Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics Members of Colorado Rising pose for a portrait at the home of Executive Director and former Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar in Thornton on Dec. 19. Left to right: Sarah Ortegon, Suzanne Spiegel, Lauren Petrie, Angela Alfaro, Anne Lee Foster, Lily Ramos, Caitt Johnston and Joe Salazar.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this editorial contained a typographical error that was interpreted as racially insensitive. The Gazette intended no harm and regrets the error.

Conflict among Colorado's fringe environmental groups has led to another proposed ballot attack on energy. Radical activists want to outlaw natural gas stoves, water heaters, home heating systems, and anything else that burns the clean, affordable, and efficient gas.

Trouble began when left-wing activist Joe Salazar, executive director of Colorado Rising, betrayed both the environmental base he claims to work for and the energy industry he attempted to make a deal with.

Just as Colorado Rising wants to ban natural gas, Protect Colorado defends responsible oil and gas development. Last month, the two groups had a gentleman’s deal to withdraw pro- and anti-industry energy ballot measures. It would have saved both sides from a costly battle, since getting on the fall ballot requires 124,632 signatures for each initiative by August 3.

Colorado Rising failed its 2018 attempt to ban natural gas production when Coloradans voted against Proposition 112. On the heels of that outcome, legislative Democrats passed Senate Bill 181 in 2019, expanding local control over oil and gas production.

"With the signing of this bill, it is our hope that the oil and gas wars that have enveloped our state are over and the winner is all of us," said Gov. Jared Polis in a signing ceremony for SB 181.

Despite the Governor's declaration, Colorado Rising pushed for more anti-industry ballot measures this year. Then, after agreeing to a truce with the industry, Salazar backed out of the agreement. The broken promise hurt Colorado. The deal would have allowed our state’s natural gas industry to focus on implementing SB 181 and prioritize Colorado's economic recovery amid COVID-19. No one would incur the time and expense of collecting signatures.

Because Salazar reneged, the environmental fringe has to contend with ballot measures designed to give the energy sector long-term protection and stability long into the future.

Two members of Colorado Rising abandoned Salazar in April to pursue their mission without him. They joined 350 Colorado Action to push for a 2020 ballot nearly identical to Prop 112. But 350 Colorado Action has publicly admitted the heavy odds against getting the measure on November's ballot.

In an effort to improve the odds for petitioners, Polis issued an executive order to relax the rules and allow online signature collection. Even with that assist, 350 Colorado Action is hobbling forward with extremely limited resources. It was difficult to garner setback support in 2018. In 2020, marred by COVID-19 and economic challenges, it will be even more challenging to promote a measure that would starve schools and governments of revenues generated by gas production.

Because of Colorado Rising's deal collapse and 350 Colorado’s Action’s petition drive, Protect Colorado must move forward to protect Colorado’s environment, economy, and energy independence. We applaud the organization's determination to get two essential measures on the November ballot. If passed, each would be a huge win for Colorado communities.

Initiative 284 protects natural gas by precluding governments from removing consumer choices for energy used in homes and businesses for cooking, heating, and powering equipment.

Initiative 304 would ensure ballots inform voters about the total cost of any initiative. That would include the initial price tag and effects on employment (job losses or gains), Colorado’s GDP, tax revenues, and more. It would reduce deception by giving voters a fuller picture of any proposal's repercussions.

Three-quarters of Colorado homes use natural gas as their primary energy source and it remains the number one driver of CO2 emission reduction in Colorado and the U.S. Natural gas is Colorado’s most abundant, affordable, and reliable energy source. Gas production has broad-based support from both political parties, President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama, Sen. Cory Gardner, and former Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

The pandemic reminds us we never know what our state will face in the future. Reliable, affordable, and abundant energy is the foundation of a functioning society in any crisis.

Natural gas is vital to our state. Voters must continue countering these dangerous and irresponsible attacks on the energy industry by supporting initiatives 284 and 304. Sign these petitions, get these measures on the ballot, and vote them into law.

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