The Colorado Secretary of State recently issued a press release announcing that two new anti-fracking measures, which seek to amend the Colorado constitution, are currently in the process of having signature submissions counted and verified. The measures would give local government the authority to regulate oil & gas development (Proposed Initiative 75) and expand setback requirements from 500 feet to 2,500 feet for new development (Proposed Initiative 78). If either of these measures receive enough support to end up on the ballot, they could result in unprecedented changes for the Colorado oil & gas industry.
Feldmann Nagel Margulis attorney David P. Steinberger has offered his legal perspective on this matter, offering his opinions on the potential implications and outcomes if the initiatives make it onto the ballot and pass into law.
In the video above, he addresses a number of issues related to these initiatives. Here are some of the highlights:
- If these initiatives make it onto the ballot and pass into law, they will result in a change to Colorado’s constitution. Once they pass into law, it will be very difficult to remove that law – in fact, it would require another initiative and another vote. Oil and gas mineral owners or leaseholders therefore don’t have much in the way of legal recourse once the change has been made to the State Constitution.
- If the ballot is voted on and passed by Colorado voters, it will be nearly impossible to overturn. There is nothing that the legislature or the courts can do to challenge the law once it has been passed.
- If an oil company has already begun the process of drilling a new well within 500 feet and the law changes to 2,500 feet, that well may be grandfathered in. However, any future well projects that have been planned and permitted may not be able to proceed. Depending on the progress of the project, oil companies may have to have the court interpret whether or not they are allowed to move forward with drilling, which could be an expensive course of action.
- So far, there are more than 98,400 signatures for the two initiatives, which are now being counted to see if they are eligible to be included in the ballot. The outcome will be revealed within the next few weeks.
- Even if the measures pass, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission will still have a responsibility to manage oil and gas resources. Their mission will not change. However, their permitting load will be significantly lessened because up to 90 percent of the state will now be off-limits to new drilling. The measures are essentially a roundabout way to ban new development of the oil & gas industry in Colorado.
Questions about how these potential changes to the law may affect you? Contact a Colorado oil & gas attorney at Feldmann Nagel Margulis: (888) 458-0991.