Kaye Fissinger, 303-678-7267 (Our Longmont)
Michael Bellmont, 303-678-9470 (Our Longmont)
Bruce Baizel, 970-903-5326 (Earthworks)
Shane Davis, 303-717-4462 (Sierra Club)
Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036 (Food & Water Watch)
Coalition Acts to Protect City of Longmont’s Ban on Dangerous Hydraulic Fracturing
LONGMONT, CO – Today, a coalition of community, public health, consumer and environmental organizations filed a motion in the Weld County District Court to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Longmont’s ban of the oil and gas practice known as “fracking” and related surface activities, such as storage of toxic post-fracking fluids. This ban was instituted by the citizens of Longmont in an amendment to the City Charter, Article XVI , the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.
The people of Longmont by an overwhelming vote of 60% (more than 25,000 people), voted in the November, 2012 election to amend the City Charter to ban fracking, affirming their intention “to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water.” This historic ballot measure was spearheaded by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).
“We are taking this action because we hope to affirm the rights of citizens and communities to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for themselves and future generations,” said Michael Harris, Director of the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law Environmental Law Clinic. He continued, “We are honored to represent Our Longmont, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club and Earthworks.”
The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals certain inalienable rights. These rights are expressed in the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, which requires that oil and gas resources be extracted in a “manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare.”
“The extraction process of hydraulic fracturing has not been proven to be safe,” said Kaye Fissinger, managing member of Our Longmont. “Further, the State of Colorado has created a situation where the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry has an inherent conflict of interest. It cannot simultaneously foster the development of oil and gas and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”
“The dangerous, toxic practice of fracking has been a matter of grave importance to the people of Longmont since October of 2011,” said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont. “To assure the protection of those in our community, Our Longmont undertook a petition drive to place the charter amendment on the ballot. In November, our citizens exercised their rights to self-determination, also guaranteed under Article XX of Colorado’s Constitution. In light of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s attack, it is necessary that citizens participate in the judicial process to guarantee our constitutionally protected rights. It is for this reason Our Longmont and others have moved to intervene,” Bellmont said.
Food & Water Watch provided invaluable assistance to Our Longmont throughout the effort to qualify and pass Longmont’s charter amendment. Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Regional Director for the organization, said, “We were delighted to be able to help the citizens of Longmont prohibit the dangerous industrial practice of hydraulic fracking and are pleased to be able to continue to support them. We have every confidence that the courts will reject the claims of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and preserve Longmont’s constitutional and home rule rights.”
According to Eric E. Huber, Senor Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, “This lawsuit could have a precedential effect throughout Colorado as other communities work to pass similar prohibitions on fracking and the disposal of its waste products within their boundaries.”
Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said, “The citizens of Longmont took this action because they don’t trust state regulators to protect them. Rather than sue communities acting to protect their public health, industry and the state should be addressing legitimate community concerns by putting the public’s health before industry profits.”
Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a constitutional right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our community. Our goal is to preserve the quality of life in our exceptional city. By so doing we will preserve our economic vitality, our home values, our water, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for ourselves and future generations. www.ourlongmont.org,
Food & Water Watch is a consumer organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water. It’s essential that these shared resources be regulated in the public interest rather than for private gain. www.foodandwaterwater.org,
Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide, including 160 members in the City of Longmont. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. http://rmc.sierraclub.org
For 25 years, Earthworks has been dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. http://www.earthworksaction.org.
Over 25 organizations join forces to create “Protect Our Colorado” and calls on state officials to protect residents from dangerous energy extraction process.
WASHINGTON – January 14 – Today, more than 25 business, solar, farming, faith, consumer, environmental, grassroots and social justice organizations around the state came together to announce a new coalition to oppose the controversial oil and gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The coalition, Protect Our Colorado, will call on Governor John Hickenlooper and state legislators to ban fracking in Colorado.
“Fracking endangers our health and contaminates our clean air and water. For the future of our children and our state, it’s essential that we stop fracking in Colorado and move immediately to a renewable energy economy,” said Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia, Inc.
Earlier this month, Longmont became the first city in Colorado to ban fracking in a historic bipartisan vote, indicating that the tide of public opinion is turning away from fracking as more residents learn of its negative impacts on health, safety, property, air, water and families throughout Colorado.
“The overwhelming victory in Longmont and the launch of Protect Our Colorado signals that more and more Coloradans are waking up to the dangers of fracking. We are pro-Colorado, and there is no place for fracking in Colorado,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “Governor Hickenlooper has ignored, bullied and sued citizens in order to expand fracking in Colorado. It’s time that Governor Hickenlooper start representing the people of Colorado instead of the oil and gas industry by banning fracking in our state.”
With 47,000 fracked wells throughout the state, and the oil and gas industry looking to substantially expand that number in the next decade, Colorado has become an epicenter of fracking in the United States. A method of extracting oil and gas from rock deep beneath the earth’s surface, fracking uses high volumes of toxic mixtures of chemicals, 20 percent of which have been shown to cause cancer, and up to 50 percent of which can affect nervous, immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. A recent University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Health report found that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above the federal hazard standard, which could increase their chances of developing cancer by 60 percent.
Despite these scientific dangers, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) just passed rules that do nothing to protect the health of people of Colorado. Instead state regulators are proposing that wells be situated only 500 feet from homes, schools, public parks, lakes and rivers.
In addition to the public health problems associated with the process, oil and gas companies regularly “externalize” many of the costs of doing business, making the local communities pay these costs, which include significant increases in heavy truck traffic and road damage, increased noise, dust, crime and demand on social and health-care services, police, fire, and emergency services, degraded air and water quality, and property value declines near well sites by as much as 75 percent.
