Governor Hickenlooper had a few particularly cozy days with the oil and gas industry the other week. First, he appeared in industry-funded ads in newspapers and on radio stations across the state, proclaiming that no water in Colorado had been contaminated by fracking. After being forced to issue a weak mea culpa amid cries of ethics violations over his unabashed hawking of the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper then claimed that fracking fluids are edible: "You can eat this -- the CEO of Halliburton took a big swig of this thing. And not to be outdone, I took a swig of it myself."
Then, the governor issued an Executive Order to create an industry-dominated task force that will examine how to take local control away from communities across the state that don't want drill rigs near homes or their children's schools.
And now, satisfied with a job well done, Governor Hickenlooper jetted to Houston, Texas, to be the keynote speaker of an industry conference touting fracking.
If these antics have you thinking that Governor Hickenlooper no longer represents the people of Colorado and works full-time for the oil and gas industry, you're not off base: Governor Hickenlooper took over $75,000 from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign.
Even so, the grassroots movement that opposes fracking in Colorado is starting to win. Up and down the Front Range -- from Colorado Springs to El Paso County, from Erie to Longmont to Boulder County -- communities are standing up to pass moratoria on fracking. Why? Because their air quality is 10 times worse than Houston, Texas, as a result of oil and gas drilling. Or because there is a fracking well being planned 350 feet from their children's elementary school. Or because their home values have plummeted due to proposed fracking in their neighborhood.
Grassroots, community rights organizations across the state are emerging. LongmontROAR, Erie Rising, What the Frack?! Arapahoe County and several others are talking to their neighbors, asking questions and pressing their city council members and county commissioners to say "no" to fracking. These aren't dyed-in-the-wool activists, they are everyday Coloradans who love their families, their mountain air and their clean water. The mothers, insurance agents, pharmacists and retired people who don't want a drill rig in their backyard or next to their child's school are leading a fracking rebellion that is sweeping the state. And with some brass-nosed organizing, we are winning.
So when El Paso County and Boulder County -- arguably the most conservative and progressive parts of the state, respectively -- both pass moratoria to stop fracking in their communities, Governor Hickenlooper has a problem on his hands. A big problem that won't make his oil and gas pals very happy.
And I make this prediction: industry-sponsored ads, slick oil and gas talking points, threatening letters from Attorney General John Suthers and the huff and puff of the oil and gas industry will not stop concerned citizens from demanding their rights to protect their children, homes and water from the harmful impacts of fracking and from organizing in a smart, strategic way to win. They will actually tick us off more and encourage us to fight harder.
The recent defeat of Senate Bill 88, which would have stripped communities of their local control to protect their water and citizens from fracking, is Exhibit A of this burgeoning grassroots movement. After generating thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls, dozens of regular citizens crammed into an obscure committee meeting on a Thursday afternoon to defeat this industry-sponsored bill.
So I encourage all Coloradans to get involved with this movement to ban fracking. For a first step, email Governor Hickenlooper today and ask him to pull his misleading industry ads. He's done enough for the industry. It's time he sticks up for Coloradans for a change.
Follow Sam Schabacker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@foodandwater