Thursday, May 21, 2015
State Governments Determined To Prevent Local Fracking Control
It may come to the astonishment of many that a Pew Research Center poll found that more Americans now oppose fracking (47 percent) than support it (41 percent). This is not surprising given the greater proportion of opponents live in urban areas (like Denver) where fracking wells and operations are moving right into neighborhoods, despoiling natural beauty even as they leave toxic water, air and soil in their wake. Many cities, such as Longmont, CO, have sought fracking bans but have been stymied at the state government level. Gov. John Hickenlooper and his oil and gas industry sidekicks have set up a draconian system whereby it's nearly impossible to pass a ban or limit fracking without a state-driven court challenge. (With state laws already rigged to overthrow any ban or moratorium)
But it's not just here in Colorado. Other fracking states, unhappy that citizens may choose to go the way of New York state - and ban fracking altogether -are manipulating legislatures and laws to ensure no fracking challenges can be made. Essentially, as in the case of the TPP, we are looking at an anti-democratic mechanism being put in place to snuff voter rights on the environment. It is despicable and there is no doubt it will work - unless challenged in the courts. Republicans - mainly - are moving swiftly on multiple fronts to roll back or to block city-led environmental issues especially to do with fracking.
In most cases, as is common in our "whore"-bribery system of governance, the lawmakers are on the receiving end of vast amounts of oil industry largesse to act the part of poltroons and punks. By way of example, Texas House members averaged more than $25,000 each in contributions from oil and gas companies in 2013 and 2014 according to a Texas for Public Justice report. One of the TX legislators supporting such bribes is Phil King, also national chair of ALEC's board of directors. (Though ALEC doesn't claim involvement with the nefarious legislation to curb citizen initiatives in Texas, its website does offer a model bill to give lawmakers a template.)
This should not surprise us given the rightist corporate front outfit called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), e.g.
has been behind voter nullification legislation for a while now, ramping up since Obama won the presidency in 2008. One major tool used is the demand for stricter voter requirements to address the myth of voter fraud. (There have been perhaps two such cases in the last 22 years.) According to the Brennan Center for Justice seven of the eleven states with the highest African -American voter turnout in 2008 have subsequently passed laws making it more difficult to vote, see e.g.
ALEC, it's corporate nexus and especially its oil industry cohorts undoubtedly thought that if a little voter suppression via the idiotic demand for specific IDs works, then wholesale state legislation to outlaw initiatives against fracking will also work. And these tactics stretch all the way to state supreme courts! In February, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that cities and counties have no authority to regulate fracking independent of state law (which, of course, favors wholesale fracking). The ruling came in response to a ban on the practice voted on by several cities. Basically, the Ohio SC said: "Sorry, folksies, your votes don't count on this issue of life quality and health!"
The curbing of initiatives is now front and center in other states. Bills that would prevent cities from regulating fracking have advanced in the Florida, Oklahoma and Texas legislatures in April. The Oklahoma bill was proposed after a state report linked a 600-fold increase in earthquake activity to wastewater wells associated with oil and gas drilling. See e.g.
Citizens terrified of the incursions of fracking and its toxic detritus and effects on health need to be made aware of how their democratic choices are being removed, step -by-step, frack state by frack state. Bottom line: you snooze, you will lose!