“The oil and gas industry is lowering our quality of life along with our property values.” Audy Leggere Hickey of Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights. “Governor Hickenlooper needs to show strength, courage and integrity. He needs to stand up for the people of Colorado to ban fracking.”
A recent study by Western Resource Advocates found that water used in one year for new oil and gas development throughout the state could supply the entire population of Lakewood, the fourth-largest city in Colorado. Farmers are continually forced to compete against the oil and gas industry for access to water, even during periods of drought such as the one experienced this past summer.
“It’s unconscionable that the industry is so powerful in Colorado that it’s allowed to pour millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground just steps away from areas where honest, hard-working Coloradans are trying to make a living, raise their families and send their children to learn,” said Ashley Collins with Adams County Unite NOW. “We can’t let Governor Hickenlooper and powerful special interests ride roughshod over local communities.”
Fracking is also exacerbating the climate crisis, as huge volumes of methane have been documented leaking at fracking wellheads, according to recent reports. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in our atmosphere. This has led some researchers to surmise that fracked natural gas may be as or more dangerous to the global climate than burning coal.
“These leaks are contributing to climate destabilization, which has already loaded the dice for record-breaking storms, floods, heat, and the wildfires and drought that have begun to plague our state and others in recent years,” said Micah Parkin, Colorado and Regional Organizer for 350.org.
A report issued by Food & Water Watch reveals that the industry may be poised to export as much as 40 percent of current U.S. consumption of natural gas and oil overseas to foreign markets, posing new questions for states that allow fracking to take place.
“Colorado’s oil and gas industry is threatening our health, safety and property in order to export natural gas overseas to foreign markets,” said Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Regional Director for Food & Water Watch. “Fracking has absolutely nothing to do with energy security and everything to do with the oil and gas industry looking for new and creative ways to turn a profit. That’s definitely not a burden Coloradans needs to take on.”
For more information, visit: http://www.protectourcolorado.org
Protect Our Colorado is comprised of the following organizations: Patagonia, Lighthouse Solar, Colorado Progressive Coalition, 350.org, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley, Holy Terror Farm, Foodshed Productions, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Our Longmont, Adams County Unite Now, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, The Mother’s Project, Frack Free CO, Community for Sustainable Energy, Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group, East Boulder County United, Frack Files of Weld, Frack Free Loveland, Conscious Global Leadership, The Question Alliance, Frack Free Boulder, Denver Community Rights, Routt County Frack, Frack Free Fort Collins.
The following is an expanded version of the response to Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll’s misrepresentation of Question 300, which prohibits hydraulic fracking and its waste products within Longmont city limits.
The Colorado Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to health, safety and wellbeing.
Recently Vincent Carroll wrote a column about the citizen-driven ballot measure, Question 300 that bans hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Longmont. Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont agrees with one comment by Mr. Carroll: Yes, this is a “bellwether vote in Longmont.” However, there is little else about Carroll’s characterization of our effort upon which we can agree.
The citizens of Longmont didn’t choose to be a leader in the effort to assert local control over health, safety and wellbeing. That role was thrust upon us by an industry that has no interest in our community except to extract its last dime of profits at our community’s expense.
When representative government is inadequate or a failure, the Colorado Constitution not only provides a remedy, but also provides a guarantee of citizen health, safety and welfare.
The citizens of Longmont are under attack not only from the oil and gas industry, but from our own governor. Governor Hickenlooper is already suing us over regulations that are considerably watered down from what most in the Longmont community were expecting. He’s also promised to sue us again if Question 300 passes. Hickenlooper should be ashamed of himself. But he isn’t. He would rather serve as the spokesperson for oil and gas than represent his constituents. He’d rather make commercials for oil and gas, and pretend to drink fracking fluid that is not even being used by the industry.
Our Longmont is a group of Longmont parents, business owners, retirees, teachers, medical providers, people from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics. We are working to protect what we hold dear: our families, our health, our quality of life, our town. In fact, many of us did not even know what fracking was when, one year ago, it was announced that an oil and gas company was going to frack only a stone’s throw from our homes, our children’s school and our reservoir in Longmont.
Our research revealed that scientific evidence points to the harms that fracking posed to our children, our health and our property. Months of scientific testimony and public input was presented to our city council with deep and heartfelt pleas to protect us from the myriad dangers of fracking: the cacophonous noise, property damage, threats to our children’s health and safety, earthquakes, air pollution, and the threats to surface and groundwater from well-documented evidence from the state’s own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Eventually, we were faced with a choice: abdicate our Constitutional rights to protect our family’s health, safety and welfare or work to keep Longmont a great place to live for our families today and for our children’s and grandchildren’s future families. We chose the latter.
Over 100 volunteers worked for six weeks in 100 degree temperatures to collect 8,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The measure will give Longmont residents the right to vote on whether they want fracking 350 feet from their homes, schools and reservoir or to prohibit this method of oil and gas extraction outright.
We have now learned that the oil and gas industry has spent over $330,000 and has contributed over a half-a-million dollars to defeat this measure. They have outspent our citizen-led effort to protect our homes, safety and property 30 times over.
This money has come from 28 contributors, including Halliburton, Chevron, Encana. Many of these oil and gas corporations aren’t even based in Colorado, but instead, hail from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. Not one – not one Longmont resident has contributed to the opposition’s campaign.
Why are out-of-state oil and gas companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to strip parents, small-business owners, retirees and teachers in Longmont of their constitutional rights? Why does the oil and gas industry feel the need to buy an election so that they can have free reign to put dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes and our children’s schools, or anywhere else their bank accounts desire?
