With eight days to go before Coloradans say yes or no to Proposition 112, some backers of the measure say that they're feeling ignored as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission plans to meet today, October 29, to consider several new oil and gas permits. Proponents are asking Governor John Hickenlooper to halt the meeting until after the election.
Deborah McNamara, campaign coordinator for 350 Colorado, an organization fighting climate change, says the COGCC will consider more than fifty pages of new permits at today's meeting...and that's unacceptable, considering that, if passed, Proposition 112 would increase required oil and gas setbacks from schools, homes and water sources from 500 feet to 2,500 feet. A pending decision on the Martinez Colorado Supreme Court case could also change the outcome of whether those permits should be granted or not.
"It feels like they're trying to get through as many permits as possible before the laws could change in a few weeks," explains McNamara.
It's unknown when a decision will come down on the Martinez appeal, which claims the COGCC is legally required to consider health and safety first and foremost before the needs of the oil and gas industry when permitting. The COGCC appealed a decision that favored the six teenagers who sued the commission, including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
McNamara says community members have been attending COGCC meetings for several years and have felt largely unheard; that's a big reason that Proposition 112 came to be on the 2018 ballot.
"I think that we've been, for a very long time, dismissed, as we're on the fringe, we're extremists," says McNamara. "It's been a long fight, and I think it's culminated in this statewide ballot initiative because every other solution hasn't worked."
350 Colorado is now asking Hickenlooper to take action and postpone the next COGCC meeting until after the November 6 election, but the group is not hopeful that he will.
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"Our hope is in his final moment as our governor that he would actually take an action that would stand up for health and safety of the people of Colorado. The request is he does something different for this hearing and asks the COGCC to finally pause their permitting process," says McNamara. "We expect that they have the meeting no matter what."
Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hickenlooper, says his office is not aware of the letter but that postponing the meeting would be premature. "We believe it is best to continue the work as current law directs," says Montgomery.
If that's the case, McNamara says, families affected by oil and gas drilling near their homes and other community members plan to make a strong showing at the meeting and speak out about their experiences. She expects the industry will also send representatives to testify in favor of approving the permits.
COGCC Executive Director Julie Murphy referred our request for comment to Travis Duncan, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Duncan says the meeting has been scheduled for a year, and there are no plans to cancel it or move it to another venue to accommodate a larger crowd.