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Initiative 108: Opposition ramping up against pro-oil & gas ballot measure

Author: Marianne Goodland - August 2, 2018 - Updated: August 23, 2018


Opposition to Initiative 108, a proposed measure for Colorado’s November ballot, is heating up two days before petitions for the measure are expected to be turned in to the Secretary of State.

Initiative 108 would amend the state constitution to say that governments can’t slash the value of private property — such as by restricting oil and gas operations that could profit a property owner — without fair payment.

The initiative is sponsored by Colorado Farm Bureau, which has scheduled a 9 a.m. press conference for Friday, where they’re expected to announce they’re turning in the petition signatures for the measure.

> RELATED: Initiative 108 could blunt local land-use rules, officials warn

While the ballot measure doesn’t mention oil and gas, its intent is to protect the industry and those who own mineral rights on private property. It is being proposed as other groups are trying to get Initiative 97 on the ballot, a measure that would restrict new oil and gas development near homes and schools.

> RELATED: Initiative 97: Backers of oil & gas measure allege buyout of a signature gatherer

But Initiative 108 is raising concerns for local government officials all over the Front Range, who fear its passage will hamper much more than oil and gas activities.

Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega is among the local government officials sounding the alarms on 108.

“If passed, Initiative 108 will bring the work of local government to a screeching halt because Denver will be entangled in lawsuits filed against the city for any number of programs, projects, rules, policies, or zonings that anyone could challenge by indicating that it has harmed their property. This is not a way to govern — by tying the hands of your elected leaders who work on these matters on behalf of our communities,” Ortega said in a statement Wednesday.

The Colorado Municipal League, a statewide organization that represents Colorado cities and towns, is also raising concerns about 108.

“Enshrining 108 in the constitution ought to concern everyone,” tweeted Kevin Bommer, legislative liaison for the Colorado Municipal League. “Want a county to be sued for allowing dairy farm to be built? Or a municipality zoning to ensure industrial uses don’t impact schools? 108 will pit property owners against each other.”

Sam Mamet is the group’s executive director.

According to the statement from Save Our Neighborhoods, Initiative 108 “would open up essentially all state and local government regulations to legal threat by individuals or companies who believe they should be making more money from their property.” That could mean, for example, that marijuana stores could be built near schools, or that industrial activities could be located next to hospitals.

The statement claims that city and state governments and taxpayers “could be forced to pay property owners for any policies (including even zoning laws, minimum wage requirements, safety codes, or noise restrictions) that could potentially impact the value of a property.”

While the issue committee backing 108 — Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage — has yet to show any activity, the real muscle behind the initiative is coming from the deep pockets of the oil and gas industry and their primary issue committee, Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, aka Protect Colorado.

Several major oil and gas companies are already pouring millions of dollars into Protect Colorado, not the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage. However, the latter is expected to handle much of the work on behalf of the measure if and when it’s certified for the ballot.

According to TRACER, the Secretary of State office’s campaign finance system, Protect Colorado has raised $10.8 million since January 1 for the November ballot fights. The committee has already spent $6.2 million in this election cycle on petition signatures, campaign marketing, and strategy. That money went to Pac/West of Oregon, which has raked in more than $28.7 million in the past four years, most of it from Protect Colorado and for similar activities.

The biggest contributors? Anadarko Petroleum, Colorado’s biggest oil and gas producer, at $2.7 million; Extraction Oil and Gas, at $2.1 million; Noble Energy, at $2.4 million; and PDC Energy, at $1.9 million.

Those dollars are also engaged in a second fight, against a ballot measure requiring a 2,500-foot setback for oil and gas drilling activity. Whether that ballot measure, which in recent weeks has faced problems with one of its petition firms, will turn in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot is unknown.


Initiative #97

All petitions for initiatives headed to the November ballot are due no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 6.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.