While we wait for honest answers to these questions (and honesty is not a trademark of the oil and gas industry), we will continue what we have always done: being neighbors, parents and taxpayers in Longmont. And we will not stop working every day to protect our loved ones from hydraulic fracking.
Mike Soraghan is a reporter for Energy Wire, and division of E&E News. Free Range Longmont extends a heartfelt thanks for the gracious permission given to republish his article. Visit E&E News and Energy Wire for great coverage of both energy and the environment.
LONGMONT, Colo. — Kaye Fissinger can point to where every oil and gas well will be drilled around Union Reservoir. Not that she’s welcoming them.
As a breeze broke the stillness, lifted the branches of shade trees and pushed a small catamaran across the small lake on a Wednesday afternoon last month, she pointed to the one already there.
In the distance was a beige tank battery, the pipes, tanks and other equipment that remain after a well is drilled. It is the first of eight wells expected to be drilled at the city park around the lake under an agreement between the driller and the city government.
“Look at what it’s going to do — derricks, trucks, tank batteries …” said Fissinger, activist and campaign manager for a local anti-drilling effort called “Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont.”
A new wave of drilling, fueled by the practice some call “fracking,” is promising prosperity and energy security for the country. E&E investigates whether anyone is ensuring it’s done right. Click here to read the report.
The question of whether there will be more derricks, wells and tank batteries is the subject of a legal fight between that same city government and the state focused on who can regulate drilling. The City Council passed rules in July barring oil and gas wells from residential neighborhoods. Within days, the state sued to block it.
Longmont is where the spread of drilling on Colorado’s high plains, spurred by advances in hydraulic fracturing, is slamming into the sprawl of Denver suburbs along the state’s Front Range. It is not the first place where advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have pushed drilling deeper into suburban and even urban areas.
State officials have banded together with the oil and gas industry to head off regulation by both federal and local governments, arguing simultaneously against a federal “one size fits all” approach and the “patchwork” that would be created by giving cities and counties control over exploration and production.
In Pennsylvania, local governments sued the state after the Legislature passed a measure limiting local control over drilling. In New York, drilling companies such as Colorado-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. have been losing legal challenges to local bans.
But the Colorado suit is the first case in the nation’s current drilling boom in which a state agency has gone to court to prevent a local government from asserting jurisdiction over drilling. The city’s formal response is due by Friday.
The plaintiff in the suit is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state body charged with policing and promoting development. But Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has led the charge against Longmont’s ordinance, calling Longmont’s rules “to a certain extent too forceful” in a recent speech and saying they would put “intense pressure” on other local governments to create a patchwork of different rules.
“I think there’s got to be a limit to it,” Hickenlooper said (EnergyWire, Aug. 16). “We literally begged Longmont not to go forward.”
Drilling in suburbia
Anti-drilling critics have taken to calling the popular governor “Frackenlooper.”
Those critics say exempting oil and gas from city zoning amounts to special treatment for a powerful industry that endangers people’s health.
City governments can generally decide where to allow factories, convenience stores, subdivisions and strip clubs. State governments such as those in Pennsylvania and Colorado are asserting that those city governments have no such say about oil and gas production.
“Name another industry to me that doesn’t have to comply with local, disparate zoning regulations,” said Michael Bellmont, another Our Longmont leader, sitting in his long-term care insurance office in Longmont’s trendy Prospect New Town district.
In Texas, where drilling is more entrenched in the culture, cities do have jurisdiction over oil and gas wells. Two years ago, the Texas Legislature rejected efforts to give the state’s oil and gas agency — called the Railroad Commission — authority over drilling in cities.
“The state has very minimal guidelines for where you can drill. What the cities have done is try to fill in the blanks,” said Terry Welch, a lawyer who represents cities in Texas. “The cities said, ‘Why should every city have the same rules?'”
But some local officials agree that rules should be uniform across the state.
“COGCC rules in Colorado work well for the industry,” said Bonnie Finley, a Longmont City Council member who opposed the zoning ordinance, “and I think that’s all we need.”
Driving north out of Denver on Interstate 25, sprawled-out townhouse complexes slowly give way to cows, hay farms and then pumpjacks, frozen in time. Just off the highway, one pumpjack gyrates slowly next to a line of frack trailers, looking like a cow chewing its cud next to the thoroughbred barn.
Four miles closer to the mountains, Longmont restores the suburban feel. But it is still a town of contradictions. It is a former farming town on the western edge of Colorado’s High Plains. But it is on the eastern edge of Boulder County, home to the University of Colorado and the famously liberal county seat of Boulder. The city has both the county fairgrounds and the “Anti-Corporate headquarters of Oskar Blues Brewery.”
Longmont does not have the history with extractive industries that some of its neighbors do. In the decades before Denver’s growth spilled into the area, pumpjacks were common to the east in Weld County. Not in Longmont, though, where the economy revolved around agriculture. People who moved there in the 1990s and early 2000s had little indication they might find themselves dealing with drilling.
“It’s a cultural divide,” said Sean Conway, chairman of the Board of Commissioners in neighboring Weld County. “They don’t have the benefit of experience and battles fought.”
Fissinger, the anti-drilling activist who moved here from California in 2006, wants Longmont to retain some of that unique identity. Driving through Firestone, the city to the east of Longmont in the more growth-friendly and agribusiness-oriented Weld County, she started pointing out each beige tank battery.
“There’s a tank battery. … There’s a battery,” she said. After just a few moments, it started to seem pointless, like pointing out burgundy cars on the interstate.
“That’s what I mean,” Fissinger said. “We don’t want Longmont to be another Firestone.”
And that is why her group is taking things a step further than zoning wells out of neighborhoods, pushing for a total ban on hydraulic fracturing with a proposal that will be on the city’s ballot in November (it would not cover drilling without fracturing). If it passes, it will likely be subject to the same legal challenges as the zoning ordinance.
Oil and gas drilling companies say Longmont and Firestone, and other areas of the state, should have the same rules. The industry says it needs a “predictable regulatory environment” and that allowing Firestone and Longmont to have different rules slows permit approvals. In comments sent to the city in February, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) noted that state officials process about 5,000 permits a year, which result in the drilling of about 2,000 wells each year in the state.
“If each well approved by the state is also forced into a months-long local permitting process, the number of wells annually drilled in Colorado would plummet, along with tax revenues, economic activity and jobs,” the industry association wrote in comments to the city.
Powerful forces are arrayed around this fight. Fissinger’s group is getting help from Food and Water Watch, a national environmental group that split off years ago from the Public Interest Research Group and now has an $8 million annual budget.
Longmont’s elections have been shaped by the American Tradition Partnership, a conservative group based inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway that has been active in state and local elections in Montana, Oklahoma and Virginia and pressed a pro-drilling agenda in Colorado’s Garfield County.
And Hickenlooper, a popular governor whom some envision as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, has come down firmly on the side of industry. Hickenlooper became prominent in Colorado as a brew-pub pioneer in Denver. But before that, he was a petroleum geologist.
Hickenlooper did a radio ad earlier this year for COGA, asserting the industry talking point that since rules were created in 2008, the state hadn’t “had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”
But oil and gas commission spill records show 255 incidents in which groundwater was “impacted” during 2009, 2010 and 2011.
And before the new rules, Colorado was already the scene of a few of the nation’s highest-profile groundwater contamination cases.
‘Once they invade, they’re here’
Laura Amos of Silt, Colo., blamed hydraulic fracturing chemicals for the rare tumor she developed after a well near her home blew out in 2001 during the fracturing process. State regulators concluded fracturing was not to blame for the problems but fined the operator $99,400 because gas was found in her well.
Nearby in 2004, a drilling crew poured a faulty cement seal around another well in 2004 that allowed gas and benzene to seep into a nearby stream, called West Divide Creek. The state hit Encana Corp. with a fine and declared a drilling moratorium in the area for several years.
People complained in 2009 that gas was once again seeping into the creek, but the state rejected the claims. The residents’ complaints were detailed in the 2010 anti-drilling documentary “Gasland.”
In 2008, COGCC asked gas drilling companies to investigate whether they had contaminated the drinking water at Ned Prather’s hunting cabin near DeBeque, Colo. (Greenwire, Oct. 12, 2009). Tests showed the water had benzene and related chemicals at a concentration 20 times the safety limit. The companies determined they had not caused the contamination. The state went back, hired its own consultants and fined the lead company more than $400,000.
Through a spokesman, Hickenlooper declined to comment beyond what he’d already said publicly.
In Longmont, groundwater around a well 360 feet from a middle school has been contaminated with carcinogens such as benzene, which was measured at almost 100 times the state limit.
Underscoring some of the dangers of drilling, the same day Fissinger pointed out the tank batteries in Firestone, a well blew up and killed a 60-year-old well worker not far away in the Fort Lupton area of Weld County (Greenwire, Aug. 17).
State and industry officials say that Colorado has some of the most comprehensive state rules in the country. Even if that is true, state oil and gas regulation across the country is looser than regulation of other industries and is characterized by minimal fines and built-in conflicts of interest (Greenwire, Nov. 19, 2011).
Industry is guaranteed three seats on Colorado’s nine-member commission, down from five of seven in 2007 (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2011). And its mission is to “foster” development while also protecting health. To Finley, whose day job is with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, something of a state chamber of commerce, that makes sense.
“You want people who know what best practices and safe practices are, and those are the people from the industry,” she said.
But it leaves Fissinger and her colleagues with little faith that the state will protect residents from the ills of drilling. She and her fellow drilling opponents say the state agency is interfering with rights granted in the state constitution, including residents’ right of “seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”
Camouflaged with beige paint against the arid, drought-darkened landscape, the tank batteries at Union Reservoir don’t leap out like a neon sign for a strip club or car wash. Even if they’re not that hard on the eyes, she said, they can still be rough on the lungs and the rest of the body.
She added that Colorado has only 17 full-time field inspectors; state officials note that an additional 20 people conduct oil and gas inspections as part of their work.
“Air pollution, fugitive gases, spills,” Fissinger said. “By the time they get around to looking at it, the damage is done. Once they invade, they’re here.”
Perhaps solidly Progressive Democrats were not listening carefully to Barack Obama in 2008. Perhaps they were just too anxious to oust the worst U.S. president since Herbert Hoover. Perhaps the millions of dollars in contributions from Wall Street corrupted his vision for America. Perhaps Barack Obama was “corporatist” all along. Whatever the reasons, there are those within the Democratic Party who are not pleased with President Barack Obama’s first term record. It is not what they expected when they ardently worked on his behalf and cast their vote in November 2008.
They expected a single-payer healthcare system. They earnestly lobbied Obama for “Medicare for All,” or at a minimum some sort of “public option.” But Obama didn’t listen. In fact, he came to the negotiating table having given away nearly all of his bargaining chips. And stalwart Democrats were left to ask, “Why?”
Progressives believed that there was no acceptable moral or ethical action but to hold Wall Street responsible for its corruption. But Obama followed the lead of George Bush and continued to bail them out. He might have, at a minimum, held individuals responsible for the near catastrophe that they brought to the American – even world – economy by bringing criminal charges against the perpetrators. But three and a half years later, no such actions have taken place – and they appear not likely to take place.
