Elections, Energy, Environment, Featured, Sherrie Peif

Advocate for Prop 112 now setting title for oil & gas setback measures; won’t recuse herself

DENVER — Less than two years after Colorado voters overwhelming rejected large setbacks for new oil and gas development — known as Proposition 112 — five more initiatives are lined up in the que to ask voters again to stop most all drilling in Colorado.

This time, however, an outspoken advocate for Prop 112 helped set the ballot titles for the new measures after she refused to recuse herself from the process, calling an objection to her involvement “without basis.”

Theresa Conley, who is the chairwoman of the three-member Colorado Title Board, denied the motion to disqualify her from setting titles for the initiatives without revealing who filed the complaint or the arguments for disqualification.

It is procedurally improper and “has no basis in statute or in rule,” Conley says in audio on the Secretary of State’s Website.

Colorado State Statute “1-40-107 sets ground for rehearing and the alleged appearance of impropriety is not grounds for a rehearing or to disqualify a board member,” Conley said. “Furthermore, the title board is not  judicial or quasi-judicial. It is a legislative board with a narrow purpose to designate and fix a title for each proposed initiative.”

Conley, an attorney who works as the legal and internal operations manager for Secretary of State Jena Griswold, also lists advocacy, environmental policy, lobbying, and political campaigns as her areas of expertise on her Linked In page.

The Title Board members are set by state statute. Members are not fixed but the Director of Legislative Legal Services, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State each get one designee to represent their office on the board.

Conley acts as the chairwoman, David Powell usually represents the AG’s office while Jason Gelender and Julie Pelegrin rotate the Legislative Legal Services representation.

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At question is Conley’s involvement with proponents of Prop 112 and whether she can fairly set a ballot title on initiatives that closely mirror it.

The purpose of the Title Board is to set the language that the voters will see on the ballot in determining whether to vote for or against a measure. The title board members are supposed to remain neutral and impartial to ensure the language does not bias the outcome.

During the Prop 112 campaign, Conley, who was the advocacy director for Conservation Colorado told the Denver Post that the “oil and gas debate is one that Coloradans care about and will continue to do so as long as wells continue to be drilled close to where people live and play.”

She said Conservation Colorado got involved because residents in northern suburbs were demanding that limits be placed on oil and gas operations near residences.

“As you’re seeing oil and gas moving toward developed communities, it’s becoming more of a pressure point,” Conley said.

Conley could not be reached for comment.

Despite Prop 112 failing by double digits (57 percent against 43 percent for) and only 12 of Colorado’s 64 counties voting in favor of the setbacks, the measures Conley helped set a title for are near mirror initiatives.

The board approved five new versions that range from 2,000 to 2,500-foot setbacks. Additionally, two versions would allow homeowners to waive the minimum distance requirement for the owner’s single-family principal residence.

The five initiatives are:

  • 173 — Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet away from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure, the state, or a local government and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?
  • 174 — Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet away from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?
  • 175 — Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet away from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure; authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement; and allowing a homeowner to waive the minimum distance requirement for the owner’s single-family principal residence?
  • 176 — Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,000 feet away from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?
  • 177 — Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,000 feet away from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure; authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement; and allowing a homeowner to waive the minimum distance requirement for the owner’s single-family principal residence.

It is yet to be known which version may go before the voters if the appropriate number of signatures are gathered.

In the hearing, Conley said the motion reflecting opposition to her participation reflects a “misunderstanding of the board’s narrow purpose to which there are numerous safeguards in place.”

“Titles must be set by a majority vote, the statute provides grounds for rehearing that can be filed by the proponents or any eligible elector, and the board’s decisions can be submitted before review to the Colorado Supreme Court to ensure the board correctly determines its jurisdiction.”

 

 

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