DENVER — Colorado could soon become Ground Zero for the national anti-fracking movement with the filing of a second statewide initiative to allow communities to clamp down on oil and gas development.
Organizers of Local Control Colorado, a coalition of a dozen environmental groups, filed paperwork Friday to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot giving communities broad authority to restrict oil and gas development within their borders.
The filing comes as the Colorado Community Rights Network (CCRN) wraps up the final details on its own ballot question, the Community Rights Amendment, an anti-corporation measure that would allow communities to ban for-profit businesses including oil and gas operations.
Leaders of both campaigns say they’re planning to use volunteer petition-circulators when and if they reach the signature-gathering phase. That could result in an influx of out-of-state activists as early as April, said CCRN chief Cliff Willmeng.
“We will cast the net quite wide on this. We’re hoping to have volunteers from all over the country,” said Willmeng. “We view this as a genuine civil rights movement of our time. We would compare the amount of outreach and appeal of this to the way the Freedom Riders worked in the 1960s.”
Kelly Giddens, spokeswoman for Local Control Colorado, said her coalition includes the four groups that ran last year’s anti-fracking campaigns in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette, as well as Frack-Free Colorado, 350 Colorado, Our Longmont, and Food and Water Watch.
She said she’s hoping for support from national groups when it comes time to gather signatures.
“We’re going to need it. We need 86,000 signatures,” said Giddens. “I would imagine we will get support from national groups, but we don’t have financial resources from them at this time. I mean, they’re finding out when you’re finding out. Hopefully, they’ll jump in and put their hat in the ring. I’d love to see that.”
While some of the players know each other from the environmental movement, organizers say the two campaigns are separate.
“We don’t have the same goals because they want to limit all industry and we just want to focus on oil and gas,” said Giddens, who helped lead last year’s successful Fort Collins campaign.
The efforts stem from tension over local versus state authority on limiting fossil-fuel operators. The state joined a lawsuit against Longmont’s fracking ban in July, while the Colorado Oil and Gas Industry filed a lawsuit in December against Fort Collins and Lafayette over last year’s anti-fracking ballot measures.
Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, said in a statement that the industry is already involved in consulting with local communities on drilling operations, but that the state needs to be the final authority in order to avoid a patchwork of rules.
“This latest ballot proposal intends to ban fracking and could create environmental and economic chaos from one corner of Colorado to the other,” said Haubert.
“The key to effective regulations and enforcement is to provide statewide predictability and consistency,” said Haubert. “Colorado has a proud history of safe and responsible energy development and our regulations are a model for the rest of the nation — why would we change that?”
Haubert’s group released a list last week of about 40 business and community groups that publicly oppose bans or moratoriums on fracking.
“All across Colorado, leading business voices, regulators, elected officials and citizens are pushing back against the wave of irresponsible and unscientific attacks being waged against responsible energy production and specifically on fracking,” said Haubert.
Willmeng said he foresees the election as something of a proxy battle between corporations and their foes.
“There’s a lot of folks in the United States that want to see greater amounts of democracy at the cost of corporate power, and we plan on having people here from all over the country,” said Willmeng.