Lafayette City Council candidate Doug Conarroe didn’t have his facts right about Grant Township, Pennsylvania and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) during last Thursday night’s forum of candidates hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Anyone who has read anything credible about how CELDF conducts their work or had direct contact with CELDF attorneys, as some people in Lafayette have, would know that CELDF does not lead nor make decisions. Communities who are under attack from corporate extractive and polluting industries invite CELDF in for consultation and legal advice. The guiding question each step of the way from CELDF is, “What do you want?” Mr. Conarroe incorrectly alleged that Grant Township was bankrupted by CELDF.
The City Supervisors of Grant Township realized the threats, explored their options, and came to their resolve long before contacting CELDF for legal help. Mr. Conarroe misplaced responsibility and is obscuring the point that Grant Township empowered itself to fight for its life and face the costs of rebellion against an undemocratic and intimidating force. The threat of bankruptcy was a risk the town and supervisors recognized and expected from a corrupt and oppressive authority. They willingly decided their own course of resistance to stand up with principle for their very survival, whatever it takes. They say that if and when their legal options to stop the invasion are ever completely exhausted, they will lie down in front of trucks and equipment.
Lafayette City Council, Mr. Conarroe, and other aspiring City Council candidates could take examples of integrity, courage, and the exercise of real democracy from Grant Township for a similar uncompromising stand against oil and gas extraction here in Boulder County.
In addition, Mr. Conarroe was incorrect in saying that there is no difference between the 2013 Lafayette Community Bill of Rights charter amendment and the 2017 Climate Bill of Rights Ordinance, both of which ban oil and gas development within the city limits. The Community BOR became a charter amendment upon approval by more than 60% of the voting public. Just like Grant Township was not led by CELDF or anyone else to decide to fight, the people of Lafayette did it themselves.
That law was included in a lawsuit with other communities with similar laws restricting oil and gas extraction and specifically fracking, by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the State of Colorado. Both Bills of Rights reach further in scope than the other measures by also delineating the rights of the community for self-determination. The 20th District Court of Colorado decided that all of the measures violated the Colorado Gas Act by banning fracking and were ruled illegal to enforce, based on preemption. The Climate BOR was approved by vote of only the City Council and exists in the charter as an ordinance. An amendment approved by vote of the people stands as a permanent law in the charter, unless revoked by another vote of the people. An ordinance in the charter is approved by the city council and can be altered and revoked by another vote of just the Council.
Only the five Community Rights Advocates running for Lafayette City Council stand for the rights of Lafayette to enact and enforce their own laws and promote civil disobedience to unjust and immoral State laws of preemption. We demand that the Lafayette City Council approve the Climate Bill of Rights Ordinance be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people for inclusion in the charter as an amendment. We also demand that if the law is legally challenged by preemption, the Council accept the pro bono offer by CELDF for defense of the law with a constitutional rights-based argument. As the leaders and citizens of Grant Township came to know, no one is going to save us but ourselves.