The Finley Poison Pill

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the August 16, 2012, issue of the Boulder Weekly.

Not red or blue, it’s completely clear: all about the MONEY.

I read with both amusement and a bit of consternation the article describing Longmont City Council Member Bonnie Finley’s attempt to inject a poison pill onto the November ballot.  She’s apparently so frightened that the charter amendment, The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Welfare Act, will pass and be upheld by the courts (if and when it’s challenged) that she’s looking for a method to scare the bejesus out of the Longmont electorate.  What better way to do this than to start talking about taxes, always a “four-letter word” in Longmont.

Longmont is entitled to a fair election on the issue.  Blatant voter manipulation is an abuse of the democratic process.  And that’s precisely what Bonnie Finley is proposing.  Ms. Finley ought to be ashamed of herself.  Furthermore, it’s unethical and likely also illegal for the Longmont City Council to participate in Finley’s manipulation.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Wellness Act would prohibit the extremely hazardous process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) as well as waste injection wells within the city limits of Longmont.  Fracking lowers property values, damages tax-payer funded roads, endangers our health and safety, and contaminates the air we breathe and water we drink.  But apparently, Bonnie Finley wants to derail a citizen effort to keep Longmont a great place to live so that the oil and gas industry can frack next to our homes, schools and Union Reservoir.

Finley first slipped her proposed Finley Tax into discussion during the “Mayor and Council Comments” section of the July 24 city council meeting.  Her position is predicated on her belief that mineral rights owners would be deprived of the property right to access those minerals.  Ms. Finely grossly, and probably intentionally, misreads the language of the charter amendment.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act prohibits only the extraction method of hydraulic fracking.  It does not ban oil and gas drilling by other methods.  Owners or lessees of minerals are free to use, and have used, other methods of acquisition besides hydraulic fracking.  They are not being deprived of all economically beneficial uses of their minerals.

Think of the oil and gas industry as a fisherman.  When the Longmont voters pass the hydraulic fracking prohibition, they will be effectively saying, “You can’t fish with dynamite.  You can buy a rod and reel and go fishing and eat all the fish you can catch by that method.  You just can’t blow up the lake because it’s a faster way to get a whole lot more fish.”

In essence, the charter amendment is telling the oil and gas industry and their political supporters like Ms. Finley that they can’t access and sell these minerals using an inherently harmful process to do so.  Make no mistake; fracking is harmful to children, families, the community, and the environment.  The evidence keeps mounting, much to the dismay of the oil and gas industry and those people and agencies that facilitate the industry’s wishes.

Finley is employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), which serves as the Colorado chamber of commerce.  On the CACI board of directors is the Vice President of Encana USA, with substantial interest in drilling and fracking throughout Colorado. In a war there are always “minders.”

The Finley Tax is a blatant attempt to scare voters.   Apparently Council Member Finley wants voters to make a false choice between their family’s health and safety and their wallets.   All Longmont voters should be highly suspicious of Finley’s motives in proposing this tax.   So who is she representing?  I’d say the oil and gas industry – hands down.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is made up of people like you, your families, friends and neighbors who believe in Longmont’s quality of life and want to preserve it for ourselves and our children.  Please join us by voting for the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act when you receive your ballot.

  1 comment for “The Finley Poison Pill

  1. Gregory Iwan
    August 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

    (My recent letter to Councilwoman Finley)

    Madam:

    We have met. I respect your stance on industry, in general. And I understand your need and interest in complying with TABOR (re elections for taxation), though I think that measure is even more destructive than mining the entire state, cubic foot by cubic foot. I would counsel you to think through ALL the legal elements of any POTENTIAL action that MIGHT be brought against the City of Longmont, were it ban FRACKING.

    First, mineral operations in severed estates (i.e., surface owned by one entity, mineral estate by others) function essentially as an easement. You need to look up “easements in gross,” in Black’s Law Dictionary for STARTERS. Damages have been allowed by the courts only when ALL access has been unreasonably denied. There is more than one way to remove oil and gas. And, besides, fracking techniques mean an operator of the mineral estate can drill in a section 15 of a given township (Public Land Survey) and expect to extract pay from AT LEAST as far as Sections 1 through 24, inclusive. That’s twenty-four square miles. About the area encompassed by the City. In other words, four drill holes OUTSIDE the City limits could tap any and all minerals of interest under the City, if “fracking” is employed. Ask your oil and gas friends.

    So where’s the fuss? Why the bother? Does the City need to get its underwear in a tangle over this issue? Absolutely not. To have raised this flag reveals a lot, and I hope you won’t mind if we don’t forget it come 2015.

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