By changing only eleven words in the Colorado state constitution, Amendment 74 has the power to upend how our local governments function and fund important public programs. Here’s five things Colorado voters need to know about Amendment 74 before ballots drop on October 15.
1. What does Amendment 74 really say?
Amendment 74 is intentionally vague and confusing – but don’t let that stop you from investigating the impacts of this dangerous ballot measure. Under the pretense of property rights, Amendment 74 would require the government – and consequently, taxpaying Coloradans – to foot the bill for disgruntled property owners, corporations, and special interests that believe a regulation hurt their property value, even in a negligible way.
2. Who’s behind the ballot measure?
The oil and gas industry has pumped money into this measure since day one. Although Colorado Farm Bureau is the publicly-named proponent, the state’s largest oil and gas companies have invested $21 million in support of Amendment 74 – and against oil and gas setbacks – through the Protect Colorado PAC. Its top three contributors are some of the largest oil and gas players in the state: Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy.
As of September 12, Anadarko has donated nearly $6 million, Noble Energy contributed almost $5 million, and Extraction Oil and Gas committed almost $4 million. The industry remains as the only contributor to the cause.
3. Who’s against the ballot measure?
Over 100 local elected officials and legislators have spoken out against Amendment 74, reiterating that the ballot measure is too broad and goes too far. Outspoken opponents so far include a host of environmental and progressive non-profits across issue areas, Club 20, Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Municipal League, and Governor Hickenlooper.
“If passed, Initiative 108 will bring the work of local government to a screeching halt because Denver will be entangled in lawsuits filed against the city for any number of programs, projects, rules, policies, or zonings that anyone could challenge by indicating that it has harmed their property. This is not a way to govern — by tying the hands of your elected leaders who work on these matters on behalf of our communities,” said Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega.
4. Why do we need Amendment 74?
The short answer: we don’t. Here’s why:
- The Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners and doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.
- Amendment 74 would broaden some powers imparted by the state Constitution, unleashing sweeping effects and unintended consequences for communities across the state.
The motive behind Amendment 74 is clear:
Oil and gas companies want complete freedom over how and where they do business.
5. How could this impact my community?
Let’s go through a few scenarios:
- If an oil and gas company wanted to place more pipelines, storage facilities and wells near homes – like the pipelines that caused an explosion and killed two people at a home in Firestone just last year – but was blocked by zoning laws or local rules, they could sue a local government for preventing them from making a profit.
- Public health and safety laws that keep industrial activities away from hospitals and nursing homes may not be enforced if contractors and industry players sue.
- Local governments would be unable to do their jobs as they waste taxpayer dollars fighting frivolous lawsuits. They could even be forced to raise taxes or cut services like police and fire departments in order to cover the cost. The ultimate losers would be the taxpayers.
We rely on our local governments to help craft plans for what our communities look like, and how to keep residents safe. They do this in open, public meetings to balance the needs of all citizens. This established, trusted democratic process would be upended under this measure.
Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights: Amendment 74 aims to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry.