Thursday, December 31, 2015

Coloradans Plan New Initiatives Against the Frackers In 2016

Coloradans gather for protest outside court house in Denver two weeks ago.

As the year ends Coloradans in many communities are pleased that the frackers have had to back off a bit from ruining their communities - because of the existing oil glut and banks being unwilling to lend any more $$$ for these operations. But many are by no means satisfied as the frackers continue unimpeded in many places, especially in Weld and Adams Counties.

Now in the works for next year are more actions in the form of ballot initiatives after the last ones were scrapped back in 2014 at the behest of Boulder Dem Rep. Jared Polis who had originally pushed them. Many feel he was pressured to sell out or politically threatened if he didn't cooperate. Many citizens have been stewing ever since as the frackers have made many neighborhoods almost unlivable, e.g. in Thornton where several weeks ago over 100 citizens gathered to protest what was happening to their air, surroundings and water.

As Tara Trujillo, an outraged resident of Hunters Glen in Thornton put it:

"Don't let this industrial pornography invade every neighborhood!"

In the wake of all that, a Boulder County-based citizens group opposed to fracking has filed a package of ballot initiatives that would circumvent  the "compromise" sought by Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder. Recall that compromise was a joke. According to  Denver Post report back on Aug. 8, 2014:

"A 20 - person commission was announced Monday as part of a compromise to keep two oil and gas oriented initiatives from the fall ballot."

And what, pray tell, would  we see from this commission?

"The commission will have 6 months to make recommendations to the legislature which will then consider further legislation."

The "further legislation" was basically to do nothing and allow fracking to continue as it has been. All you need to know is that the two largest fracking companies - from Texas- cheered wildly at the news. To make a long story short, our frack-friendly Gov. Hickenlooper according to the Post,  "practiced shuttle diplomacy" until he got all the participants on board as well as PR firms   - to be able to sell this sham to the public. After all, following all the hoopla of the ballot initiatives you had to toss supporters some kind of bone when the measures were removed. (It helped of course that the state Dept. Of Natural Resources houses the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission - which is the industry 'pet' group designed to run interference on fracktivists )

In the wake of that fiasco, Karen Dike, one of the lead proponents of the (then)  fracking amendments, said of the Hickenlooper-Polis deal:

"The compromise did nothing to protect local communities."

Even Polis said after the task force report was released,

 "Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry proved they weren't interested in a compromise or solving the problem."

Now, the Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development   has taken up the battle again. They submitted paperwork for 11 potential ballot questions to provide mandatory setbacks for wells from homes and schools, more local control on drilling decisions or an outright ban on the process of hydraulic fracturing.  Eight of the 11 are variations of proposals for mandatory setbacks.

Each of the constitutional amendments would need signatures from 98,492 registered Colorado voters to get on November's ballot. A review-and-comment hearing on the language of the ballot questions is set for at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 5 in Room 109 at the Capitol.  Tricia Olson, CREED's executive director, said in a statement.

"If the state will not adequately protect Coloradans and communities, then we, the people of Colorado, must do it, and that requires a change to Colorado law. Our beautiful state should not be overwhelmed by wells, pads and other industrial oil and gas operations plunked down next to neighborhoods and schools."

Of course, the front groups shilling for the oil industry in the state are nearly apoplectic at the possibility of having to fight citizens all over again. Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, a group that supports energy development and  any opposing ballot measures, saw the potential amendments as devastating.

Spokeswoman Karen Crummy (note the name!), said in a statement:

"These measures are so radical they would kill jobs, ignore established laws, devastate Colorado's economy and create a patchwork of rules and regulations throughout the state,"

Which, of course, is kind of hilarious given it's the state itself that has engendered patchwork opposition because of putting up absurd laws to prevent citizens anywhere from even having moratoriums on fracking (as Longmont tried a couple years back)

Then you had Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an oil and gas trade group, squawking:

"It's no surprise the ghosts of Christmas past have returned and are trying again to take the state backward,"

Well, uh yeah, Dan, if it means being able to breathe fresh air again, not have your water turn piss yellow when you turn on the tap, and your kids not break out in rashes every few days! Damn straight we want 'backward' - to health, green environs and no more looking out to see wells and pollutants all around.

This battle isn't over by a long ways and Coloradans will be following it closely over this new year, given the next frack well that gets drilled may very well be right near their own homes!

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