Community rights versus environmental destruction: Time to turn the page

The current three-well near the Wadley Farms neighborhood. Synergy Energy Corporation is proposing an expansion of the site to approximately 19 wells.

In the fall of 2013, a group of community members fighting to ban fracking in Lafayette met with our local State Representative, Mike Foote. The meeting centered around community members’ desire for legislation that codified Coloradans’ right to local self-government and placed the fundamental rights of people, environments and communities, legally superior to the business dealings of industry and corporations. The legislation the group proposed was the forerunner of the state constitutional amendment, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, now gaining signatures for the 2016 ballot.

In a moment of insight and truthfulness, Mike Foote looked at the proposed legislation —legislation that would remove the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s legal means to sue his community of Lafayette and others like it — and told us, “Nothing passes the Colorado legislature that oil and gas doesn’t want passed.”

That assertion came to fruition in the Colorado House this week in its rejection of the latest attempt to even regulate fracking. The measure that failed this time, House Bill 1355, was sponsored by Mike Foote himself.

Coloradans should be getting used to this pattern. Between attempts to gloss over the industry’s full-spectrum dominance of communities to scientifically meaningless regulations to the blatant bait and switch pulled on Colorado communities by wealthy Congressman Jared Polis in his faux ballot initiatives of 2014, the truth becomes impossible to deny. The Colorado legislature acts as the calcified political wing of big business and industry, and maneuvers by figures like Jared Polis are just a means to buy Governor Hickenlooper and the fossil fuel industry time and money. Our state government supports profits and power by repressing the basic needs of our environment, our health and our fundamental right to make decisions for our own communities.

Politicians and industry are attempting to distract us from a truly basic question: Is the purpose of government to be the enforcement arm of corporations or to advance and defend the rights of people? To answer that question requires all manner of political contortion. The interests of Colorado’s people and those of the fossil fuel industry are in continuing and worsening conflict. And when democracy and fracking cannot coexist, one of them must always go.

Pushing through all of the noise is the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, the only measure that addresses fracking and corporate power from a basic civil rights perspective. If the constitutional amendment makes the ballot and is adopted in November of 2016, its powers can be utilized by communities to expand the rights of workers, our environment and our people. While power is continually being shifted upwards, the Community Rights Amendment begins to reverse that direction and with it the disenfranchisement of our communities.

There is a reason the 1 percent cannot live alongside democracy and that the laws have been written to benefit them alone. The Colorado Community Rights Amendment aims to put that powerful assumption to a vote of the Colorado people. We would like your help to do just that.

Cliff Willmeng is a registered nurse, a husband, and a father of two from Lafayette, Colorado. He has participated in labor and antiwar activism and was one of the main organizers in Lafayette’s successful effort to ban fracking and corporate personhood in 2013. Cliff is a Board member of the Colorado Community Rights Network, and an organizer for the 2016 Community Rights Amendment. He is the Green Party candidate for U.S. Congressional Representative in Colorado’s District 2.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.