Mark Udall opposes ballot initiatives to restrict oil and gas drilling


Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) on Wednesday announced his opposition to a pair of ballot initiatives that would place new restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the state.

Udall's posture illustrates the careful balance the Democrat is trying to strike on energy issues. Environmental groups are backing Udall and spending big money to help his reelection campaign. At the same time, the senator does not appear to want to come across as a staunch opponent of the energy industry.

Udall made his position clear after Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced that he would not call a special legislative session to forge a compromise on oil and gas regulations.

"Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners, we have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session," Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Udall said he opposes a pair of initiatives Rep. Jared Polis (D) is pushing. One would increase the mandatory minimum distance between oil and gas wells and homes, schools and offices from 500 feet to 2,000 feet. The other would create an environmental bill of rights.

Polis has reportedly faced pressure from some in his own party to drop the initiatives.

"Colorado has served as a model for the nation on finding the right balance between protecting our clean air and water, the health of our communities, and safely developing our abundant energy resources. In my view, these proposed ballot initiatives do not strike that balance," Udall said in a statement. "I believe that Colorado can and must do better, which is why I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions and will continue working with all parties — including property owners, energy producers, and lawmakers — to find common ground."

Udall's Republican challenger in the Senate race, Rep. Cory Gardner, had called on Udall to oppose the ballot initiatives.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for Coloradans, our economy, and our special way of life,” Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano said in a statement Wednesday.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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