Colorado Lawmakers Scramble To Head Off Anti-Fracking Ballot Measure

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Colorado Republican lawmakers are willing to consider a bill that would give cities and counties more control over oil and gas operations in order to avert a November ballot initiative that would open the door to fracking bans.

Republican State Rep. Frank McNulty told Denver’s Fox 31 that a legislative compromise is preferable to the economic impacts of widespread fracking bans if the ballot measure is successful.

“I know that there are people on the Republican side who are open to a legislative fix,” he told the TV station. “We shouldn’t leave these things to hang out there until November. We should resolve what we can now.”

The idea has bipartisan support, with Gov. John Hickenlooper meeting with both sides of the fracking issue on Thursday to broker a solution.

There’s not much time — Colorado’s legislative session ends for the year on May 7. There’s also a question whether the legislature could pass a bill that environmentalists would be pleased with enough to drop the ballot measure.

Millionaire Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is a driving force behind the initiative, which has other Democrats “annoyed” with him, Fox 31 reported.

“Too many people just don’t trust Jared Polis and don’t believe that these ballot measures go away if we do arrive a bipartisan fix,” McNulty said.

Polis issued a statement Wednesday saying he supports a legislative solution.

“I hope that our elected officials in Denver are able to come to an agreement,” he’s quoted as saying in the Denver Post. “If they do not, I am prepared to support a ballot initiative to address this increasingly urgent situation.”

Polis is at odds with a number of Democrats on the issue, some of whom are heading up a bipartisan  group called Coloradans for Responsible Reform that recently launched a new campaign to oppose the ballot measure.

Members include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, prominent Democrats, as well as Republican Mayor of Greeley Tom Norton and the heads of prominent business groups.

This coalition will coordinate its campaign against the ballot measure with the oil and gas industry, which is planning separate actions, according to the Denver Post.

If a ballot measure moves forward — supporters must collect more than 86,000 valid signatures by August — the battle to sway voters is expected to be intense and expensive, something lawmakers are trying to avoid.

“I think this is something that can be done legislatively, rather than in 30-second soundbites,” Hickenlooper is quoted as saying by Fox 31. “I have no problem sending things to the voters. But often times, if something like this ends up on the ballot, there will be $30-50 million spent on ads.”

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