As negotiations continue in Denver to head off citizen ballot initiatives that seek to win greater local authority to establish drilling setback distances from housing and to limit drilling-related noise and dust and fumes, it’s worth noting that Colorado is not alone in reacting at the ballot box and city council meetings to neighborhood invasions of boom-time fracking — which is partly why some of the oil companies in negotiations with the governor right now are loath to give any ground in the battle. They’re afraid Colorado people-power will spread across the country. But it’s already spreading across the country, in sometimes breathtaking ways. As was widely reported, in Texas in February, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson sued to keep drillers off his land, and two Texas cities, Dallas — Dallas — and Denton have passed bans or effective bans this past spring. Indeed, Denton passed a moratorium in May and citizens are working now to turn that pause in drilling into a permanent halt.
From KDFW in Denton: “‘When it’s really bad and I can smell it, we basically all just stay inside and play board games,’ said Cheyenne Marquez, a mother of four. She lives 200 feet from the tanks and says the fumes sent her and her four kids to the doctor. ‘It’s basically cold symptoms — runny nose, sinus congestion, drainage down your throat, stomachaches, headaches,’ said Marquez. She claims no one, from the realtor to the homebuilder, told her about the site when she bought her Meadows at Hickory Creek home in 2012. Disclosure of the wells has been a big point of contention because current law doesn’t require any notice to homeowners.”
Why local control? Because residents believe that the higher up the political food chain you go, the more captured are the players by an oil-and-gas industry willing to spend unlimited money to maintain the status quo. Waiting on state legislatures or Congress to stiffen oil-and-gas drilling rules is like waiting for Godot. Nothing happens. The New Yorker this week pointed to the list of state and federal lawmakers who have taken an anti-carbon-tax pledge drafted by the oil billionaire Koch brothers front-group Americans for Prosperity. The list is absurdly long. The Colorado lawmakers whose names appear include every Republican elected official in Washington and state Representative Marsha Looper, an El Paso Republican. Why would citizens who live in the gas patches expect a lawmaker who has signed a policy pledge to the oil industry to fairly represent their interests and fully weigh the issue of local control? They wouldn’t and, as has become obvious, they don’t.
Youth group reGeneration Colorado visited the homes of three Republican candidates for governor for an MTV “Cribs”-style video piece. The candidates all have nice homes. Scott Gessler gave the interview in his downtown Denver backyard full of flowers where his kids play. Tancredo gave a tour of the man cave in his basement and of his fancy wine closet. Mike Kopp lives in a sort of “little house in the suburbs,” where he raises chickens and keeps bees. What none of these guys got? Wellpads or fracking towers or rows of fracking fluid flow-back tanks.
In the aftermath of the Cantor defeat, John Cassidy at The New Yorker writes that the surprise GOP primary race victory of Dave Brat isn’t about the Tea Party: “Republican leaders like Cantor have to give specific answers to these types of questions, and, occasionally, they are obliged to negotiate with the other party. Many Republican voters regard such maneuvers as betrayals: they are in no mood for compromise. To convince these voters that they are genuine conservatives, elected officials have to take extreme positions, such as advocating the repeal of Obamacare, opposing Roe v. Wade, and rejecting any pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. That’s been the G.O.P.’s dilemma ever since 2008. Brat’s victory shows that it hasn’t gone away.”
Recall the Sunday in 2010 when Weld County District Attorney and then-U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck on Meet the Press likened same-sex attraction to alcoholism? It was a game-changer. A Republican analyst at the time told the Independent it was like Buck “went on national television and pissed his pants.” Well, Rick Perry — Texas governor, gaffe-prone failed 2012 presidential candidate and 2016 presidential hopeful — went all Ken Buck in a Commonwealth Club interview this week in San Francisco, of all places. SFGate: “Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked Perry whether he believes homosexuality is a disorder. ‘Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.’
Pew’s Stateline writes today on expanding income inequality gaps opening up around the country. “It’s off the historical wall,” the piece quotes Sam Pizzigati of the Institute for Policy Studies. The piece catalogues state legislative responses to the old-new U.S. reality. This observation won’t surprise: “Responses in blue versus red states seemed at times as vast as research has shown the wealth gap itself to be.”
The Stateline piece includes a map of inequality rates by county coast to coast. Colorado is home to two of the top twenty highest inequality counties: Pitkin (13) and Mineral (3).
Tax cuts! Kansas, with its Republican-controlled government, has become a kind of petri dish for conservative policy. Budgetwise, it has been a disaster. The Wichita Eagle: “Officials underestimated the full impact of income tax cuts, according to the state’s research department, which released a memo Tuesday saying that the tax cuts contributed to the state missing revenue estimates by more than $300 million.”
Kentucky has enacted cuts, too. The Courier-Journal: “It is too soon to estimate the size of the shortfall in revenue… but it’s expected to be ‘significantly larger’ than $28 million… Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy in Berea, said, ‘This impinges on the next budget in a big way. … And it’s concerning that we’ve passed budgets that include cuts but can’t even reach the modest revenue requirements of those lean budgets.'”