DENVER–Tisha Schuller wants Rep. Jared Polis to put his mouth where his money is.
Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, asked Polis to join her in a series of debates on hydraulic fracturing Friday, a day after the Boulder Democrat called on Schuller to withdraw her lawsuits against newly approved anti-fracking measures in two cities.
“It’s no secret that my fellow Boulderite Congressman Jared Polis has long-held concerns about oil and gas development and his latest decision to weigh on our recent legal action highlights his anxieties,” Schuller said in a statement. “I think we would be doing his constituents and the public at large a great service if we participated in a series of public forums about Colorado’s energy future.”
In a letter Thursday, Polis urged Schuller to “please stop suing the communities I represent” after COGA filed lawsuits against Fort Collins and Lafayette, two of four cities that approved fracking moratoriums in the Nov. 5 election.
Polis has not responded publicly to Schuller’s invitation, but on Thursday, he posted two YouTube videos telling the oil-and-gas industry that filling lawsuits to overturn a popular vote is “un-American.”
“Look, there’s been a public debate, there’s been a vote. You don’t win friends by disregarding a public vote and suing to get your way,” said Polis in a video.
He added: “The industry is important. Natural gas is important. But don’t force your way on people by suing when you can’t convince us.”
Polis filed a lawsuit in July against Sundance Energy Inc. after he discovered there were oil rigs drilling near his 50-acre vacation property in Weld County, telling the Daily Camera that “now it is personal, like it has already been for so many of my constituents.”
Under Colorado’s split-estate law, the same parcel of property may be owned by both a surface owner, who controls the surface of the land, and a mineral owner, who owns the mineral rights to the land.
During the campaign, foes of the proposed fracking moratoriums argued that voting to prevent property owners from accessing their mineral rights was a violation of state law. The state and COGA have already sued the city of Longmont after voters approved a fracking ban in 2012.
Schuller said the lawsuits were “an unfortunate last resort, but we were left with no choice.”
“[E]xtreme activists behind the recently-passed bans in Fort Collins and Lafayette knew they would likely draw costly legal action if approved, yet proceeded anyway,” said COGA in a statement.
The anti-fracking campaigns, backed by national environmental groups like Water Defense, also passed a five-year moratorium in Boulder. A similar measure in Broomfield passed by 20 votes after a recount, although the vote total is expected to be challenged.
Cliff Willmeng, an organizer of East Boulder County United, an anti-fracking group, said in a Dec. 4 statement that if COGA wins its lawsuit, “the courts will at that moment lose democratic legitimacy and the right to rule the people.”
In her letter to Polis, Schuller said she hoped a public forum would help them discover areas of accord.
“I find it very encouraging that in your letter you stated, ‘Like most Coloradans, I want your industry to thrive in our state,’” said Schuller. “Clearly, I could not agree more and if provided the right opportunity, I am confident we can find much more common ground.”