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Anne Landman's blog
Two Colorado legislators announced they are introducing a ballot initiative aimed at punishing cities and towns that vote to ban fracking within their borders.
Rep. Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, both Republicans, announced they will attempt to get an initiative on the ballot to block local jurisdictions from getting severance tax revenues or grants from Departments of Local Affairs as long as they have fracking bans or moratoria in place.
The state collects severance taxes on income derived from the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, like oil and gas, coal and metallic minerals. Severance taxes also help pay for programs administered by Departments of Local Affairs.
The legislators estimated it will cost about $150,000 to get the initiative on the November, 2014 ballot. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, they would need to gather approximately 86,000 valid signatures.
The lawmakers did not say why they chose a ballot initiative instead of just introducing legislation to achieve this goal, but it could be because they know chances are slim it would pass in Colorado's Democratically-controlled legislature.
Colorado has become the first U.S. state to pass rules regulating methane air pollution from drilling and fracking operations.
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted 8-1 on Sunday, February 23, 2014 to require oil and gas companies operating in the state to start testing their pipelines, drill rigs, storage tanks, compressor stations and other sources of potential methane leakage on a monthly basis using new, more sensitive instruments like infrared cameras.
Companies will also be required to monitor, detect and repair leaks of other types of hydrocarbons, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They must also provide aggressive timelines for the repair of any leaks, and the new rules put stricter limits on emissions from drilling operations located near residential and recreational areas.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment expects the new rules to reduce VOC emissions in Colorado by approximately 92,000 tons a year, about equivalent to the amount emitted by all of the cars in Colorado over one year.
The new rules grew out of a collaboration between a coalition of environmental groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund and three of the largest energy companies operating in the state: Noble Energy, Inc., Encana Corporation and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
Some industry groups tried to weaken the rules by arguing they should only apply to more heavily populated areas of the state and not statewide, but the AQCC resisted efforts to water down the new rules and adopted them largely as they were written, citing overwhelming public support for reining in air pollution from the drilling industry.
The new rules may also boost employment in the state. A spokesman who testified before the AQCC on behalf of Noble Energy said it will cost the company $3 million and they will have to hire 16 additional people to comply with the new rules.