Goliath vs Goliath?

Oil well near Frederick Colorado High School [Lewis Geyer photo/The Denver Post]

Oil well near Frederick Colorado High School [Lewis Geyer photo/The Denver Post]

Guest post by Phil Doe*

The Denver Post: Colorado energy measures expected to attract big names, deep pockets

A Goliath vs. Goliath battle is brewing in Colorado as environmental activists, big-oil bigwigs and community leaders are poised to pour millions of dollars into the state over energy-related measures that could be on the November ballot.

More than a dozen initiatives hostile to and supportive of oil and gas drilling are making their way toward the ballot. Most focus on giving communities control over siting of drilling and requiring greater setbacks from homes and buildings.

The recent legislative failure to broker a compromise has energized both giants. Should a special session of the legislature not materialize with a solution, Coloradans should expect a hugely vicious fight funded by tens of millions of dollars …

This article seems more a plant than objective reporting. Goliath vs Goliath? Philistine vs Philistine? Please! It appears to be a sister piece to the recent editorial in The Post asking for a special session at the legislature to resolve the local control issue as it relates to fracking [Special session for Colorado legislature is worth time and cost]. They shy away from the stronger constitutional right of Home Rule as it relates to fracking, of course.

The two “Goliaths” look like this. On one side you have big money from the oil industry opposing the ballot initiatives, maybe $20 million says The Post. Though not reported here, some rumors have the industry prepared to pump-in up to $5 million to defeat a local ballot initiative in Loveland that calls for a 2-year moratorium, or time out, till more is known of the health consequences from fracking. A special election has been scheduled for late June because Loveland’s city council wouldn’t allow it on the regular ballot earlier this year. Loveland is a city of 70,000 people. Goliath indeed.

Then you have to add in the newly resuscitated Coloradans for Responsible Reform, which, says The Post, has already raised an estimated $770,000 to fight the public’s rights of self determination. This organization, of unknown pedigree, has propped up its bona fides by hiring on three old politicians. These three pillars of the people: ex-Guv. Bill Owens, a self-proclaimed oil man; Greeley mayor Tom Norton, and former president of the Colorado Senate, thinks industrial drilling in neighborhoods is God’s design; and of course Ex-Everything-Else politician Ken Salazar. Ken, also known as The Man in the Hat, proclaims fracking safe. He was also Secretary of Interior when Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and doing untold long-term damage to the Gulf’s ecology. It too was safe, until it wasn’t. As U.S. Senator he proclaimed corn ethanol would save the country, become the very foundation of our energy future, provided there were lavish subsidies available to corn farmers, of course.

Marshalled against these forces is that other Goliath, two local initiatives, 75 and 103, both of which strongly assert the people’s rights to protect their home, health, property, and the environment. Beside these stand a host of other initiatives underwritten to some unknown degree by Congressman Jared Polis. They are also attempts to control the industry and protect the environment on a much more limited scale. It is likely, when the dust clears, only two or three of the Polis initiatives will be on the ballot. All is strategy at this point.

To make this look like an equal battle The Post’s reporter, Lynn Bartels conjures up the specter of the California billionaire Tom Steyer, and New Yorker Yoko Ono joining the fray with the millions to match big oil. Both California and New York have huge fracking battles of their own, and one might suspect that could be the focus of their energies. But to make this battle seem equal in terms of money, The Post resorts to speculative trickery and magically this report makes timely and urgent the editorial calling for a special session to divvy up people’s rights with oil and gas interests.

What The Post, the Guv, and the Legislature don’t seem to understand is that until they find the courage to engage the public openly concerning their constitutional right of home rule, progress is going to look a lot like exhaust. The Home Rule statute declares specifically that the laws instituted by home rule cities are superior to state law on local matters. Is anything more local than a gas well in your back yard? If these ruling elites had any sense, they would have a full hearing on those Home Rule rights, their limitations, and the corresponding limitations on the industry and central governments. They might even come to blushingly admit that they have subverted constitutional guarantees on home rule with the preemption statute protecting the rights of oil interests over the interests of local populations. No way is this conflict ever going to end amicably until the Legislature admits its own lawlessness. It can be backhanded, face-saving even, but it is essential to any lasting settlement.

There is a very simple dynamic at work here. The Legislature and the Governor were elected to protect our rights, not to take them away in the interests of some powerful industry. That shouldn’t be too hard for people of normal intelligence to understand.

**********

phil doe headshotPhil Doe has been fighting for Colorado’s water for most of his adult life. He served as Bureau Chief for the Water Subsidy Program and was also Environmental Compliance Officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in the Department of Interior and was featured as a whistleblower on 60 Minutes. A former teacher at several universities, including DU where he did graduate work in English literature, and the Colorado School of Mines where he taught in their honors program. He has published op-ed features in Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, Colorado Central Magazine, 4-Corners Free Press, Counterpunch, EcoWatch, and Alternet. His past grassroots efforts opposed the Animas-La Plata water project in southwest Colorado. He is a registered citizen lobbyist at the State Capitol and testifies at the federal and state legislative level on natural resource issues. He serves on the board of the grassroots group, Be the Change, and directs their environmental issues program, with a current focus on horizontal hydrofracking.

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One Comment on “Goliath vs Goliath?”

  1. Carl L. McWilliams Says:

    Mr. Phil Doe: Your statements:

    “What The Post, the Guv, and the Legislature don’t seem to understand is that until they find the courage to engage the public openly concerning their constitutional right of home rule, progress is going to look a lot like exhaust. The Home Rule statute declares specifically that the laws instituted by home rule cities are superior to state law on local matters. Is anything more local than a gas well in your back yard?”

    These well said words are exactly “on-point” and is the strategy the pending federal class action takes to challenge the constitutionality of the COLORADO OIL & GAS CONSERVATION ACT (COGCC) in federal district court in Denver.

    Mr. Doe if you are interested in learning more about the pending federal class action and how you may personally become actively involved; please contact Co- Lead Representative Plaintiff, Ms. Anita Sherman of Glenwood Sptings, Colorado.

    Thank you Mr. Doe for your guest postings on Peggy Tibbett’s blog. You sir are a stand-up-guy.

    Carl L. McWilliams
    Lead Representative Plaintiff
    WE THE PEOPLE OF COLORADO, PLAINTIFFS
    V.
    GOVERNOR JOHN W. HICKENLOOPER, DEFENDANT
    A federal class action “under construction”

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