Colorado Fights Back Against $25 Million Fracking Power Grab

by Eva Resnick-Day

June 3, 2016

People across the country are fed up with the influence that fossil fuel corporations have over our democracy — and Colorado is no different. Now, communities are taking action.

Break Free Action in Colorado

Keep it in the ground activists blockaded a federal auction to lease public lands to fracking companies in Lakewood, Colorado in May 2016.

© Bob Pearson / Greenpeace

In one of the most egregious examples of fossil fuel money polluting democracy and obstructing climate action, oil and gas companies are doing everything they can to expand fracking in Colorado against the will of the people. But Coloradans refuse to back down, and their fight to protect their environment and wrestle democracy back from corporate interests is reverberating across the country.

Here’s the scoop.

Even after voting to ban fracking, Colorado communities are still battling to keep the fracking industry from drilling on their land.

The people of Longmont and Fort Collins voted to put a halt to fracking in their communities in 2012 and 2014 respectively. And just a few weeks ago, hundreds of people occupied a fracking site in nearby Thornton at Silver Creek Elementary School, just one in a series of drilling sites proposed by the oil and gas industry near schools and playgrounds.

And this activism is getting real results.

In Longmont, the industry spent more than $500,000 to stop local voters from enacting a citywide ban, but lost handily to a grassroots movement with only $30,000. You read that right: in Colorado, the people rose up against corporate money and won.

Local communities want nothing to do with these fracking projects, and that scares the hell out of the oil and gas companies.

But unfortunately that’s not where this story ends.

Having lost at the ballot box in Longmont and Fort Collins, the industry turned to the courts, which ruled last month that local ordinances halting fracking were invalid and that state law takes precedent. Meanwhile, those creating state laws — from both parties — have significant monetary ties to the fracking industry.

In short, the people of Colorado said loud and clear they don’t want fracking, and yet fossil fuel companies are manipulating government loopholes to keep fracking alive.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is not how democracy is supposed to work.

Undeterred, local organizers continue to fight back against frackers’ hijacking of the democratic process.

They’re currently gathering signatures for two ballot initiatives this year. One would allow cities to limit or ban oil and gas development locally, and the other would block companies from building oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of schools.

Fracking Drill Site in Colorado

A fracking drill site in the Colorado plains, just east of the Rocky Mountains. Photo by Wild Earth Guardians / Creative Commons.

This grassroots movement represents a major threat to the short-sighted bottom line of the oil and gas industry, which in return has spent a staggering $25 million dollars in the last few years to silence local voices and literally rewrite the rules of democracy. Right now, that’s coming in the form of an industry-backed ballot initiative that would hinder the future ability of citizens to pass ballot initiatives — essentially making the process only available to moneyed interests — and giving any county veto power over any initiative.

We expect the industry to spend an additional $25 million before Coloradans vote in November in further attempts to dilute the voice of the people.

Let’s be clear: this ballot initiative does not represent the people.

It only represents the special interests of greedy and reckless fossil fuel companies.

The time for fossil fuels is in the past, and the industry and the people know it. That’s why oil and gas companies getting desperate in their last ditch attempt to protect an antiquated model of obtaining energy.

They may have the money, but the people of Colorado have the power.

Let’s make Colorado the example that shows the rest of the nation that when we come together to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry — no matter how much money they have — we will win.

Let’s take back our democracy. Let’s keep it in the ground. Let’s win.

Eva Resnick-Day

By Eva Resnick-Day

Eva is an organizer with Greenpeace USA's democracy campaign, working to get fossil fuel money out of politics and restore the right to vote.

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