Energy & Environment

Colorado rejects new oil drilling restrictions

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Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have imposed aggressive new restrictions on where oil and natural gas companies could drill and frack.

Drillers would have had to be at least 2,500 feet away from homes, businesses and other places deemed sensitive, more than double the current setback. It likely would have put large portions of the state off-limits to oil and gas development.

The failure of Proposition 112 is a major victory for drillers in the Centennial State, which ranks No. 6 in the country in both oil and natural gas production.

Opponents, led largely by the industry, had put at least $20 million into the campaigns to defeat it. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Jared Polis, who won on Tuesday, and current governor John Hickenlooper (D) joined the GOP in opposition to it.


The industry argued that around 95 percent of the state would be closed to drilling, decimating the oil and gas sector there.

Supporters argued that state officials have failed in their duties to protect residents in the drilling-heavy Front Range from the impacts of oil and gas, including air pollution, and that a ballot measure is the only way to ensure the protections.

The initiative’s backers also dispute opponents’ estimates of how much land would have been off-limits, saying that existing oil and gas wells would still be producing, and that techniques like horizontal drilling can greatly increase the reserves that can be recovered.

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