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Colorado voters to see oil, gas limits on ballot

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Colorado voters may see issues on the November ballot on oil and gas development, an issue both sides of the debate said is important for state interests.

Supporters were able to get enough signatures to move petitions to the November ballot, according to the Colorado Secretary of State. Initiative No. 75 would move authority over oil and gas operations out of the hands of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee and into the hands of local authorities. No. 78 would require a 2,500-foot buffer zone around oil and gas operations, compared with the current 500-foot limit.

Two years ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper made a deal with the environmental advocacy community and those in the energy industry to ward off similar initiatives. Instead, he created a task force that would oversee the issue in a way he said would benefit residents and the state’s economy.

Oil from Colorado accounts for about one out of every 50 barrels produced in the United States. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the business interests of the energy sector, said the measures, if passed, could rob the state of about $7.1 billion over five years and curtail up to 90 percent of oil and natural gas development.

Supporters of the initiative said the issue was a matter of public health, pointing to concerns about some of the chemicals used in the exploration of shale oil and natural gas.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments last year on whether state or local governments have the authority to restrict hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling practice known also as fracking. The justices in the case said two local moratoriums “operationally” conflict with and “materially impedes” the power of the state.