A funny thing happened on the way to the shale revolution – an outbreak of democracy that will send tremors through the oil and gas industry and its political backers.
Voters in three elections in three different cities (Boulder, Ft. Collins and Lafayette), located on the voter-rich Front Range of Colorado, followed the city of Longmont’s lead and decisively passed bans or moratoria on fracking or drilling. A fourth election in Broomfield is still too close to call.
Farther east, there was a further outbreak of democracy in north central Ohio.
As a member of East Boulder County United summed it up, we are “not a community that welcomes the idea that the oil and gas industry has the final word on how we live.”
These seemingly small democratic victories challenge the dominance of this industry to its core.
After all, this is an industry that is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, exempted from many environmental laws usually able to negotiate its way out of penalties and is able to count on governors, congressmen and regulators to leap to its defense. For example, the Governor of Colorado just days ago said that people just need the “real facts” and that he and the industry will have an opportunity to “turn public opinion around”.
Yet, even with a pliant governor, and nearly $900,000 to 'educate' the voters about the ‘real facts’, this industry could not overcome the commonsense of the voters.
Until elected officials, state agencies and the industry can guarantee that they care as much about clean water, clean air and good neighborliness, and prove by their actions that they will actually back up that guarantee, these outbreaks of democracy by those facing drilling rigs and toxic fracking chemicals will continue to gather momentum.