Voters approve fracking bans, pot taxes – and secession?

November 7, 2013

Colorado, election, fracking

In the post election analyses, Colorado voters are being called weird, strange, mercurial, and schizophrenic. What really makes for weirdness in Colorado elections is not the voters so much as the issues. You see, in Colorado we have a very liberal ballot initiative process. With enough signatures any issue can make it onto our ballots.

From the sublime (fracking bans) to the ridiculous (secession), anything can happen especially in an off-year election like this one where voters favored fracking bans, pot taxes, and secession. Yup — that sounds pretty goofy. But what it really says is that voters were motivated by single issues.

However Colorado has about 2.6 million registered voters yet only about 1.1 million — about 42% — voted in this election. So, voters were definitely motivated by single issues, just not in significant numbers.

ban frackingExcept in Boulder, Lafayette, Fort Collins, and Broomfield where voter turnout was over 50%, much higher than the statewide turnout, due to the anti-fracking ballot initiatives in all four cities. Boulder and Fort Collins passed five-year moratoriums and voters in neighboring Lafayette banned fracking altogether by a margin of 18 points. Even in conservative-leaning Broomfield, where drilling is already occurring inside city limits, a five-year moratorium was defeated by the slimmest of margins — 13 votes out of 20,519 — and could bounce back for a win in a recount.

Frack Free Colorado spearheaded the anti-fracking initiatives, which were also supported by nonprofits Clean Water Action and Food & Water Watch.

In a statement, Mountain West Region director for Food & Water Watch Sam Schabacker said: “Coloradans have sent a strong simple message in this election: they do not want fracking in their communities. It’s something that Governor Hickenlooper should especially take notice of as we head towards 2014, and that all of our state and federal representatives should pay attention to.”

Russell Mendell, an organizer for Frack Free Colorado said, “This is totally a galvanizing moment for our movement. Statewide and even across the country, people are thinking we can defeat Goliath and win these local elections.”

And yes, a statewide referendum is under consideration for next year in Colorado: Fracking bans 
on Front Range 
looming large

A fracking ban is no cakewalk. A year ago the city of Longmont voted to ban fracking inside city limits and the state sued.

Addressing the latest victories in the fracktivists’ extremist agenda, a statement from Governor Hickenlooper reads in part: “These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”

What a coincidence! Doug Flanders also mentioned legal action in a Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) statement: “While we ardently hoped that we would not have to consider going to court to allow an activity which supports these families, COGA will be evaluating all our legal options. The State Supreme Court has clearly stated oil and gas cannot be banned within a city or county.”

Ted Brown, a Noble Energy Inc. senior vice president, stressed the PR approach saying, “We have a lot more work to do informing the general public. Quite frankly, that void has been filled for quite some time without a response from the oil and gas industry.”

Noble and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. recently formed a nonprofit called Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) in an attempt to convince the public that fracking won’t destroy the environment. We all know how that’s working out for them — CRED’s PR hell.

Pot tax defeats school funding tax

Well, not exactly. But it seemed that way. I voted in favor of both the pot tax and the increase in income tax to fund public education (Amendment 66). The pot tax is supposed to fund school construction. So it made sense to me to vote for increased funding for public education so they will have something to put inside the school buildings — maybe more teachers, some curriculum, and a few books. In my mind Amendment 66 and the pot tax went together like math and science.

Evidently other voters didn’t see it that way. Roughly 65% supported the 25% pot tax. And right around 66% rejected Amendment 66. Huh.

What really happened was voters rejected an increase in state income taxes. Colorado Democrats could learn a valuable lesson from voters in Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette, Fort Collins, and Broomfield. Next year try a ballot initiative that asks voters if they would favor an increase in oil & gas severance taxes (currently a miniscule 2-5%) to fund public education.

Of course Governor Frackenlooper won’t support a severance tax increase to fund public education. But then Amendment 66 was his initiative, and he was also against the fracking bans. So he seems politically vulnerable at the moment.

Secession is NOT the name of a county in Colorado

Though apparently it is a state of mind for 60% of voters in northeastern Colorado, for whom being a real Amer-can means repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting different results. In other words, they’re crazy.

When I googled the initiative I stumbled into an alternate universe where the voters actually are weird, strange, mercurial, and schizophrenic. I did NOT know secession was on the ballot in eleven Colorado counties this year. It’s called the 51st State Initiative and the new state would be called “North Colorado.” Do they mean sort of like North Dakota?

And I have some bad news for Ted Brown and CRED. For the longest time I’ve wondered where are all these people who actually believe the industry propaganda that oil & gas drilling doesn’t harm the environment and can coexist just fine with agriculture. These are them.

Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Phillips, Washington, and Yuma counties voted for the 51st State Initiative. Voters in Elbert, Lincoln, Logan, Sedgwick, Weld, and Moffat counties rejected secession. Results in The Denver Post.

Okay, so here’s an even better idea. Next year we should vote on a ballot initiative to sell those five counties to the highest bidder — Kansas, Nebraska, or Wyoming — and use those funds to pay for public education.

One of several proposed North Colorado state flags [courtesy Progress Now]

One of several proposed North Colorado state flags [courtesy Progress Now]

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5 Comments on “Voters approve fracking bans, pot taxes – and secession?”

  1. Bob Arrington Says:

    The vote FOR, in the 5 counties was done by a total of 1164 votes, had ~1/2 those votes, 583 went the other way, it could have been no counties for it. The promoters urged voters that they “would send a message”, and they did. The message being, “you only have to ‘rope a dope’ on 1164 people out of 86383 (1.35%) to look like jackas**s!”

  2. Beth Strudley Says:

    That flag is frac’ing gross!

  3. Beth Strudley Says:

    The CRED website wouldn’t post my comment……Doesn’t look like they post any from impacted folks.

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Beth, the flag is a joke — it’s hilarious

  5. Leslie Robinson Says:

    If only the COGCC had mandated one-mile setbacks between rigs and residents back in 2008…

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