Do the citizens of a town have the right to ban something they perceive to be detrimental to their health and quality of life? Even if the state supports the practice? The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday announced it will weigh in on this debate as it prepares to hear the cases of two communities which, despite the state's pro-fossil fuel stance, voted to ban fracking within their borders.
This is a democracy defining moment, keeping in mind it is most direct at the community level. Do communities have the right to determine what is in their best interests? So far, in this corporate-ruled country and among Alec-dominated legislatures, no. I sure hope the Colorado Court validates community rights over corporate rights, but if they do, you can bet this case will land in the lap of the US Supreme Court, who rules regularly in favor of corporate rights over human ones. Corporate Constitutional rights are not necessary to running a profitable business, but they sure come in handy when corporations want to run rough-shod over entire communities in order to make inordinate wealth.
While working for a community newspaper I was able to observe first hand, how energy companies operate when they move into a community. In an interview with the chief operations officer on the ground (in the local area) during the exploration stage, I asked why it was that the company wasn't really interested in what the community, both pro and con, thought. His answer was very disturbing to me. "The people aren't educated enough to really judge what they need."
This is how energy extraction companies really do think. The thing about this is I worked with retired and active professionals, geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers,fieldhands and roughnecks who spent entire careers in the business of oil and natural gas. Many of these folks were expert sources for me. They absoluetly know what is needed in terms of safeguards to protect the health and safety of the people and the environment.
The energy companies simply ignore the communities they are operating in, and buy the rest through donations to charitable causes, donations to government for the building of new jails and roads. Donations to schools for the building of athletic fields and establishment of academic programs such as technology courses.
By the time it is over there is a lot of damage done to the communities and the environment, and then the cost of the oil culture becomes very apparent.
You are exactly correct in this post, on all areas of the topic you've approached.The absolute power of the Energy Boys has crippled communities. It is time the courts did the right thing and restore power to The People.
The Oil and Gas Industry and Community Rights - why we have to take matters into our own hands.
OPINION: Oil & Gas Industry vs. Community Rights
BY SPECIAL TO THE POST · NOVEMBER 11, 2015
By Merrily Mazza
The Colorado Supreme Court will soon rule on the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s suits against the communities of Longmont and Fort Collins. Many hold out hope that the Court will finally come down on the side of the people. We don’t share that wishful thinking.
The laws on which the Court will base its decision were written with a singular purpose: to protect corporate interests from democracy. The Longmont and Fort Collins bans, unfortunately, didn’t take this purpose into account and hence were not written to challenge the anti-democratic premises on which the cases will be decided.
This Court decision won’t be historic, as some believe. It will likely be another victory for state-enabled corporations — little different than the rulings against Greeley in 1992 and Summit County in 2009 —continuing the Court’s pattern of invoking state preemption on behalf of industry and against people and their communities.
Why won’t the Supreme Court judges resolve the question of local control over fracking in favor of the people? Because the cities haven’t asked them to. Longmont and Fort Collins, as municipal subdivisions of the state, have argued that their governmental power to regulate oil and gas corporations is not preempted by the state. Their arguments fail to distinguish between the governmental power of municipalities to enact local laws and the inalienable right of the people to engage in local community self-government. Furthermore, because the people’s right of local community self-government is an inalienable right, it must not be interfered with by the state, corporations, or any other power. But that case was never made.
And so the Court will likely ignore the self-governing rights of people and concentrate instead on whether a local fracking ban is within a “local” government’s “local” authority, as the Court did when the infamous Voss case made Greeley a sacrifice zone for oil and gas extraction. And we’ll be left where we started—with no real remedy other than negotiating with corporations and state agencies to regulate the rate at which our communities are harmed.
A few minor concessions may be handed to the cities allowing nominally greater regulation of fracking through land use laws, and some in the environmental caucus of non-profits will hail those crumbs as substantial victories. But Colorado communities face a problem much bigger than fracking — it’s the inherent conflict between corporate interests and the democratic rights of the people. Because our system of law elevates corporate rights over people’s rights, our only alternative is to fight for systemic change. That’s not what’s been done in Longmont and Fort Collins, but it’s what we intend to do.
Acknowledging and enforcing our fundamental right of local community self-government will set the stage for new democratic protections ranging from local control of corporate projects to affordable housing and creation of a local living wage.
This is why Coloradans must pass the state constitutional ballot initiative known as the Colorado Community Rights Amendment. The measure, led by a grassroots effort of Colorado communities, workers, and environmental organizers, addresses the problem at its root. It brings power and democracy back to where it belongs—the communities where we live, work, and raise our families. The measure is being officially submitted to the State of Colorado. We are now training petitioners in preparation for the 2016 ballot and a direct vote of the people of Colorado.
Our campaign won’t end until our right of local community self-government is acknowledged and enshrined in the Colorado Constitution. We can turn the tide on corporate power and make the 2016 election one for the history books.
The Colorado Community Rights Network is a 501(c)3 that works for the right of local self-government in Colorado. We educate the public through public presentations, newsletters, and Democracy School, a 1 ½ day investigation into why property rights and corporate rights currently trump the rights of real people.
Through our campaign committee, Coloradans for Community Rights, we are sponsoring the Colorado Community Rights Amendment ballot initiative in 2016. This initiative will amend the bill of rights section of the Colorado State Constitution to officially acknowledge the people’s fundamental right of local community self-government with priority over so-called corporate rights.
Our Amendment will allow communities to enact and enforce local laws that maintain the “floor” of existing rights while raising the “ceiling.” In this way, local communities can provide a livable minimum wage for local workers, ban industrial operations such as fracking, cyanide heap leaching, or factory farms, move toward a fossil-free future, protect the environment, and meet other local goals, free from state preemption.