Surface owners’ rights ballot question clears court
The race for signatures is on.The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Friday in favor of proponents of a ballot initiative that would require oil and gas drilling companies to pay for damages created during mineral development on private land.Now, Glenwood Springs real estate agent John Gorman, of the Colorado Landowners for Fairness, and others fighting for the ballot measure will fan out as soon as possible to gather a minimum of 67,829 signatures by Aug. 7 for their question to be put on the November ballot.Gorman said his group could use as many as 13,000 people to gather one and a half times the needed signatures to get the question on the ballot. The issue came before the state Supreme Court because opponents of the measure claimed that the title of the ballot initiative as set by the Colorado Ballot Title Setting Board, “Damages for Mineral Extraction,” was too vague. “The voters don’t even know what they’re voting on,” said Greg Schnacke, executive vice president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “The only result at the end of the day is lawsuit after lawsuit, which will only increase energy costs, ultimately, to consumers.”But Gorman said the ballot initiative is “hugely important” for residents who do not own the mineral rights to their land because, if passed, it will require gas companies to “make whole the people they damage.”A resident whose property has been damaged “now has a more level playing field to negotiate with the oil industry,” Gorman said, adding that many people living near drilling areas have been “bulldozed, toxic-wasted, gassed” and made ill because of gas development. Gorman said the point of the ballot question is to get the attention of the industry and encourage them to be responsible. The initiative comes after a bill with a similar objective sponsored by Gunnison Democrat Rep. Kathleen Curry’s bill failed in the state Legislature. Gorman said in March that Curry’s bill lost its punch through the legislative process, and now wants voters to take on the issue. But Schnacke said COGA prefers that the Legislature revisit the issue next year. He said COGA is in discussions with the Farm Bureau, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Association of Homebuilders to try to reach an agreement on a legislative package that “everyone could understand.”Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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