(Updates throughout with quotes, details, changes dateline,
By Keith Coffman
DENVER Aug 4 Colorado Governor John
Hickenlooper said on Monday he has brokered a deal between
environmentalists and the energy industry that could avoid two
ballot initiatives that would have curtailed oil and gas
Share prices of oil producers rose on word of the agreement,
which Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said will include a task force
with members from industry, environmental groups and local
communities to set standards for the state's growing petroleum
"This approach will put the matter in the hands of a
balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business
representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and
the executive branch on the best path forward," he said.
The compromise was seen as a positive for energy companies
with big operations in Colorado such as Noble Energy Inc
and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, sending their share prices
up more than 5 percent.
Several Colorado municipalities worried about environmental
issues have sought to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, which uses a mix of pressurized water, sand and
chemicals to unlock hydrocarbons from rocks.
But those efforts have faced challenges, with lawyers and
courts saying their legality would depend on the state's own
laws for fracking.
Hickenlooper has worked for months to reach a deal to head
off the competing initiatives.
That has put the governor at odds with U.S. Representative
Jared Polis, a wealthy Democrat from liberal Boulder County, who
was bankrolling the anti-fracking ballot measures.
Polis, who was under pressure by fellow Democrats to
withdraw his support for fear it would cost the party the
governorship and a U.S. Senate race this fall, joined
Hickenlooper at Monday's news conference and said he was pleased
with the compromise.
"For the first time, citizens will be on equal footing to
the oil and gas industry, and able to negotiate directly for
regulations that protect property rights, homes values, clean
water, and air quality," Polis said, while acknowledging some
environmental groups would be disappointed in his decision.
The deal hinges on both sides pulling their ballot
initiatives, said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican
Committee, calling it "a non-agreement agreement."
"Literally, the only thing that we know for certain after
today's press conference is that Gov. Hickenlooper, Jared Polis
and Colorado Democrats want even more control over Colorado's
already heavily regulated energy industry," Call said in a
But Tisha Schuller, executive director of the Colorado Oil &
Gas Association, an industry trade group, commended the governor
for "putting the state's interests ahead of politics."
"These issues are complex and must include a wide range of
stakeholders to find common ground with workable solutions," she
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, and Anna Driver and
Terry Wade in Houston; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)