Colorado Voters Will Weigh in on Drilling Distances From Homes and Schools

Coloradans will vote on a ballot initiative in November that requires new oil and gas projects to be set back at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings. If approved, the measure – known as both Initiative 97 and Proposition 112 – would mark a major change from their state’s current limits: 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.

As sociologists who have researched oil and gas drilling in the communities that host it for the past seven years, we think this measure would provide local governments and Coloradans more say over where drilling occurs and enhance the rights of those who live near these sites.

Fracking Boom

Domestic oil and gas production has soared over the past decade, leading the US to become the top global producer of those fossil fuels.

Technological innovations, especially the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, commonly called fracking, have fueled this growth. So has federal deregulation.

Partly because fracking and related industrial processes often occurs close to homes, schools and other occupied buildings, the debate over Proposition 112 is contentious.

Opponents, especially those funded by industry groups, argue that stricter rules will mean less state tax revenue, job losses and weakened private property rights. Proponents express concerns about air pollution, earthquakes, water well contamination and explosions to explain why they want the public to have more sway.

But many state governments have tried to stymie the attempts of communities to gain this power. For example, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that local communities have no right to regulate where drilling occurs.

And industry-funded groups and the Colorado Farm Bureau, which represents farmers, ranchers and other agricultural interests, are countering this electoral effort to restrict drilling with their own measure. Known as Amendment 74, it would…

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