National ‘Keep It In The Ground’ Groups Suffer Fresh Defeat In Denver Suburbs
National “keep it in the ground” activist groups suffered another defeat in Denver suburbs this week, when the short-term oil and natural gas ban they pushed in Broomfield, Colo., was rejected by the city’s elected officials.
The Broomfield City Council voted 6-3 on Feb. 28 to indefinitely postpone consideration of a proposed oil and natural gas moratorium. The vote came after over three hours of public comment and deliberation on the issue, and after the company planning to develop oil and natural gas in Broomfield told the council it would voluntarily withdraw and resubmit permit applications it had filed with state oil and natural gas regulators.
Prior to the vote, “ban fracking” activists pressured the council to support the moratorium. Regarding a petition she had pushed before the meeting, 350 Colorado “fracking specialist” and board member Lauren Swain told the city council: “There’s at least 50 Broomfield residents who signed our petition, and right now we’re up to 300 for statewide residents who care about what’s happening in Broomfield and signed on to the petition.”
“Broomfield doesn’t need 139 wells, wells that are going to be leaking, corroding, and emitting toxic pollutants throughout the community – forever,” Food & Water Watch’s (F&WW) Rocky Mountain Region Director Lauren Petrie told the council. “They’re not going away.”
“The industry is shoving oil and gas development down our throats whether we want it or not,” she said. “The reason that so many of us are dependent on fossil fuels is because we don’t have a choice.”
350.org is a New York-based activist group that runs a “keep it in the ground” campaign that seeks to ban the production of oil, natural gas and coal. Washington, D.C.-based F&WW, as The Colorado Statesman has described, is one of the “major players behind the anti-fracking movement” that “played a key role in supporting initiatives to ban or delay fracking in local communities” as part of its campaign to “ban fracking everywhere.” F&WW is a leading player in the “keep it in the ground” campaign as well.
The two national groups also pushed a series of anti-oil and gas initiatives for the statewide ballot in Colorado last year. They failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot, however, and this week in Broomfield they struggled to find support from the city’s elected officials and residents.
“A moratorium also is a statement against fracking in general,” said Councilman Mike Shelton. “What it’s saying is that we don’t like the industry of fracking.”
“I think that’s [closer] to discrimination or prejudice than anything,” he said. “Discrimination and prejudice, especially by a government, is completely immoral.”
“Relying on a ban is not a good solution,” Shelton said.
Some residents who spoke up during the public hearing pointedly distanced themselves from the agenda of national anti-oil and natural gas groups.
“I just want to say, there seems to be some misconception about what the neighborhood groups are after,” said one Broomfield resident. “We’re not anti-fracking, and we’re not anti-energy or oil. We continue to say that time each time we come up and I just want to make that point again.”
“We do understand the basic needs of our communities and fossil fuels,” she continued. “We’re not saying no fracking anywhere, and we’re not even saying no fracking in our backyard.”
Officials representing the oil and natural gas industry told the city council meeting that they are committed to constructive dialogue with residents, local governments and state regulators about energy development.
“Striving to achieve a balance between responsible energy development and the concerns and needs of communities in and around development can be challenging, but it is absolutely critical that we continue to work toward solutions,” said Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.
“The industry is listening, and will continue to make every effort to address the questions and concerns posed by the Council and members of the community,” said Colorado Oil and Gas Association head Dan Haley following the vote. “We remain committed to finding workable solutions and hope that Broomfield will choose to engage in a constructive and productive conversation with industry.”