On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the rights of the people in Longmont and Ft Collins. In so doing they ruled against the rights of all Colorado citizens to legislate on matters dealing with oil and gas development.
Under our state constitution, the right of citizens to legislate, Article V, has been termed a first right, superior even to that of the legislature’s. The Court ignored this right in its decision.
The citizens in those cities, by means of direct popular vote, had attempted to postpone or ban oil and gas drilling within their city limits because of overriding public health and safety concerns. These concerns are universally recognized as legitimate except in some political circles
The court also ruled that citizens have no inalienable rights as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights because the legislature had preempted those rights in the Oil and Gas Conservation Act. By this legislation, those rights belong to a small state agency, the COGCC, that works primarily to encourage oil and gas development.
Phil Doe, Environmental Director for Be the Change said: “If your ears don’t prick up at this decision, then you need a good ear doctor. Cut away the lofty language used to disguise greed and plunder, and what the court said is that we have no inalienable rights when it comes to oil and gas development. The legislature took those rights and gave them to their true friends on 16th Street. This will not stand. The power structure can only steal from us if we let them.”
Barbara Mill-Bria, Be the Change’s president said: “This may be a long hot summer. You can’t vote against the interests of the people over and over again without blowback. The people are not happy waking up to find an oil rig in their back yard and being told they have no real say in the matter. This is the opposite of democracy.”
Wes Wilson, Science Advisor, Be the Change, said: “You know, at some point people will start to understand that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Less than two percent of the state is in incorporated cities and towns. Is there nowhere that Little Timmy and Maria are to be allowed to play without the threat of a gas well spewing poison on them. Hell, apparently every acre in the state is up for grabs. And the Supreme Court is in on the job.”
Dan Leftwich, attorney for Be the Change said: “Article V of the Colorado Constitution was amended in 1910 because the people were concerned about the corrupting influence of special interests in state government. That is the situation Colorado citizens are encountering today as special interests use the state’s power to preempt local communities from protecting their health, safety and the environment. In Article V, the people reserved the power to pass legislation of every character, independent of the general assembly, precisely to put such decisions beyond the reach of the state.
“These fundamental rights cannot be preempted because they are superior to the powers of the legislature, the executive branch, and the municipal governments in which these initiatives were enacted. These rights were not presented to the Supreme Court because the voters were not represented there, only the municipal governments that were opposed to these initiatives from the beginning.
“As a result, the Court’s opinions issued today are not controlling precedent where the people’s right of initiative is raised as a defense. Today marks a new chapter, not the end of these disputes.”