DENVER (AP) — Colorado Democrats avoided a politically costly fight over oil and gas drilling after a quid pro quo deal pitched by the state's fracking-friendly governor prompted groups to drop their dueling ballot proposals.
The cease-fire compromise from Gov. John Hickenlooper was announced with great fanfare at the state Capitol Monday morning with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a fellow Democrat who helped finance two initiatives that sought to limit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. He agreed to back off his proposals, and groups pitching two pro-fracking proposals said later in the day they would end their campaigns as well.
A ballot-battle over drilling had Democrats worried about the implications. Taking the issue to voters could have negatively impacted Democrats in November by increasing fundraising for Republicans who favor oil and gas development and possibly boosting GOP turnout.
Hickenlooper is running for re-election, and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is in a closely watched contest against Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner. The race could help determine control of the Senate.
As a compromise to avoid the ballot fight, Hickenlooper said an 18-member task force would issue recommendations to the Colorado Legislature next year on how to minimize conflicts between residents and the energy industry.
Polis said the governor's announcement was "truly a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible protections and safeguards around fracking."
Fracking is a technique that blasts a mix of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals into underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas.
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