The Denver Green Party opposes statewide statutory ballot Initiative 97, proposed by Colorado Rising, which seeks to establish a 2,500-foot setback requirement for fracking operations from occupied buildings and special areas. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking has devastating consequences for people, the climate and environment. We call for a complete ban on fracking in Colorado and view this setback initiative as a dangerous concession to oil and gas interests.

Colorado Rising conducted polling which allegedly did not support an outright fracking ban, while a 2,500-foot buffer had the most support. They chose to seek a statutory change, as opposed to a constitutional amendment, because of lower requirements for statutory ballot initiatives. However, statutory changes via initiative can be amended in the legislature. In the last election cycle some $30 million was given to Colorado candidates of both duopoly parties from the extraction industry — the highest in the nation — so it is easy to see that a way to leverage legislators to work against the people’s wishes is already bought and paid for. By taking the easy way out, both in avoiding an outright ban and in choosing a statutory initiative versus a constitutional amendment, Colorado Rising has effectively reduced the right to clean water and environment to a mere bargaining chip.

We note that as expected, none of the Democrat or Republican candidates for governor are supporting this initiative.

While we could accept the concept of incremental change, there is no reason to believe that this initiative would be a step towards a ban. The measure would not affect existing oil and gas operations and does not apply to new development on federal lands. If enforced, it would potentially push fracking out to more rural areas. The setback distance does not account for the underground horizontal dimensions of hydraulic fracturing. Also, it is unclear whether aquifers qualify as vulnerable areas. The truth is that fracking employs fewer than 1% of Coloradans, while a transition to renewable energy development would create new jobs. Instead of half-measures that may only serve to build up email lists for nonprofit sponsors, it’s time for Colorado to get serious about both interrupting climate change and putting Coloradans back to work.

To truly protect public safety and health in Colorado from fracking operations, a complete ban is necessary. The Denver Green Party cannot support anything less.