Obama could have held Vice President Dick Cheney and President George Bush accountable for their lies about Saddam Hussein’s involvement in the 9-11 attacks and for the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the lies that hoodwinked the American public into accepting an unwarranted war against Iraq that cost lives and treasure. But he insisted that the country should look forward, not back. Perhaps Obama, too, was lustful of Middle East oil.
And then there is the environment and climate change. For every two steps forward, our president follows with another one back while the extraction industries rape and pillage the land and threaten the atmosphere for the coming generations.
There are other areas of consternation, but however it all came about, some in Boulder County took the principled position to send a message to our Party’s president: That far but no farther.
At Saturday’s Boulder County Democratic Party County Assembly and Convention, there were 288 delegates available for the Colorado Democratic Party Convention in Pueblo on April 14. Of the 354 county delegates remaining for the afternoon session that nominated President Barack Obama for a second term, 55 of those delegates rose in opposition to the president’s policy choices. Those 55 delegates amounted to 16% of the votes and “met threshold.” As a consequence, there will be delegates in Pueblo to carry the Uncommitted message.
It is not known whether other Democrats throughout Colorado rose to send the same message to our president. I can only hope that they did. As one who rose, I had no idea how few or how many would do so. There was no coordinated effort, no campaign. It was heartwarming to see so many committed Democratic progressives stand in protest.
It has been disheartening to watch the Democratic Party drift steadily to the right, election after election, since 1980. It is disheartening to observe how the Democratic Party has been repeatedly played by the ever-growing fascistic and totalitarian elements in the Republican Party as they accomplish a goal and then move the goal-post further and further to the right.
While the action today was small, I hope it will be a harbinger of changes to come. I hope it will be both an indicator and a motivator for other progressive Democrats to say, “We will no longer allow our Party to be high jacked by those who would compromise our values. We will not let our Party become a watered down version of the Republican Party of Corporate America. We will no longer watch the future of our families and friends and our environment slip into inevitable decline, if not disaster.”
So let this be the beginning as we “take back” our Democratic Party as well as the direction of our nation. The journey of a mile begins with one step.
There is a confluence of issues that city council needs to address. The first is the city’s neighborhood notification policy. The second is the trail around Union Reservoir. And the third is the train wreck of oil and gas drilling and fracking coming into Longmont and specifically at Union Reservoir.
Residents on the northern shore of the reservoir by County Road 28 insisted that they did not receive notification. Believe them. While they may have, in fact, received some sort of communication from the city, it was clearly inadequate to define the scope of the issue.
This isn’t the first time that the city has inadequately notified neighborhoods. And unless the policy is changed, it will not be the last.
The issue of drilling for oil and gas at Union Reservoir was on staff’s table as early as June of 2011. Ex-mayor Baum recently said in a radio broadcast that “drilling was nothing new,” that “it had been in the works for a year and a half.”
Really! But the public was not made aware of this until October. And the plan was to ram the issue through for a hearing by the Planning and Zoning Commission on November 18th. The P&Z was intended to be the final word on the matter.
Had citizens not been alert, those living outside the immediate Union Reservoir area would not have been present at the “neighborhood meeting” to learn that drilling was intended to be imminent. Most of the residents in the area did not grasp the city’s intentions and had to be separately notified of the threat.
While the Union Reservoir Master Plan was modified and vetted, it is essential to note that this vetting was without any knowledge whatsoever by the public that the area was going to be invaded by the oil and gas industry.
Union Reservoir is unique. Drilling has no business anywhere near it. And it should be stopped by any and all measures available.
Council needs to direct staff to revise the notification process so that full implications are apparent. The notifications need to go beyond small neighborhood geographical areas when the impact is broad and/or citywide. And the council should table the $750,000 expense of the trail until there is a full understanding of the impact of drilling at Union Reservoir.
The last recommendation I make with reluctance as I am strongly supportive of such a trail. However, the impact on wildlife, whether from the trail or from drilling, needs careful assessment before, not after, the financial cost is incurred.
For all those climate change deniers who have convinced themselves that greenhouse gases are not man-made, here’s a great big wake-up call.
As if CO2 (carbon dioxide) isn’t bad enough, we’re headlong into making the matter 100 times worse. It’s called methane. It’s trapped under ice at the poles. And it’s being released in huge quantities from shale gas drilling.
A January 2009 report by Dr. Al Armendariz, formerly of Southern Methodist University and now the director of EPA’s regional office in Dallas, estimated that the air pollution from shale gas drilling in the Dallas/Fort Worth area likely exceeds the emissions from all the cars and trucks in that area.
From May 31 to June 3, 2011, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation directed David Sawyer of Sawyer Infrared Inspection Services to examine 15 natural gas drilling and compressor sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia that are visible from public roads. Sawyer’s equipment detected methane and perhaps other hydrocarbon gases escaping from 11 of these 15 sites. The four sites with no emissions were not operating. CBF used a standard video camera to simultaneously record the same sites that Sawyer was taping with the “GasFindIR” camera.
Visit the link and see for yourself. The emissions look like colored smoke. Yet the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission keeps telling Colorado citizens that WE have no rights, only the mineral owners do.
On a roll. Or so he thought. His script was down tight. Celebrate the free market even though it’s far from free. The deck is stacked for the 1% and I’ll bet he damned well knows that. The house always wins. But, hey, as long as you’ve got gullible people who can’t find their rear end with both hands, it works.
