With decisive wins in Boulder, Lafayette, and Fort Collins – and with a pending squeaker of a 13-vote margin in Broomfield – citizens in Colorado sent a huge wake-up call to Governor Hickenlooper in the November 5, 2013, election that said this: “Can you hear us now? We don’t want to be fracked!”
The moratorium in Boulder won by a massive 56-point margin sending a loud message from one of the most pro-environment cities in the United States. But what happened in other cities is likely to be more indicative of the voice of the people of Colorado. In nearby Lafayette, a total ban on fracking won by 18 points. In northern Colorado – in swing-county Larimer and very near “gasland” in Weld County – a 5-year moratorium won in Fort Collins by 11 points. And in Broomfield, which leans conservative, the initial count showed a margin of 13 votes with 363 votes yet to be counted and a recount likely.
All of this happened in an off-cycle election with low turnout, an election situation which always favors conservatives and conservative outcomes.
Further, the oil and gas industry outspent the citizens groups by at least 40 to 1, spending at least $878,000 to the citizens groups’ $26,000, according to the Denver Post.
The eyes of the U.S. were on Colorado during the fracking election, and Colorado returned with a decisive anti-fracking message. In the eyes of community and environmental activists, such as myself here in Colorado, this election was forced by Governor Hickenlooper, who has repeatedly thrown local communities under the bus. He has sued Longmont, threatened to sue any other city that bans fracking, and has sided with the oil and gas industry at every turn.
Governor Hickenlooper has shown a complete failure of leadership.
As we move forward in this extremely controversial atmosphere in the state, the situation is only likely to escalate, with more cities and towns attempting to ban fracking and with a statewide ballot measure possible in 2014. Further, the night of the election and after the votes were tallied, Governor Hickenlooper seemed to double-down, threatening yet again to sue any city that banned fracking in a statement made to CBS news in Denver.
It’s almost like the governor has a compulsion to favor oil and gas. In a statement quoted in the Denver Business Journal the day before the election, he suggested voters aren’t educated about fracking and are voting with emotions rather than facts. His continuing to claim that voters aren’t educated is surprisingly brazen and arrogant. Has Governor Hickenlooper considered whether the reverse is true? Can he continue to say that the vast majority of voters are wrong and he’s right? Further, in the same article, he said it was his “job to protect property owners,” but he’s only protecting oil and gas property owners, not the actual homes of actual voting citizens.
Governor Hickenlooper needs to change course and immediately start showing strong leadership on fracking that is in line with the sentiments shared by a vast majority of citizens in Colorado. Does he think he can force us to be exposed to cancer-causing fracking chemicals? Does he think he can sue us all and frack us all and still get our vote one year from now?
The voters spoke, Governor Hickenlooper. You need to listen.[ Image by Bosc d’Anjou ]