COLORADO: Public trust proposal blocked from ballot

By Sheridan Block

Despite its claimed attempts to protect Colorado's natural resources, the controversial Public Trust Initiative was denied a spot on November ballots due to a technicality. On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court turned down Initiative 103, ruling that the Title Board made a mistake when it allowed a substitute to fill in for a designated representative during a rehearing on the measure.

Co-filer for the proposal Barbara Mills-Bria was unable to attend the Title Board meeting and designated a substitute to take her place. According to the court's opinion, state law "does not allow designated representatives who are unable to attend a Title Board meeting to substitute alternates to serve in their place." Instead of proceeding, the Title Board should have postponed the hearing until Mills-Bria could attend.
With the court's ruling, the proposal cannot be considered for the 2014 ballot because the Title Board is no longer meeting for this year's election cycle.
The state Title Board determines whether proposed initiatives meet requirements to be placed on the election ballot.
The public trust doctrine sought to protect the state's natural resources — particularly water — from pollution and irresponsible use. The initiative asserted that it is the state's responsibility "to secure the rights of the people to protect natural resources" such as "clean air, clean water, including ground and surface water, and the preservation of the environment" which the public is entitled to. The initiative would have modified the state's constitution, giving first preference and authority to the public's right to clean water and other natural resources.
Many ranchers and other water rights owners opposed the initiative, concerned that the doctrine would upset the balance of the state's existing prior appropriations system. The Colorado Water Congress is also opposed to the public trust doctrine.
In a press release from the CWC, the organization noted that it will now shift its focus to Initiatives 75 and 89, both of which would affect the state's water community. The Supreme Court gave Initiative 89 approval to continue toward ballots on Monday and last month confirmed Initiative 75.
Initiative 75 is a proposal by the Colorado Community Rights Network and would strengthen local control, allowing local governments to adopt environmental regulations that override state laws, "including the laws that limit and balance local governments' regulation of water facilities," said the CWC.
Initiative 89 declares that Colorado's environment is "the common property of all Coloradans" and gives local governments the power and authority to enact laws and regulations that are "more restrictive and protective" of the environment than those enacted or adopted by the state government.
Supporters of the proposals have until Aug. 4 to collect 86,105 valid signatures each in order to secure a spot for the initiatives on the ballots in November.