Many of my fellow Coloradans are jubilant after winning major victories in the fight against fracking during yesterday’s election. Voters in the cities of Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette voted to either ban fracking outright, or instate a moratorium on new fracking operations and the disposal of fracking waste for a period of years. In the city of Broomfield, results are so close–in the neighborhood of 13 votes–that a recount must occur before the issue is settled. Still, in a fight that can only be characterized as “David vs. Goliath” these victories send a clear message to those trying to push fracking on Colorado citizens.
The state has been at the center of the fracking debate ever since Longmont banned fracking outright in 2012. The oil and gas industry, as well as Governor John Hickenlooper, were livid. The industry launched a massive lawsuit against Longmont, and Hickenlooper has been vocal, almost to the point of intimidation, about his desire to see more fracking development across the state.
In an attempt to make a point, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association dumped $606,205–approximately 97 percent of the total budget–into local pro-fracking campaigns. This type of special interest money dwarfs funds raised by anti-fracking groups, most of which were grassroots efforts. In late October the Denver Post reported that a mere $15,725.36 had been raised by groups attempting to limit drilling in Fort Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield. Still, the pro-fracking campaign was unsuccessful.
“With wins in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins—and a partial-victory in Broomfield—this election sends a huge wake-up call to Governor Hickenlooper that the people of Colorado do not want to be fracked,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action. ”Fort Collins’ vote is especially revealing—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.”
So what made the difference? How was David able to beat Goliath in Colorado?
Many say the victories were made possible by countless hours of on the ground work by local organizations and citizen groups. One group, New Era Colorado, has been working day and night to restore the democratic process, putting the decision back in the hands of Colorado voters, rather than financially-vested industry.
New Era is a non-partisan group, focused on voter registration and using creative tactics to challenge the well-funded misinformation campaigns of special interest groups. Based in Boulder, the group was instrumental in passing a ballot measure that would establish a community-owned utility company, something that was vehemently opposed by regional powerhouse Xcel Energy.
The fight to end fracking in Colorado, and the rest of the country, is far from over. The oil and gas industry has very deep pockets, and they’ll be back, buying votes and spreading misinformation, someday very soon. However, for now, let’s revel in the fact that the size of your wallet doesn’t always determine success. Although big money seems to have been victorious, yet again, when it comes to mandatory labeling of genetically-engineered foods, it’s still possible for underfunded citizen efforts to be victorious.
The lesson here is never stop working, talking, learning, reading and sharing for the causes that are good and just and right. Carry on, fight the good fight and know that the truth will always set us free.
Image via schuminweb/Flickr