Lots of old fogies, as my parents used to describe them. Not because they were old, but because they lacked that which the “conservatives” think they have – common sense.
How many lifetimes will it take for some of these people to grasp the fact that they are never going to be part of the 1%. The 1% doesn’t want them. In fact, they’d be more than happy to see the number be half a percent or smaller.
With the help of wordsmiths like Frank Luntz and a year of practice, one of the 1%’s water carriers has got that political “pivoting” maneuver down pretty well. But someone’s always going to show up with that question, the one not expected, the one that wasn’t included in the script. And then the guy would rather run for the door – but that would be way too humiliating. So what to do, blabber a little and quickly, and then look the other way, call on someone else, and be very glad that the scheduled hour is almost over.
Here’s the question:
There is a 501c4 that is rabidly anti-environment and places property rights ahead of all other rights. This organization inserted itself into Longmont’s municipal elections in 2009 and again in 2011. It began in Montana and the Montana Political Practices Commission described the campaign practices as raising “the specter of corruption.” There was testimony that the organization even accepts money from outside the United States. Recently the Montana Supreme Court in its ruling against Western Tradition Partnership, now known as American Tradition Partnership, said, “We take note that Western Tradition appears to be engaged in a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements.” Mr. Gardner, you have accepted campaign assistance from this corrupt organization. Will you renounce American Tradition Partnership, its policies and its political practices? Yes or No
Here’s the answer:
I don’t know. I can’t give you a yes or no because I don’t know the organization’s contribution. I don’t know if they did, when they did it, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. So there’s lots of different opinions in this room and you may have a different opinion on the group than someone else in the room.
Now that might have worked, but there was a little problem with evidence that was raised high for all in the room to see.
“Cory Gardner has pledged 100% support for Western Tradition Partnership’s agenda…”
“With jobs fleeing Colorado and your prosperity in danger, you need to know where the candidates for Congress stand.”
And Mr. Know Nothing from a Do Nothing Congress controlled by a Know Nothing Party verifies it:
“I don’t know…I don’t know the organization’s contribution…
I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Hey, but who and what ya gonna believe? Your lyin’ eyes. The evidence? Or Colorado Congressional District #4 Representative Cory “I don’t know what you’re talking about” Gardner?
Scott Gessler agrees with Kaye Fissinger. Bet that got your attention. He didn’t do it on purpose, of course. It simply served his partisan objective, at least this time.
What in the world could I be talking about, you ask.
As might be recalled, not long ago I pressed the point that non-partisan elections simply mean that political parties and their registered voters do not determine candidates in a primary for a general election against candidates from competing political parties. I stressed that it does not mean that candidates have no political affiliation or that they don’t bring ideological affinities to a non-partisan office.
Some sought to take issue what that description, insisting that they and their favored candidates were pure as the driven snow. (And we know how long snow remains pure after it has been driven.) And that they (in our case, city council/mayor candidates) are blank political slates on which each issue begins to write anew.
Along comes Scott Gessler, Colorado Secretary of State, to say, “Uh, no. That’s not the way it works.”
Douglas County has a hot school board race. Hot because it is sharply divided between pro-voucher candidates and anti-voucher candidates. It’s a fight to see who will control the school board going forward. Douglas County School District is being sued by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union over its voucher plan that would provide substantial school tuition assistance for students to attend religious schools and/or to attend schools outside the normal district boundaries. The Douglas Country voucher program is currently under court injunction preventing the program from going forward.
School board challenger Susan Meek filed a complaint with Gessler’s office claiming her opponent Craig Richardson along with Justin Green Williams and Kevin Larsen, are running as a Republican Party slate. She contends that this is a legal violation because the races are non-partisan. Meek used as evidence fliers that proclaim her opponents as the Douglas County Republican Party’s choices for the school board.
After scratching their collective head for awhile, Gessler’s office found that the statute calling for nonpartisan school board elections applies to how candidates file for office, not how the campaign for it. A candidate cannot file for the school board as a Republican or Democrat, but he or she can run as one.
Scott Gessler is a Republican who ran for the office of Secretary of State in a partisan election. The three pro-voucher candidates are incumbents who have the largest campaign war chests funded by longtime school-reform and Republican activists. Meek and three challengers oppose vouchers. The pro-voucher candidates are predictably using smoke and mirrors to camouflage their pro-voucher stands, preferring instead to use the standard Republican whipping boy – unions. (Big bad bogeymen. Can’t have that.)
So the upshot of this is that Fissinger (that’s me) was right and the Republican Golden Boy Scott Gessler says so. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
The slate of candidates for Longmont’s 2011 election is now determined. Technically, the races for mayor and city council are non-partisan races. That simply means that political parties and their registered voters do not determine candidates in a primary for a general election against candidates from competing political parties. It does not eliminate alignment with political parties or political philosophies. Nor does it mean that campaign tactics that we see in state and national elections will not occur.
The divisions that are so obvious at the national level exist in Longmont as well. They exist on our city council because they reflect the divisions in the Longmont community.
WTP is rabidly anti-environment and is absolutist on the issue of property rights. They go well beyond belief in a free market into an orthodoxy that believes that if you must have government, its purpose should be of, by and for business interests to the exclusion of all else.
Western Tradition Partnership funded the Longmont Leadership Committee who waged a viciously negative campaign against Karen Benker and Kaye Fissinger. It went so far as to include Sean McCoy in their Longmont Leader “newspaper,” even though he wasn’t running in 2009. McCoy does not back down from deeply held convictions against Crony Capitalism. He is committed to clean, open and honest government. That is enough to put him on the radar of people and organizations that believe they have a birthright to power and government control.
