Fracking Compromise: Savvy Solution or Sellout?

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There's plenty of back-patting going on today in the smoke-free back rooms where politics thrives like spores in agar, after an eleventh-hour deal was forged by Governor John Hickenlooper, Representative Jared Polis and others to remove four initiatives dealing with oil and gas development from the November ballot. The move short-circuits what promised to be a costly and ugly campaign, with plenty of heated rhetoric and exaggerated claims on both sides. But the relief among industry interests hailing this "balanced" compromise is more than matched by the bitterness of grassroots anti-fracking groups, howling that Polis and the "Fracker in Chief" are giving us the business -- again.

See also: "Single Fracking Waste Well Blamed for Hundreds of Low-Level Quakes"

The deal announced yesterday will withdraw two anti-fracking initiatives that had been largely bankrolled by Polis, who's dubbed himself the "poster boy" of the antifracking movement ever since a drilling rig showed up across the road from his Weld County vacation home last summer. In return, Hickenlooper has pledged to form a commission that will paper the legislature with proposals that will help minimize conflicts between the gas industry and neighboring communities -- and to drop a lawsuit the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has been pursuing against the City of Longmont for its fracking ban. Two pro-fracking initiatives will also disappear from the ballot.

Call it a win-win-lose. The Hickenlooper rep for business-friendly, common-sense compromise gets a major reboot just in time for his own reelection battle against Bob Beauprez, whose major grouse has been that the Governor hasn't been taking care of business. Polis gets to withdraw quietly from the fray and claim victory at the same time. The oil and gas industry gets to pocket the $10 million or so it otherwise would have spent on ads extolling the virtues of using the hydraulic fracturing process, which involves pumping vast amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals deep into the ground to extract clean, marvelous natural gas.

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Photo by Mark Manger
Sam Schabacker.
But the environmental and community activists who held fundraisers, gathered petition signatures or otherwise promoted the Polis initiatives aren't quite so ecstatic. "There's quite a bit of shock and outrage from several of the grassroots groups that mobilized their memberships to get these on the ballot, only to be told a half-hour before the announcement that Polis was pulling his support," says Sam Schabacker, regional director for Food & Water Watch.

As noted in last month's feature, "Frack Attack!", polls indicate that Colorado residents are close to evenly divided over fracking, with barely 51 percent of those surveyed in support of the industry -- and growing concerns emerging about earthquakes ties to underground disposal of wastewater, as well as other health and environmental impacts. Fractivists hoped to capitalize on that unease this election season with a host of citizen initiatives pushing for more local control, but only the pair financed by Polis managed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot.

Schabacker notes that no petition initiative in Colorado in recent years has made it on the ballot without the aid of paid signature gatherers. "The lesson here is that our democratic system has been manipulated to the point that you have to have money," he says. "Access to the ballot is quite difficult. It's pay to play."

Several other anti-fracking groups have issued press releases denouncing the deal and expressing skepticism that Hickenlooper's commission will accomplish much of substance. "It's a sad day when politicians subvert the will of the people," states one release, quoting Karen Wagner of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.

As for Hickenlooper's declaration that the state will drops its lawsuit against Longmont's antifracking ordinance, Schabacker is decidedly unimpressed. "Hickenlooper thinks he can score political points by no longer using public money to sue his constituents," he says. "That decision should have been made before there was any negotiation, rather than at the end of it."

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34 comments
Chris Estus
Chris Estus

He is a Politian correct? He couldn't figure out how to get richer fighting it.

ptroester
ptroester

"The hydraulic fracturing process, which involves pumping vast amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals"

Thank you Westword for being slanderous to the oil and gas industry time and time again.  The fluids used in Colorado are not toxic.  In fact, they are some of the cleanest fracing fluids used in the entire country.  If you're going to report, report fair and honestly, instead of maintaining a stereotypical bias.  Check out www.fracfocus.org, and see EXACTLY what is being pumped in to the ground on every single well in CO and other states.  Full disclosure is no longer an elective practice, it's law, and you will see they are non-toxic fluids.

It should also be noted that Polis was sent an email from the Obama administration roughly two months ago, telling him to back off on his fractivist smear campaigning.  Fracing is way too important to our country and economy to ban outright, and people seem to fail to grasp this very important fact that has wide spread implications that stretch far beyond environmentalism.

Scott M Deppe
Scott M Deppe

Fake photos of flaming water how dum are you fucking people?DA I'll got bridge for you too dumb ass

Scott M Deppe
Scott M Deppe

Its funny how people move here and try to change things that has been happening for sixty years go back where you come from.

