Thursday, May 5, 2016

Colorado Citizens Shafted Under State Supreme Court Fracking Decision

A fracking crew member works inside the Halliburton Sandcastle, at an Anadarko Petroleum Corporation site, near Brighton, May 19, 2014.
Those of us who've criticized fracking in Colorado always suspected its Supreme Court operated under a Neoliberal hegemony and now that suspicion has been confirmed. On Monday the state's high court blocked a push by Front Range cities to limit oil and gas development near people, ruling state power to promote industry trumps local bans, which the court deemed "invalid and unenforceable."

The court rejected Fort Collins' five-year moratorium on fracking within the city limits. Justices concluded that measure "operationally conflicts" with state law and therefore, under well-established principles, is pre-empted by state rules that allow some drilling in neighborhoods. They also rejected Longmont's 2012 ban on fracking and disposal of fracking waste in the city because it "materially impedes" state power.

It is a god-awful, profits over citizens decision redefining Colorado's landscape for producing fossil fuels — one that's ignited passions on both sides at a time of intensifying political controversy. It also means Colorado citizens will now have to fight the battle on the basis of  pushing referenda onto state ballots for the November election. That means getting thousands of signatures for one or more petitions to formally express the will of the people. (As one Denver Post letter writer put in today: "Get busy, Colorado. This one needs to be put on the November ballot!")

Colorado now has more than 50,000 active wells and 45,000 inactive but all marring the landscape including with fracking waste pits that often leak their effluent into the soil. The people, the citizens of the state, evidently have little leeway in deciding how or where these wells will encroach on their neighborhoods. Supposedly, we have to just suck it up under some perverse, skewed law that goes by the moniker "split estate". That means you may own your home and the land-property around it but the state owns any and every thing underneath, say minerals (gold?), or oil, natural gas pockets, reserves So they can drill for it and too bad if your kid develops rashes all over her body, or gets severe breathing problems.

So while companies want to be able to increase production,  residents are reviving ballot campaigns to amend the constitution or give locals more power to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the industry's method of rocketing sand, millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to accelerate extraction of oil and gas.

And how has the industry received the news? Colorado Petroleum Council director Tracee Bentley said:

"The oil and gas industry is thrilled! This very well could mean that anti-oil and gas forces bring forth ballot initiatives. Oil and gas is ready to stand up for Colorado consumers and for Colorado's place in the American energy renaissance."

Of course, "energy renaissance" is PR delivered with a large dollop of  unadulterated bullshit. This crap - mainly kerogen -  is among the most debased form of carbon-based energy around, maybe a grade or two up from coal. It's already been responsible for disastrous spills, pollution of homes and communities, and train explosions associated with transporting this volatile crud. It really deserves to remain in the ground and as author Richard Heinberg pointed out in his book 'Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise Of Plenty Imperils Our Future', its economic benefit only erodes over time.

Indeed, we beheld the frackers had to halt most of their activities across the nation because the price of oil had fallen to such low levels, like around $30 a barrel, it was no longer profitable to extract the stuff, process it, store it and transport it.  So if that's the case, anyone with any sense would see the economic benefits are already marginal. Yet the state insists on dredging this shit up to the detriment of its people. It echoes actor Mark Ruffalo's complaint on a Real Time show back in February that "governments don't give a shit about their people". So true.

Neolib gov John Hickenlooper has also been no help. He has repeatedly stated that while local authorities do have "some power" - mainly to guide land use (i.e. indicate where they'd like the frack wells to be set up - closer to a church or a school), they "cannot get in the way of state regulators in dealing with oil and gas." In other words if those regulators give their A-ok, then fuck the people! Well, I and many others say "Fuck Hick!"

Making my point for me,  Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement to the press. (D. Post, May 2, p. 1A)

"We appreciate the Supreme Court's guidance on balancing private property rights and local government jurisdiction of oil and gas operations in Colorado,"

Which is total hogswill given that there was absolutely no effort to "balance" local gov't rights and power- grabbing by the state under the false rubric of "private property rights". No surprise then that the notion that people lack power to keep industrial activity out of their neighborhoods still rankles. As one 18 year old girl, Ariana Strout-  indignant about drilling in her neighborhood - put it in a Denver Post (May 2, p. 1A) article:

"I feel strongly about fracking. A city can't control its own fracking? That upsets me! A city should have the power to control what goes on within its city limits!"

And indeed it does, including whether and where porno shops and MJ stores can be set up, or where chemical industries are located. But with fracking, evidently anything goes under the bastardized meme it's "contributing to the economy".

One measure already making headway for the November ballot is "Initiative 40" which would allow local governments to define or limit the rights and powers of any kinds of businesses within their boundaries. It is essentially an extension of existing state laws as their pertain to marijuana retail shops and porn stores. Thus, under Amendment 64 any community can totally ban MJ retail outlets as per any valid council decision. By the same token, under separate state laws all porn shops - i.e. selling sex toys, books, videos etc, - can be prevented from being set up within a mile of a school and in some rural cases not at all.

Hence, the precedent for local control already exists in a number of spheres, just not with fracking - which one could argue is at least as deleterious in its effects as the two examples cited.

Of course, all the Neoliberal oriented businesses in the state are behind the court's decision using a faulty, biased form of logic. According to Rich Coolidge - a spokesman for 'Vital for Colorado' and quoted in today's Denver Post (p. 7A):

"Whatever city councils don't like they will be able to kick out of a city".

Yeah, Rich, but see - they are ALREADY doing that as per the above cited examples! So where's your beef? If city councils can already do it for a subset of businesses they can surely do it for others which they regard as inimical to their communities' welfare.

Of course, the Neolib pests and parasites are already setting up to fight, oppose any initiatives that seek to limit their ability to frack at will, and poison air, soil and water wherever the fuck they want. They have already set up a front group called - if you can believe it - "Protect Colorado".

Their stated aims (ibid.) could have been reproduced from a template right out of the hands of Josef Gobbles: "to ensure the public knows the important role the oil and gas industry plays in the state"

But to refuse to publish any of the negative effects, including diseases, that emanate from this disgusting industry.

Whatever, now we know the fight is on and the citizens of Colorado will not rest until they exercise their rights for self-protection, no matter what it takes. If the state won't protect them, they will have to do it themselves.

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