WTP now goes by the name American Tradition Partnership. It is an IRS 501c4 tax-exempt, non-profit organization restricted by law from engaging in predominantly political purposes. But that hasn’t stopped it in the past and it won’t stop it going forward. IRS enforcement is virtually nil and when investigations are launched, they are well after the damage has been done.
Expect much more backdoor negative politics in Longmont’s 2011 election. The names may not be the same because past publicity has exposed them locally, statewide and nationally.
You will receive slick mailers that will slant truth and reality, if not invent outright lies. They did it before and they will do it again. They will target the three incumbents that have been on their radar since 2007 – Sean McCoy, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen. They will probably target Dennis Coombs as well – for no reason other than that he is challenging Bryan Baum, whom they adore because he embraces their orthodoxy and is a climate-change denier. Denying the realities and evidence of climate change is the first and foremost mission of WTP/ATP or whatever name it will be this time.
And don’t be surprised if independent mailers even seek to divide Longmont’s Democrats. These political committees know what political party you belong to if you’ve declared. There will be almost no limit to their strategies and tactics.
Money bought the 2009 elections and it will be used again to attempt to buy the 2011 elections. And they are counting on Longmont voters to be paying attention to anything or everything else and to rely on negative mailers to make their decisions about who should establish policies for their city. You will know which candidates they support by who is negatively targeted. By cui bono. Who benefits?
It’s not Longmont and its citizenry that they care about. It’s power for extreme and irrational causes and support for some very, very special interests, local and beyond.
I don’t know if there’s life after politics, but I do know that there was life BEFORE politics.
Prior to the 1980s I was an actor, dancer, singer, director, and choreographer (and theatre instructor) – almost entirely stage. I abandoned those efforts in favor of making a sustainable living. However, my memories are long and deep. The sad part of live theatre is that it is retained only in our memories. Film lives on for posterity.
Today my daughter stumbled upon a movie I did in 1977 – Hot Tomorrows. Hot Tomorrows is a delightful tongue-in-cheek treatise on death. Watch the finale below and have a ball. It’s done in Busby Berkeley style. Hot Tomorrows was directed by Martin Brest who went on to direct Beverly Hills Cop, Meet Joe Black and the Golden Globe winning, Scent of a Woman, amongst many others in his illustrious career.
In the Hot Tomorrows finale I am amongst the dancers in “42nd Street.” I’m on camera right (yes, you read that correctly – wink, wink). I’m the fourth dancer from the top of the line. As to the rest, not a clue; and it moves too fast and there are too many of us.
In the still, I’m on the very far right. Believe me, this is the only time you’ll find me there.
Our make-up (though hard to tell here) was sunken eyes and our long fingernails were in black to match the black and white cinematography of decades gone by.
The opening sequence has us dancing with lit cigarettes hanging from our mouths. Although I’m now a lung cancer survivor (thanks to cigarettes), it doesn’t diminish my ability to enjoy this, perhaps even more now than at the time it was filmed. After all, the “Grim Reaper” will take us all in due course. Perhaps he will WINK AT US when that time comes.
As published in the Longmont Times-Call on August 11, 2011:
Mayor Bryan Baum is a kidney cancer survivor. I am a lung cancer survivor. We have cancer in common. We also are passionate about healthcare. But we differ sharply on how and who should insure that care. Baum’s comments at the August 2nd council meeting suggested that his insurer was a PPO. He stressed the immediacy of his treatments and advocated for this type of program. I agree with him that insurance company “gatekeepers” should not be deciding when, where, who or how treatment is delivered. It costs lives. And it becomes very personal when that life is yours. I also understand why many choose HMOs. Often they are cheaper, although not always. Restrictive healthcare is preferable to no healthcare.
However, it was disturbing to hear Mayor Baum and his acolyte at Public Invited to be Heard “advocate” for consumerism in healthcare. Stunningly, Baum suggested that higher deductibles and larger co-pays would motivate people, and City of Longmont employees in particular, to be more “responsible” users of healthcare. Healthcare is not furniture or clothing and is not driven by the same “market” forces. Maximizing profit has no place in healthcare delivery. It inevitably leads to healthcare delay, and even worse healthcare denial.
Mayor Baum ‘s thinking – or more precisely, his political ideology – is one of the primary reasons why he should not be re-elected as Longmont’s mayor. Repeatedly his ideology has driven his votes. It’s a religion to him. It’s faith-based. Not fact-based. The Tea Party Republican ideology that drives him is fundamentally hostile toward human needs and human rights. Baum talks a good game when it comes to serving people. And he may mean it. However, his actions belie his rhetoric. And as all of us were taught, correctly, as children, actions speak much louder than words.
Ever since the United States was instrumental in defeating Fascism in 1945, if not before, various critics of the American government have accused it of behaving in a Fascist manner itself. The McCarthy hearings come to mind. Ever since Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President in 1981, the warnings have become more dire.
So I thought I, OhioGringo, would try to grade where America is today in its long march towards Fascism. For this, I used the 14 Points of Fascism, found all over the political blogosphere, and graded where I think we are on each one. Five asterisks(*****) means full Fascism, one means none. So, let’s have a bit of cynical fun:
Powerful and Continuing NationalismFascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
**** The only reason I don’t give this a five is because it’s still OK not to fly the flag or even to burn it.
Disdain for the Recognition of Human RightsBecause of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
**** There’s substantial opposition to this behavior, but Guantanamo’s still open, Bradley Manning’s still being tortured as far as we know, and President Obama has authorized assassination. Not five stars because people aren’t being disappeared domestically, yet.
Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying CauseThe people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
**** Well, that’s obvious. Not a five because there is still public opposition.
Supremacy of the MilitaryEven when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
***** No brainer.
Rampant SexismThe governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
** We have Fascist bitches, too! This has been tried, but is failing due to public sentiment.
Controlled Mass MediaSometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
*** There is clearly domination by corporate media, but I am writing this, after all, and Democracy Now! is still broadcast. Overall, the Fascists have the edge.
Obsession with National SecurityFear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
***** The daily use of fear of whoever and whatever is unavoidable.
Religion and Government are IntertwinedGovernments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
*** Thank God for atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and sometimes Catholics and “mainstream” Protestant denominations. This could be much worse, but there is strong opposition. Still, when was the last time a President did not conclude a speech with “God Bless America?”
Corporate Power is ProtectedThe industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
***** They have a lock. Citizens United v FEC have opened the floodgates. Look where our government officials come from and go to.
Labor Power is SuppressedBecause the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
**** Unions still exist, and sometimes fight, but they have been emasculated.
Disdain for Intellectuals and the ArtsFascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
*** Anti-intellectualism holds the edge here, there are attacks on the arts, but they are often unsuccessful.
Obsession with Crime and PunishmentUnder fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
***Leans that way, but there is still substantial opposition.
Rampant Cronyism and CorruptionFascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
***** No brainer. The Greatest Theft Ever took place under TARP. Look where Obama’s Treasury Secretary and advisers came from. Look where politicians go when they “retire.”
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.**** Almost there!
And, by may calculations we are at 3.86. On a letter scale, America gets an overall C+ grade in Fascist achievement according to this little scale and myself. My political goal would be to get an “F”.
FORT COLLINS: As Republicans in Washington continue to war among themselves over how radically they want to slash America’s social safety nets, Northern Coloradans gathered in Fort Collins today to demand that Republican freshman Rep. Cory Gardner stop playing games with the nation’s financial future.
“This is truly an unprecedented situation,” said Mark Evans of Eyes on Congress. “Republicans are willing to sacrifice the health of our economy and our communities to make a cheap political point. While Cory Gardner plays his high stakes games, the American economy is held hostage. Meanwhile thousands of Gardner’s constituents are worried about their Social Security checks, and whether the bonds they hold for retirement will have value when they mature.”
“Colorado’s working families are looking for leaders who don’t walk away from tough discussions but instead work together to create solutions,” said Kjersten Forseth of ProgressNow Colorado. “Not only do Republicans have an agenda to privatize Social Security and Medicare opposed by most Americans, they are fighting among themselves over just how radically and irresponsibly they intend to proceed with this agenda. Rep. Gardner already cast his vote for the disastrous ‘Ryan Plan’ budget that would privatize Medicare and slash virtually every public institution America’s middle class depends on.”
Yesterday, Rep. Gardner announced his support for the Boehner debt ceiling bill which would force Congress to cut $1.8 trillion from Medicare and Social Security. The Boehner plan would ravage the safety net for the poor and senior citizens.
“Instead of playing political games with the country’s future, Republicans need to join President Obama in working for solutions to create good jobs and rebuild the economy,” said Evans. “Instead they are endangering the middle class, the social safety nets that millions depend on, and the promise of future prosperity for our children. Enough is enough.”
Today’s rally was organized by Colorado progressive grassroots groups including Colorado Eyes on Congress, Protect Your Care, and ProgressNow Colorado.
The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its July 26, 2011 meeting.
Big money crushing the little people
ALEC. No, not Alex with an X; ALEC with a C
It’s a acronym. It stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council – a secretive front group of hundreds of corporations that are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation at the expense of the middle class, the working class and those in poverty.
ALEC develops and distributes model bills to state elected officials, with the intent those bills be passed in as many state legislatures as possible. ALEC has drafted more than 800 model bills for state legislators, including efforts to privatize everything from schools to prisons, to weaken workers’ rights, and to make it more difficult for citizens to vote,
ALEC develops model bills in task forces where only private business interests and legislators participate. Sound familiar?
ALEC is lobbying in state capitals across the country, all while claiming to the Internal Revenue Service that they are a charitable organization. By claiming to be a charity and calling participating legislators “members,” ALEC attempts to evade disclosure of its lobbying, allows corporate members to deduct their payments as charitable contributions rather than non-deductible lobbying expenses, and does an end-run around state ethics laws.
Longmont, a local home rule municipality, doesn’t have this level of sophistication. Nonetheless, the corporate business interests in this community and in surrounding communities are engaging in very similar practices. They only need to place a phone call to a like-mined council member, schmooze at the Chamber or the Rotary, and contact sympathetic staff members. And the results are fundamental ordinance changes that remove policies that benefit the environment and the community in general and replace them with ordinances that benefit a corrupt ideology and the bank accounts of developers, realtors and all of the businesses aligned accordingly.
The Longmont City Council has:
Eliminated Inclusionary Zoning and, as a consequence, has damaged irreparably the city’s Affordable Housing Program and the interest of not only future participants but those of current participants.
Eliminated storm water provisions knowing full well, and taking pride in the fact, that the State of Colorado lacks the resources to assure compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency requirements. In some cases, these permits have been reduced from $2000 to $50. Staff and certain council members are at risk of breaking their arms as they pat themselves on the back over this one.
And then there are the lawsuit settlements that have transferred nearly $200,000 of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of their ideological allies – Scott Gessler, LifeBridge Church, and Dean Lehman’s Times- Call.
There are other ethical affronts, but three minutes is insufficient to name them all. It’s a crying shame that Longmont has stooped so low and joined in principle with the likes of ALEC.