Press Release: Statement on Oil and Gas Reform Legislation, SB-181
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: March 4, 2019
Statement on Proposed Oil and Gas Legislation
Once again, as in 2014, Colorado Democrats have the opportunity to create legislation aligned with public health, climate science, and the democratic rights of local communities. Yet on the heels of bleak climate reports demanding an end to fossil fuel extraction starting now, drillers are reporting record-breaking oil production on the Colorado shale. Political forces in both parties succor industry over health and climate, constituent demands, and even the threat of impending environmental catastrophe. Even now, when so-called environmentalist Boulder Democrats hold leadership in all policy-making branches of state government, people herald the proposed legislation as a good first step. And activists, for the thousandth time, are warned not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the face of overwhelming scientific consensus about impending environmental collapse, electeds and so-called environmentalists tell affected communities to be “realistic;” this bill is the best legislators can do.
Realistic. Let that sink in.
The oil and gas reform bill just introduced by Democratic leadership is not based on climate science, public health, or ecosystem survival. It gives communities no power to protect residents’ fundamental, democratic rights to clean air, clean water, and a healthy climate. It stops no drills. It makes no climate-protective changes to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s marching orders or to other commissions’ marching orders. It budgets no money to transition fossil fuel workers to safe, unionized jobs with pay equal to Colorado’s increased cost of living. It does not address the inherent environmental racism of dangerous infrastructure and new fossil fuel projects. It allows for continuous air monitoring but does nothing to stop toxic pollution. It doesn’t end forced pooling. It lets communities decide how and where they are drilled. It lets them impose fines, inspect operations, and deal with drilling nuisances without fear of preemption. It ensures they will need to litigate in support of their regulations. But it makes no unequivocal statement that communities have authority to ban extraction.
In 2018, Matt Jones and Mike Foote introduced the symbolic Protect Act, a vote-gaining ploy prior to the November election. As expected, it never got out of committee. In multiple sections of the bill, the Protect Act clearly and unequivocally states: “THE GOVERNING BODY OF A MUNICIPALITY MAY, IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC SAFETY, HEALTH, AND WELFARE OF THE CITIZENS OF THE MUNICIPALITY, PLAN, ZONE, AND REFUSE TO ALLOW OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS.”
Last November, voters elected another Democratic trifecta. So what happened to the Protect Act and its straightforward language? Gone. Replaced by language that Colorado Speaker of the House K.C. Becker admits was co-written by COGCC Director Jeffrey Robbins.
Industry and electeds instead offer a bill in what they hope is the sweet spot. Not strong enough to seriously curtail record-breaking oil production—that simply isn’t allowed—but enough to quiet impacted families and communities, tie people up in hundreds more hearings over a span of years, and stop further expensive-to-fight ballot initiatives.
So-called environmental organizations that supported Proposition 112—Sierra Club, League of Oil & Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC), Conservation Colorado, ProgressNow, and others—are greenwashing the Democrats and their bill even though none of them can clearly articulate what authority it gives local governments, and none of them explain to affected communities that the bill’s provisions, and resulting local ordinances and initiatives, will be tied up in hearings and litigation for years while the drilling continues.
Electeds are not now and never have been responsive to the climate, the environment, democratic rights, or human life. In the face of impending environmental catastrophe, they remain, as always, responsive to industry and the almighty market.
East Boulder County United has never wavered. We understand that the political system is not broken but working according to plan. We believe this system must be exposed for what it is and how it works. When our very survival is at stake, people can no longer rely on a grammar school understanding that all it takes is electing the right politicians, who will then respond to “realistic” requests. We continue to call for an end to climate-killing extraction. We believe communities have the right, and must seize the power, to make decisions for themselves. We believe people have a moral obligation to protect themselves, their families, and the natural world.