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90% of oil and gas exploration in Colorado could be restricted under anti-fracking measures on November ballot


(NaturalNews) Citizens of the Centennial State will finally get the chance to have their voices heard on the issue of hydraulic fracturing, as two major voter referendums seeking restrictions on the destructive practice head to the November ballot. If passed, Initiatives 75 and 78 would halt all new oil and gas exploration and production activities in upwards of 90 percent of Colorado, constituting the biggest political blow to "fracking" yet.

Tired of seeing industrial holes punched throughout their natural landscape to accommodate the exponentially growing number of oil and gas rigs, some of which are as close as 500 feet to homes, parks and other residential areas, Coloradans are hoping for landslide victories with the two pieces of legislation. The two proposals, which Colorado voters will decide on in just a few short months, would accomplish the following:

• Initiative 75 would give power back to local governments to establish their own rules and regulations concerning oil and gas development, authorizing municipalities "to pass a broad range of more protective regulations, prohibitions, limits or moratoriums on oil and gas development – or not," according to the grassroots group backing it. Initiative 75 challenges a Colorado Supreme Court ruling from back in May that says state law overrides local fracking bans.

• Initiative 78 would expand the current 500-foot setback rule for drilling operations to 2,500 feet. This setback would apply to homes, hospitals, schools and other "sensitive" areas, like drinking water sources and underground aquifers, playgrounds and parks. Initiative 78 is predicated upon health studies showing that one half-mile is the minimum buffer zone needed to reduce the risks associated with drilling, which include explosions and fires.

Oil and gas industries threaten to sue Colorado residents for trying to protect homes, nature

According to Courthouse News Service (CNS), more than 200,000 signatures – which is more than twice the number required for ballot approval – were gathered in support of the two measures in just five months, indicating strong public support for the effort. But this isn't without resistance from the oil and gas industries, both of which have issued a formidable threat to Colorado residents.

The two industries' advocacy website, "Protect Colorado," claims that the initiatives are "irresponsible" and represent an "extremist agenda." The site also warns that, if the two initiatives pass, the result could "threaten private property rights and could even cost Colorado residents hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits." In other words, cross us and you'll pay the price, so vote how we tell you to vote.

Many Coloradans are already taking action to protect themselves against the devastating effects of fracking by collecting rainwater in barrels rather than using potentially contaminated water from the tap, or by purifying this questionable tap water using advanced methods like the Berkey gravity-fed water filtration system. But more needs to be done, and because momentum is strong, it appears as though more will be done come November.

Environmental concerns aside, there are also many safety concerns associated with fracking. Back in 2013, a major fracking accident led to carcinogenic chemicals being leaked into Parachute Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to some 30 million people living in the Southwest U.S.

In addition to worker deaths associated with fracking, many areas around fracking sites are now prone to mysterious earthquakes as well, presumably due to the shifting that occurs from materials being moved and removed from underground spaces.

"Industry has been gearing up for this fight for five years," Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, told Think Progress just prior to the initiatives getting approved for the ballot. "This was kind of the pre-fight, the undercard. If either of these make it onto the ballot, we're going to see a cage match—an all-out war."

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