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Outspoken fracktivist’s ballot drive for Colorado oil-and-gas tax hike cut short

Author: Dan Njegomir - May 1, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017

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Just last Friday we noted here that incendiary anti-fracking activist Andrew O’Connor of Lafayette was “poised to mount a petition drive for what could be the next big ballot battle with the oil and gas industry.” His proposal: doubling Colorado’s severance tax on oil and gas production. Not a fan of the industry, that O’Connor.

You’ll recall he also was the guy who had made headlines (and drove page clicks) with his endorsement of violence against fracking operations, as enunciated in a letter to the editor of the Boulder Daily Camera. He told us in a follow-up chat, “I wouldn’t have a problem with a sniper shooting one of the workers” at a fracking site.

But as it turned out, by later the same Friday, a lot had changed: O’Connor still abhorred fracking, to be sure — but his ballot proposal was dead.

Although as we initially reported, the proposal’s ballot title had been set April 19 by the state’s title setting board — allowing O’Connor to begin petitioning the proposal onto the statewide ballot — a motion for a reconsideration was filed last Wednesday by attorneys for Chad Vorthmann (he’s executive V.P. of the Colorado Farm Bureau).  His motion contended among other things that O’Connor had made changes to the draft of his proposal after the public comment and review period, but he failed to indicate what those changes were. That left the title board in the dark.

The board agreed and on Friday reversed its previous decision, nixing the proposal. It ruled that without clear direction on what changes were made, the board lacked jurisdiction to approve the proposal.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Dan Haley, not surprisingly, said it was all for the best:

This was a poorly structured ballot initiative from the beginning and the title board’s 3-0 ruling clearly showed its flaws. The entire state benefits from the current severance tax structure, which has provided a stable mechanism that has served us well for decades.

But will the outspoken O’Connor drop from the scene as quickly as his ballot proposal? We’ll guess he’s going to stick around a while.


Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.