In a letter to the Pagosa Daily Post, lead organizer Cliff Willmeng said supporters made “heroic efforts” to place Initiative 75 on the Nov. 4 ballot, but were not on pace to gather the requisite 86,105 valid signatures needed by the Aug. 4 deadline.
Initiatives generally need about 125,000 signatures to clear the petition hurdle, given that many signatures are inevitably found to be invalid by the Secretary of State’s office.
“With just 9 weeks to get 125,000 signatures — and lacking hundreds of thousands in funding — we knew we faced an uphill battle for 2014,” said Willmeng in the post. “We took a tally this week and now know that we’re going to be well short of where we need to be. Disappointing, yes. But we have just started the fight for our Colorado communities.”
Willmeng vowed to resume the anti-fracking fight in 2016 with more money and better preparation. His group, the Colorado Community Rights Network, had only raised about $5,000 and was relying on an army of anti-fracking volunteers to circulate petitions.
“This gives us sufficient lead time to overcome legal challenges (what we didn’t have this year) and to ensure that we get a full, legally allowable 6 months for signature gathering,” said Willmeng. “This also gives us time for serious fund raising to help with our statewide and local efforts.”
Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for the industry-backed Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, said she wasn’t surprised by the anti-fracking proposal’s lack of support.
“I think Coloradans saw this initiative as killing state jobs and having severe repercussions on the economy,” said Crummy. “That isn’t going to change two years from now.”
Initiative 75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, would have allowed localities to supersede state authority in order to ban corporate activity within their borders, including anti-drilling and anti-fracking laws.
Still collecting signatures are backers of two more anti-fracking initiatives sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis. Initiative 88 would expand the state’s setbacks rule from 500 to 2,000 feet, while Initiative 89 would create an Environmental Bill of Rights.
Polis has agreed to drop both initiatives in return for a compromise bill being promoted by Hickenlooper. So far the governor has not called a legislative session, indicating that the bill doesn’t have the votes to pass.
“Initiative 75 really pulled back the curtain on the broader agenda and political beliefs of the national anti-fracking groups campaigning in Colorado,” said Simon Lomax, Denver-based spokesman for Energy in Depth, an industry-backed research and advocacy group.
“These guys aren’t just anti-energy–they’re anti-business, anti-jobs and anti-growth. That’s why you’ve seen business groups that represent every sector of the Colorado economy declare their strong, bipartisan opposition to all the anti-energy initiatives, including 75, because these ballot measures are simply too extreme for Colorado,” Lomax said.
A former labor organizer, Willmeng was the driving force behind Lafayette’s Community Bill of Rights measure, which was approved by voters in November.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit challenging the measure shortly after the vote. In June, Willmeng filed a lawsuit against COGA, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the state of Colorado demanding immediate enforcement of the anti-fracking measure.