Anti-fracking activists: Give us back local control

Hundreds of activists and families from across Colorado gathered in Thornton Saturday to protest hydraulic fracturing near schools and neighborhoods.

Braving gray skies and frigid temperatures, demonstrators used songs, chants and signs to urge Colorado to “keep it in the ground,” the rallying cry of groups across the world who demand an end to fossil fuel extraction.

Bill McKibben, renowned author and founder of climate action group 350.org, gave words of encouragement to a crowd of roughly 200 attendees in the early morning. Throughout the day, participants danced, played music — stationary bikes provided power to the PA system — and eventually spelled out “Break Free CO” in yellow umbrellas painted to look like suns.

(Photo by Anders Carlson)
(Photo by Anders Carlson)
The event was part of a global month of action to “break free” from fossil fuels. Encouraged by an alliance of environmental groups led by 350.org, thousands of protesters worldwide have targeted coal mines, power plants and rail lines in recent weeks in what has been called the ‘largest ever global civil disobedience’ against carbon-based energy sources.

In Colorado, the demonstrators added a state-specific demand to their global message: the rights of communities to regulate oil and gas drilling.

“We’re here today because not only do we not want fracking on our public lands, we also don’t want fracking in our neighborhoods and communities,” said Micah Parkin, executive director of the climate action group 350 Colorado.

Demonstrators addressed the public land issue last Thursday, when hundreds of activists showed up to disrupt an oil and gas lease auction at the Bureau of Land Management in Lakewood. Saturday’s participants, gathered in the middle of a field from which they could easily see both Silver Creek Elementary School and a large drilling site, focused on local control.

The Colorado Supreme Court dealt a blow to anti-fracking communities earlier this month when it struck down local government prohibitions on the natural gas extraction method. Preexisting state law, the court ruled, invalidates both Longmont’s fracking ban and Fort Collins’ moratorium.

The decision also puts existing prohibitions in Boulder County and elsewhere at risk and leaves communities concerned about environmental and health risks powerless to keep fracking out.

The last line of defense, Saturday’s organizers said, comes in the form of two hopeful ballot initiatives. Proposed Initiative 75 would grant local governments the constitutional authority to impose regulations on oil and gas development within their borders, including bans and moratoria. Initiative 78 would require all new oil and gas operations to be at least 2,500 feet away from schools, homes and other occupied structures.

“These are the most concrete things that are happening in the country for fracking right now,” activist Suzanne Spiegel said of the measures.

Spiegel says it will be an uphill battle to pass the initiatives, expecting industry opposition in the form of both money and political influence.

“But what they don’t have,” she said of the opposing side, “is the hearts of the people.”

Proposed initiatives in Colorado currently need almost 100,000 petition signatures to earn a slot on the ballot. Spiegel hopes that an active grassroots campaign and a committed volunteer base will get the job done — because by the next election, it could be too late.

That’s because yet another proposed ballot initiative hopes to make it harder for Coloradans to amend the constitution.

Proposed initiative 95, also known as “Raise The Bar, Protect the Constitution,” would require future ballot initiative petitions to get signatures from 2 percent of the population in each of the state’s 55 senate districts. Once on the ballot, such initiatives would require 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Supporters of the initiative say it’s a way to ensure that smaller, rural districts have a say in the lawmaking process.

“The populated urban areas around Denver dictate access to the ballot. Meanwhile, the rest of the state, including rural Colorado, deserves a voice when it comes to placing Constitutional questions on the ballot,” the initiative’s website writes.

But Razz Gormley, co-founder of Frack Free Colorado, says such a change will simply keep grassroots movements out.

“Only well-funded, monied interests could afford to run a ballot initiative under the guidelines they’re trying to pass,” said Gormley. “It would essentially give any county in the state veto power over any initiative.”

Proponents of the Raise the Bar initiative call for a halt to what they see as an overabundance of amendments to the state’s constitution. Indeed, Colorado sees more ballot initiatives than almost any other states.

But Colorado 350’s Parkin says the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling against fracking bans makes ballot initiatives more important than ever. For those who seek regulation against fossil fuel extraction, she says, it and nonviolent direct action are the only options left.

“We’re left now with the ballot initiative process and putting our bodies on the line, and that’s it,” said Parkin. “We’ve done everything else we could do.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Big oil and gas will not waiver…they have the upper hand and they will press their advantage….the anti-fracking groups need a different approach…they are only attacking along a small front…they could get more response to their side if they start hammering these companies and these republicans to provide an accurate list of fracking chemicals…and how these chemicals are very difficult or impossible to remove from the environment, once it is injected…water, air, soil, it all can be lost permanently because of the greed of a corporation, and the greed of certain corrupt republicans in our state house…and not to forget Governor Frackenlooper, and Michael “I will fold like a cheap suit” Bennet…

  2. All right, let’s say you get your way and there is no more oil and gas extraction… then what? You say that the opponents have no heart? Those hard working men and women who live, work and breather the same air that they drill in are not heartless and they are not greedy corporate lobbyists. They are mothers and fathers and neighbors. They don’t lack compassion they just HAVE common sense, which is what the proponents are lacking. Do you propose we go back to whale hunting for oil?

  3. I always find it fascinating that the right wing is such a big fan of local control UNTIL the minute it goes against what THEY want. Then the uneducated masses MUST be kept in control and the state MUST take over. Seems like a pretty decent sized display of hypocrisy to me.

    And it’s definite proof that they care FAR more about money than human life. When they want to have fracking wells 300 feet away from schools and see nothing wrong with that, you know what’s REALLY important to them, and it’s NOT life.

    My brother lived up by Ault, out in the middle of nowhere, having built himself a house with his own hands out there. A couple of years ago he started having serious health issues while staying in his house, and he had to move into Fort Collins to get away from the fouled air at his house because of the fracking out there. Think about that for a second. He had to MOVE from the country INTO the city to get air that wasn’t KILLING him.

    Anyone who tells you that fracking is a nice, clean way to get energy is a fool who has never been near it, or they are purposely lying. And unless we want to end up like Oklahoma, increasing the instability of the very ground we walk and build homes on, we will allow communities to put a stop to it within their confines.

    As to Coloradomamaof3, the point ISN’T that these are “nice” people. That’s an attempt to make people feel sorry for those who will lose their jobs when we move on to a BETTER system of energy. The entire PLANET works on solar, why are we so stupid that we have to stick with a 19th century fuel source that’s DESTROYING our ability to even SURVIVE on this planet? A LOT of really “nice” people lost their jobs with damn near EVERY advance in technology, and they had to find new jobs every time. It was rough, but it HAD to happen. We just don’t need that many buggy whips anymore. It’s time for ALL of us to move forward, no matter HOW much the right wing wants to keep things exactly the same. Sure, it’s more profitable for them, and easier, too. It’s also DESTROYING the planet. Use your BRAIN, not your heart, though your heart should be telling you to make things better for everyone, yourself included. Time to move forward. Stop trying to be an anchor because it’s easier. I’ve had to switch jobs 5 or 6 times thanks to things changing. I’m sorry if I’m just not that sympathetic, but I’ve been there. It’s better to do the change SOONER rather than make it harder for yourself later. It doesn’t get any easier when you HAVE to do it.

    It’s time to get off the petro wagon. It’s time to get on to the 21st century, which, last I looked, is when we are living. It’s time to get over the 19th and be smarter.

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