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Colorado Governor says he doesn’t have votes for fracing bill

JENNIFER OLDHAM

DENVER, Colorado (Bloomberg) -- Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said he doesn’t have enough votes to pass legislation allowing more community control over oil and gas drilling, paving the way for a fight on the November ballot that is expected to be the most expensive in the state’s history.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, had worked with energy companies, lawmakers and business groups since May to broker a compromise to appease activists pushing for restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. He had hoped to head off a ballot measure that would amend the Colorado constitution by prohibiting drilling within 2,000 ft of structures -- a step energy companies say would effectively ban fracing in the state.

“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 a statement July 16. “We have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session.”

The debate over fracing has escalated as drilling moved closer to suburbs, raising concerns about water and air contamination. Five communities in the state have voted to ban or put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

State regulations now require wells to be located at least 500 ft from occupied buildings. Activists are hoping to expand that barrier.

U.S. Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder who is backing the initiative requiring 2,000 ft of space, said it’s now up to the people of Colorado to address the fracing issue. Supporters of the initiative must turn in 86,105 valid signatures of registered voters by Aug. 4 to place the measures on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“My one goal is to find a solution that will allow my constituents to live safely in their homes, free from the fear of declining property values or unnecessary health risks,” Polis said in a statement.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Whiting Petroleum Corp. and Encana Corp., which are drilling in the Denver-Julesburg basin, one of the nation’s richest oil and gas fields, said July 16 they will spend $50 million to fight the measure. Drilling in the basin has helped make Colorado the nation’s sixth-largest natural-gas producer and ninth-biggest oil producer.

“Colorado is at the heart of this national debate,” said Matt Most, V.P. of government relations for Encana. “The rest of the country is going to be looking here and if we lose it will embolden challenges elsewhere.”

The oil companies are supporting a ballot measure that would prevent communities that restrict drilling from receiving state tax revenue from the business.

Hickenlooper, who is running for re-election this fall, has been leading a campaign to persuade Coloradans that mineral rights owners must continue to have the ability to collect royalties by allowing energy companies to drill.

07/17/2014

 

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