Campaign 2018: Public lands initiatives have key roles in Colo., Fla. and other states

Energy and environment are playing key roles in races in around the country as the 2018 midterm elections near. Pro-environmental ballot initiatives are dominating the states this election cycle, although, as always, Florida has thrown a curveball. E&E News reporter Kellie Lunney chats with E&E Daily editor Manuel Quiñones.

Manuel Quiñones: Hello everyone. We're here continuing our discussion of E&E's coverage of the midterm elections. We want to turn to something that hasn't gotten as much attention as House races, governor races, Senate races. And that's the ballot initiatives. And it turns out that there's tons of ballot initiatives at the state and local level around the country. And Kellie Lunney is working on a story right now about some of those focused on natural resources, which is her focus here at E&E. So, Kellie, tell me a little bit about what are you seeing generally?

Kellie Lunney: There are a lot of pro-public lands and waters and pro-conservation ballot initiatives across the range of states from Connecticut to California. We're seeing ballot measures to ban offshore drilling in Florida in the state waters — not federal waters. We're seeing initiatives that would increase the public's input in Connecticut if the Legislature decides to sell or transfer public lands. We're seeing a measure that would enshrine, in the state constitution of North Carolina, a right to hunt and fish. So, you're seeing a lot of, and a lot of these have bipartisan support in those states, so, you're seeing a lot of those initiatives bubble up on the state level that somewhat mirror what's happening on the federal level, but they're confined to those states. But they're really pro-recreation, pro-public land and water access; pretty pro-environmental.

Manuel Quiñones: And is that the trend you're seeing that it seems to go more toward the pro-environmental, pro-protection?

Kellie Lunney: In terms of the ballot initiatives that I'm looking at, they tend to be of that ilk. There's one in Colorado that — it's Proposition 112, that would mandate a certain amount of feet. It's 2,500 feet that new oil and gas developers could basically build their infrastructure. It has to be 2,500 feet away from places like hospitals and playgrounds and any sort of building or what's considered a vulnerable area, like a park. So, that's another sort of pro-environmental push at that level. It's got a lot of opposition and support so that's one of the more controversial ballot initiatives we're seeing. But generally speaking, we are seeing a lot of, at the state level, efforts to increase the access to green space, increase the access to hunting and fishing, and protect public lands and waters in general.

Manuel Quiñones: OK. Any other hot ones that you see out there that are worth highlighting?

Kellie Lunney: There is one in, another one in Colorado. I mentioned Prop 112, but there is an Amendment 74 that would — this is somewhat related to 112, it's sort of in the same wheelhouse — but it would amend the state constitution. So, it would require property owners to be compensated for any reduction in the fair market value of their property as a result of a specific state law or regulation. So, an example of that would be, if the government limits natural gas development, an owner, a property owner who has mineral rights on his property, could file a claim for reduced property value.

Manuel Quiñones: Property value.

Kellie Lunney: That one has got a lot of opposition from environmental groups. That's one that is not a pro-sort of environmental, pro-conservation one because they feel like it's overly broad and it could essentially result in taxpayers compensating property owners for the right to pollute on their land.

Manuel Quiñones: Exactly. And are, have you heard whether conservationists are excited about the blanket of ballot initiatives?

Kellie Lunney: Um hum. For the most part they are. You've got a lot of groups, like the National Wildlife Federation, that supports a lot of these pro-conservation ballot initiatives. The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are in favor of some of them as well. And these groups feel pretty optimistic that there's enough bipartisan support in these states that they will get passed. The Florida one is interesting because it's combined with another measure that has to do with banning e-cigarettes and other sort of vapor-generating, I guess, devices.

Manuel Quiñones: Devices, yeah. Doohickey.

Kellie Lunney: So, that's sort of, those two are combined. That's combined with the ban on offshore drilling and it's sort of a quirky way that they try to get everything. There were a lot of ballot measures that Florida was trying to get on the ballot, and so they wound up combining these two, which the way that Florida works, they sometimes do that and they're seemingly at odds. And you can't split your vote on it. So, if you vote for one, you're voting for the other as well. So, that can get a little bit tricky.

Manuel Quiñones: Oh, that's odd.

Kellie Lunney: Although the groups that support it tend to have the feeling that public health voters — I mean both of those are sort of public health-related issues that that will be a consistent vote.

Manuel Quiñones: So, at least it makes some sense.

Kellie Lunney: Yeah, even though it's a little random.

Manuel Quiñones: Well, thank you. And we should see your story coming out in the next couple days in Greenwire.

Kellie Lunney: Yeah.

Manuel Quiñones: Wonderful. And we'll also have coverage of more energy-related ballot initiatives. George Cahlink just came back from Arizona and Nevada where there's power-related ballot initiatives. We'll have coverage on that likely in Energywire. And for folks who want to keep track of E&E News' Campaign 2018 coverage, just go to eenews.net, and on the right side of the page there's a reports button. Click there and that should take you to the Campaign 2018 banner. And we look forward to seeing folks in this venue again soon. Thank you.