Organized efforts to push fracking bans as “local control” constitutional amendments onto Colorado’s November ballot are just that, according to newly revealed audio.
With 95 percent of Colorado wells opened using hydraulic fracturing, and 87 percent of the oil and gas industry’s activities located in just five counties across the state according to The Denver Post, local efforts to ban fracking would be tantamount to a de facto statewide ban on the technology.
In the audio of a national anti-fracking strategy conference call dubbed “Join the Call to Ban Fracking” obtained by Complete Colorado, Local Control Colorado activist Kaye Fissinger admits that the group is looking to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state, despite public protestations elsewhere in the media that this is not the case.
“Those of us who are working to ban fracking will be excited to hear that under the name of Local Control Colorado, a coalition of grassroots groups, has moved forward to create a statewide ballot measure,” said Fissinger in the audio.
Those groups include Our Longmont, Boulder County CCR, Frack Free CO, and Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, Fissinger said.
“We are thrilled to have taken this major step to secure the opportunity for Colorado communities to act to protect citizens health, safety and property values,” she continued.
Fissinger played up the significance of the Colorado measures now seeking signatures to be placed onto the midterm ballot.
“[W]e hope all of the listeners tonight will join us in many ways to help secure passage Local Control Colorado’s constitutional amendment. A victory this November is a victory for all of America,” Fissinger declared.
“It will send a message throughout the nation that we can and we will take control of our well-being when the state and Federal government refuse to do so,” said Fissinger in closing.
The call concluded with 170 call participants chanting “Ban Fracking Now!” if they were east of the Mississippi River, and west of the Mississippi adding, “Sí, Se Puede!”
LCC’s Fissinger helped secure Longmont’s successful fracking ban measure last November, as part of the group Our Longmont.
The language of the measure would grant local governments sweeping power to restrict all oil and gas development within their jurisdiction:
“(3) Local Control of Oil–‐and–‐Gas Development.
(a) NOT WITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW, LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN COLORADO MAY PLACE RESTRICTIONS ON THE TIME, PLACE OR METHOD OF OIL–‐AND–‐GAS DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE USE OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, THAT ARE INTENDED TO PROTECT THEIR COMMUNITIES AND CITIZENS.
(b) NO LOCAL GOVERNMENT MAY ENACT ANY LIMITATIONS, RULES OR REGULATIONS ON OIL–‐AND–‐GAS DEVELOPMENT THAT ARE LESS STRINGENT THAN EXISTING STATE AND FEDERAL PROVISIONS.
(c) ANY SUCH RESTRICTIONS PLACED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ON OIL–‐AND–‐ GAS DEVELOPMENT ARE DEEMED NOT TO BE IN CONFLICT WITH THE STATE’S INTERESTS.”
Despite this, LCC denies that the initiative is about a fracking ban, according to group leader Laura Fronkiewicz.
“This is part of an expensive campaign by the industry to scare voters. This isn’t about banning fracking, it is about giving communities the ability to put some controls on development — community by community,” Fronkiewicz told The Denver Post.
The March 25th call was organized by Americans Against Fracking, a national umbrella coalition of environmental and anti-fracking groups that includes Our Longmont and East Boulder County United and a variety of national organizations such as Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace, and 350.org.
AAF explicitly endorses a complete ban on oil and gas drilling and fracking:
“Americans Against Fracking is comprised of entities dedicated to banning drilling and fracking for oil and natural gas in order to protect our shared vital resources for future generations. Our goal, quite simply, is to ban fracking … Regulations alone won’t protect us from this toxic, polluting process—we need to ban fracking now. This is a coalition for any organization, group, business or institution that supports a national ban on fracking.”
The group released a video last November, following the successful fracking ban measures in Colorado, that used celebrities to urge Gov. John Hickenlooper to ban fracking.
“The videos come on the heels of the historic victories to halt fracking in four Colorado communities. Despite nearly $900,000 spent by the oil and gas industry, voters in Fort Collins, Boulder and Broomfield passed five-year moratoriums and Lafayette made history as the second Colorado city to ban fracking, following in the footsteps of Longmont last year.
‘It’s time for Governor Hickenlooper to stop drinking the fracking fluid and side with the people of Colorado,’ said Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Director for Food & Water Watch. ‘As a governor up for reelection next year, it would probably be wise for him to stop antagonizing his base and pay closer attention to their concerns over fracking. Just like the water used for fracking is forever contaminated, those of us fighting to protect our air, water and communities from fracking are not going away.'”
The AAF video was released in conjunction with Frack Free CO, a self-described “peoples movement that aims to ban fracking in every city, county and the State of Colorado,” according to the group’s Facebook page. As mentioned earlier, Frack Free CO is part of Local Control Colorado’s 2014 effort.
The video, posted to YouTube, has since been made private.
A study released this week by the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business found a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing a “worst-case scenario” and put the cost to the state at 68,000 jobs and $8 billion in just the first five year after a ban. A permanent ban would give job losses closer to 93,000, with the state taking a $12 billion hit.
State and local governments would see a tax revenue loss of $985 million over the 25 years following a 2015 ban.
A 2013 CU study of the entire oil and gas industry pegged its contribution to the state at 111,000 jobs, $3.8 billion in wages, and nearly $1.6 billion in severance, property, royalty and other taxes paid to the state in 2012 alone.
“I think this will be the test case. The East and West Coast environmental groups and big money are putting everything in here,” pollster Floyd Ciruli told The Washington Times.
“So we’re now ground zero in the battle over fracking in this country,” Ciruli said.
Colorado Community Rights Network–a group pushing its own constitutional amendment–has called the effort a “civil rights” movement.
“We view this as a genuine civil rights movement of our time. We would compare the amount of outreach and appeal of this to the way the Freedom Riders worked in the 1960s,” said CCRN spokesman Cliff Willmeng.
Willmeng led the Lafayette fracking ban effort last fall as part of East Boulder County United.
CCRN’s proposed amendment also purportedly focuses on the “right to local self-government”:
“in each county, city, town, and any other municipal subdivision or other local community within the State. That right shall include, without limitation, the power to enact local laws protecting health, safety, and welfare by recognizing the fundamental rights of people, communities, and the natural environment, and by securing those rights using prohibitions and other means; and the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of for- profit business entities, operating or seeking to operate in the community, to prevent such rights and powers from usurping or otherwise conflicting with the fundamental rights of people, their communities, and the natural environment.”
Simon Lomax, a Denver-based industry consultant and advisor to Energy In Depth, a program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, told Complete Colorado that the statewide amendment efforts represented a bait-and-switch to Colorado voters.
“When the ‘ban fracking’ campaign tries so hard to hide its real agenda and real beliefs, that should ring alarm bells. The activists don’t want the public to know who they really are and what they really want because they know their real agenda is simply too extreme for Colorado,” Lomax said.
“The campaign in Colorado is the creation of national political groups who want to immediately shut down domestic oil and natural gas production across our state and the rest of the nation, no matter the economic consequences. They are targeting hydraulic fracturing because it’s a brief but absolutely essential step in developing more than 90 percent of America’s oil and gas wells. Ban hydraulic fracturing, and you effectively ban oil and gas development,” he concluded.