to sign a $3 million deal with Top Operating and Club Creek Energy prohibiting drilling within city limits, but allowing for the oil and gas deposits beneath the city to be reached by way of horizontal and directional drilling operations based outside the city.

The lone dissenting vote came from Councilwoman Joan Peck , who said she thought allowing any fracking underneath Union Reservoir was criminal.

Her colleagues, however, said they couldn’t miss the opportunity to eliminate surface drilling within the city.

“It’s not perfect,” Councilman Tim Walters said. “But I’m not going to pass on the chance to win one for Longmont.”

For conservation groups, the solution was a ballot measure, known as Proposition 112, to increase setbacks for new oil and gas operations from 500 to 2,500 feet throughout the state.

But even while those who opposed the anti-fracking bill hailed the 260,000-vote victory on Nov. 6 as a boon for Colorado’s economy, supporters continued to devise new means to fight for increased regulations.

“Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure by fear-mongering about jobs,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director with Conservation Colorado. “The fact remains (that) the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved.”

With a Democratic governor and attorney general and a Democratic majority in the state Legislature, many of whom supported Proposition 112 prior to the election, supporters of 112 hope increased local control for where, when, and under what conditions oil and gas developments are allowed to operate within a community — including increased setbacks, incentivizing renewable energy, enacting zoning regulations to create no-drilling areas or creating ordinances to tax noise and odor pollution — will again be brought to the fore.

“This opens up a window of opportunity,” Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said . “In 2013, when we last held the House, the Senate and the governorship as Democrats, we were able to double the number of oil and gas inspectors, pass a bill that required inspectors to do a more thorough job and bring some of our fines into the 21st century.”

John Spina: 303-473-1389, jspina@times-call.com or twitter.com/jsspina24

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