The oil and gas industry spent $878,120 on city specific campaigns to oppose anti-fracking measures in Colorado this year, while proponents raised $26,000. From 2009 through 2013, Chevron, BP and the Western States Petroleum Association spent more than $56 million lobbying the California legislature to resist anti-fracking legislation. And lucrative royalty payments were offered to residents in Mora County, New Mexico if they allowed fracking on their property. Although industry money persuaded the California Senate to prevent SB1132, a bill that would have imposed a moratorium on hydrofracking, a poll conducted this year found that “two-thirds (68%) of voters [in California] would support a fracking moratorium, support that cuts across all gender, age, ethnic, partisan, ideological and geographic subsets of the electorate.” Despite the money, people are beginning to realize that fracking embodies a huge threat to our water supplies and public health.
Back in 2010, the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously adopted a first-in-the-nation ordinance against fracking within city limits, this in response to an energy company holding a lease that would have allowed them to drill under a city cemetery. The ordinance, drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, also sought to limit the claim of personhood by corporations and to champion the rights of property owners above corporate interests. In Mora County, New Mexico, 5,000 residents of a low-income ranching area supported a county wide ban on fracking, citing water safety concerns. County Commissioner Chairman John Olivas, said the ban “is all about the water,” and estimated that 95% of the county’s residents supported it.
And then last November, three cities in Colorado, Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette, all approved measures that would either ban or institute a moratorium on fracking. Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action, said that “Fort Collins’ vote [was] especially revealing [because it was] a decisive 10 point win in a swing county while being outspent 40 to 1. The oil and gas industry poured in almost $900,000 to try and force citizens to be exposed to their cancer-causing fracking chemicals. Their money back-fired.” The Fort Collins initiative halts fracking and the disposal of related waste for five years. Seventy-seven percent of voters in Boulder extended an expiring one year moratorium on oil and gas extraction. In Lafayette, close to 60% of voters banned the practice outright.
Despite having lost some battles in Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association is fighting back. A month after the elections, they filed a lawsuit against the city of Lafayette to overturn the newly passed Community Bill of Rights. The residents, however, are continuing with their fight and have in turn filed a class action suit. “This class action lawsuit is merely the first of many by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to govern their own communities are routinely violated by state governments working in concert with the corporations that they ostensibly regulate,” said Thomas Linzey, executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association calls residents who assert their right to local self governance “extremists.”
There are, apparently, many such extremists among us. Canadaigua, New York passed a permanent ban on fracking in June. Kirkland, New York banned fracking last January. Santa Cruz became the first county in California to ban fracking last May. Los Angeles passed a moratorium last February. Washington, D.C. passed a resolution banning fracking in the George Washington National Forest, which contains the headwaters of the Potomac River. Dallas, Texas (!) banned fracking last year. And the list goes on. Food and Water Watch said that as of June, 2014, the list of actions passed against fracking in the U.S. has risen to 418.
If there’s any doubt about the evils of fracking, one needs only to consider the source. The 2005 Energy Act, which exempted the oil and gas industry from adhering to practically every foundational health and environmental law on the books, was written by the industry in then Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. Cheney, as you may remember, was the former head of Halliburton Industries, one of the major providers of fracking fluids. The 2005 Energy Act contained a provision that has come to be called the “Halliburton Loophole,” which is an exemption for gas drilling and extraction from requirements in the underground injection control program of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Other exemptions are contained in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Fracking, and its collusion with federal energy policy, is not about clean energy, but a continuing grab for profit by the oil and gas industry.
For those of you who read my blog weekly, I’ll be spending the next two weeks in Tuscany, where I’m sure to come up with some excellent recipes.