July 16, 2014 Updated: July 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm
DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper sent out a statement Wednesday morning conceding talks of a legislative compromise to the oil and gas local control debate have failed.
“Over the past several months, we have worked with a bipartisan coalition to explore a legislative compromise that would avoid a series of expensive and divisive ballot initiatives surrounding oil and gas development in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners, we have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session.”
If a special session had been called this summer, lawmakers would have returned to Denver to consider a local control bill drafted by the governor’s office through negotiations with both the oil and gas industry and those behind ballot measures asking voters to increase local control over drilling.
But talks broke down despite several groups giving their approval to the draft legislation.
“Our thanks to all of those who supported the compromise. We continue to believe that the right way to solve complex issues like these is through the legislative process and through transparent rule making,” Hickenlooper said, of a process that occurred entirely behind closed doors.
Now the battle becomes a public showdown.
U.S. Rep. Jarred Polis who is backing two ballot measures that deal with local control over fracking. One would create a mandatory setback from homes for drilling operations and the other creates a sweeping environmental bill of rights that could be used by municipalities to regulate fracking operations.
On the other side are oil and gas companies – and other groups opposed to putting those regulations in the Colorado Constitution – who are expected to spend millions fighting the measures.
First, the group collecting signatures for the ballot titles must get about 86,000 valid signatures from registered voters to the Secretary of State’s Office by August 4. It’s a feat that another group attempting to regulate the oil and gas industry has already admitted it won’t accomplish in time.