Just as Colorado Republicans were looking for a strong 2016 cause, radical environmentalists showed up with a gift three days before Christmas.
Coloradans Resisting Energy Development, or CREED, filed a wish list with the Colorado Legislative Council on Dec. 22. It was lost to the media's holiday staffing and pre-Christmas distractions.
The group wants up to 11 ballot measures that would jeopardize property rights, jobs and economic stability throughout the state. Even one or a few of these anti-fracking measures on next fall's ballot would inspire an insurgence of energy money, directly or indirectly aiding pro-energy candidates. Given Colorado's role as a swing state, any of these measures could influence the presidential election.
Though Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has tirelessly defended fracking, the industry depends on Republicans for the bulk of its support.
CREED, an umbrella of sorts for anti-energy activists, wants an outright ban on fracking with a proposal known as Initiative 62. In addition to banning all fracking, the measure would prevent compensation of mineral owners for financial losses incurred by the elimination of fracking.
The measure states, in part: "The prohibition of hydraulic fracturing is not a taking of private property and does not require the payment of compensation pursuant to sections 14 and 15 of Article II of the Colorado Constitution."
In other words, they want eminent- domain-by-mob without due process or just compensation. The U.S. Constitution, thankfully, prohibits voters from taking private property or negating its value. Voters have no more authority to eliminate mineral rights than to end same-sex marriage. Federal law will prevail.
Initiative 63 would establish an "Environmental Bill of Rights," suggesting local governments have all sorts of newfound authority to ban energy production on private property. Initiative 65 would impose 4,000-foot fracking setbacks from buildings and homes.
The other initiatives would create variations on setbacks and new "rights" for local governments to seize control of land and minerals owned by private individuals and businesses. Of course, governments don't have rights. Individuals have rights; governments have authority that is limited by those rights. Not one of the 11 proposals falls within boundaries of common sense or constitutional compliance.
As explained by ColoradoPeakPolitics.com, after anti-fracking activists proposed 2,000-foot setbacks, the analysts at Commonsense Policy Roundtable calculated the costs to Colorado's economy. They included: 50 percent fewer drilling locations; 36,000 fewer jobs in the first five years; 49,000 fewer jobs on average over 25 years; $160 billion in GDP lost through 2040; $6.4 billion in GDP lost each year on average through 2040; $110 billion in personal income lost through 2040; $273 million in lost tax revenue in the first five years, and $439 million lost per year by 2040.
The outlook would be considerably worse with the proposed 4,000-foot setbacks or all-out fracking prohibition.
As pointed out in this column Sunday, more than 300,000 new residents have made Colorado home in just the past two years. Young people moving here want opportunity for decades to come, not prospects of unemployment, poverty and sagging tax revenues for the appeasement of environmental ideologues.
Colorado rightly prioritizes environmental protection, in part to guard its tourism economy. Fracking has lived in harmony with the state's fierce protection of wildlife, forests, water and other natural resources for more than 40 years.
For pro-energy politicians, these proposals are manna from way out left. They are too extreme to succeed but scary enough to motivate common-sense voters to support candidates who want jobs, economic growth and all safe conventional, modern and future sources of power.