Donald Wagner
Donald Wagner

All the talk yet as I read ZERO oil or product here in Colorado why is that ?

Dominic Fante
Dominic Fante

Safe? Bullshit. Then why does water near fracking sites become flammable? Why are there videos of rural folks lighting their sink water on fire? And you're obviously biased since you WORK for a fracking company.

sballardo672
sballardo672

The fracking controversy was made up by celebrities.  Nothing wrong with fracking and it creates jobs and brings money to the city.  Kudos for making an educated decision Polis.

Dominic Fante
Dominic Fante

Then I'd like to see these "facts" you speak of. Prove to me that fracking is safe. Other states that frack have the problems I mentioned above. And I've lived in Colorado since I was six, thank you very much.

Jay Cismaru
Jay Cismaru

Dominic Fante it's about time someone on the Democratic side gave a damn about creating jobs as far as the guardian liberal Looney tune kool-aid drinking retard ism

Pete Jones
Pete Jones

Oil and gas is finite. I think weed is going to be around for awhile. That speaks enough numbers for me.

Rob Jennings
Rob Jennings

Actually that's not true but you can keep living in that fantasy world if you like. A cut and paste article from the Guardian does nothing to change the facts. Perhaps you should move back to whatever state you came from. :)

Ronnie Mooney
Ronnie Mooney

i happen to test water on, near, around frac sites, the water is fine. you and your "book" go drink a bottle of evian.

Peace Will Win
Peace Will Win

simple to want to protect mty water, genius, read a book

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

Hick is basically a DINO (democrat in name only) and Polis is now a sellout, caving to appease his political party for upcoming elections.  Democrats have reduced themselves to dinosaurs and have rendered the party insignificant.  We should abolish the political party system in the USA.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrat_In_Name_Only

restlessnative
restlessnative

If you don't own the mineral rights under your land, you should be able to prevent them from blowing up the subsurface with poison. I thought we had a water shortage ¿?¿ But there is no stopping Big Oiliness.

Kyle Gregory
Kyle Gregory

I would have loved to see it on the ballot.. Let the tree huggers know we are tired of their radical thinking

Mendoza Garcia
Mendoza Garcia

Big Oil wins again let me know when my gas/electric bill goes down a dollar. lol

Ronnie Mooney
Ronnie Mooney

did the anit-frac folks really think they had a chance to stop it? simpletons

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

It is a sellout.  We need to change C.R.S. 1-40-34 to allow the sponsors of initiatives to withdraw them only prior to the circulation of petitions for them, so that they are not used as political bargaining chips after they have been dangled before voters.

DougHubka
DougHubka

Polis and Hickenlooper did the right thing for all of us.  It is too bad that people get so carried away with their extreme positions that they cannot ever say simply that maybe they were a little wrong, and reasonable compromise is okay with them.

John Jones
John Jones

Is jared Polis related to George polis the gangster?

Rob Jennings
Rob Jennings

Fracking provides jobs, energy and tax revenue for Colorado. Far exceeds the economic input of marijuana and it uses less water and no pesticides. :)

Ben Chapman
Ben Chapman

He is a huge sellout and should be voted out immediately

ColoradoShu
ColoradoShu

A huge victory for the status quo. More unabated drilling and a halt to groundswell of grassroots opposition. The voices of sanity silenced in Broomfield, Longmont, Lafayette and Fort Collins. 


A sad day indeed for Coloradans. Can't trust red or blue but no sense in waving a white flag. 

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

Contributing to global warming and the destruction of our planet provides jobs....yay!  If we keep cruising towards the iceberg...soon it will be too late to change course and avoid catastrophe.

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@ColoradoShu  The fracking industry will cause another wave of environmental problems because we are still using fossil fuels.  It's no better than coal for the environment and the only reason the nation is pushing fracking is because we are running out of coal.  Dinosaur fuels are unsustainable and wind, solar, geothermal, etc will never produce enough electricity to satisfy our electronic driven society's energy wants...we should be pushing for more nuclear energy, funding more research into fusion and building more nuclear reactors.  When the fracking boom finally goes bust, only then will America admit that it was a bad way to power the nation.

ColoradoShu
ColoradoShu

@GuestWho When nuclear reactors prove fail safe, I'll lump them in the mix too. On the anniversary of the bomb drop on Hiroshima, I'd vote for wind, solar and geothermal first until we properly and responsibly harness nuclear. Appreciate your input.

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