Anti-Fracking Measure Moves Closer to Petition

April 3, 2014

DENVER — A proposed anti-fracking, anti-corporation initiative moved a step closer to signature-gathering Wednesday after winning a challenge before the state title board.

The three-member board rejected two motions for rehearing contending that the Colorado Community Rights Amendment violated the single-subject rule, which means the measure’s sponsors may soon begin circulating petitions —unless another challenge is filed before the Supreme Court.

“Victory again! Secretary of State unanimously reaffirms decision Colorado Community Rights Amendment meets requirements,” said a post on the Facebook page Colorado Community Rights Network. “Corporations have only one more hope, taking the amendment into the Colorado Supreme Court, before we head to signature gathering!”

The post adds, “We will know if they resort to that in five days. Community rights over corporate power!!!”

The initiative gives towns, cities and counties the authority to pass measures that supersede federal and state law, which would allow localities to ban hydraulic fracturing and even corporate activity within their borders.

Attorney Mike Feeley, arguing on behalf of Stuart Sanderson, who heads the Colorado Mining Association, said the initiative’s section affirming the right of local self-government was “distinct and separate” from giving localities the right to eliminate the rights of corporations.

“This is log-rolling to garner various factions of support,” said Feeley. “Neither of those provisions are dependent upon one another.”

He said it was entirely possible that “a reasonable voter may be in favor of the right of self-government but be opposed to giving local government the ability to change the rights and powers of a corporation or business that the voter owns or invests in, or patronizes.”

Feeley also noted that the initiative veers into the rights-of-nature movement by giving local governments the power to establish “the fundamental rights of individuals, their communities and nature.”

Ecuador added “rights of nature” to its constitution in 2008, but as yet no U.S. state or locality has added the language to its bylaws, meaning that Colorado would be the first if the initiative passes in its current form, said Feeley.

The movement’s goal is to acknowledge that nature in all its forms “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles,” which upends the way that the law treats property, he said.

“Now I could be very, very supportive of local control, local issues, local self-government and the general purpose of this initiative, but I could be dramatically opposed to altering rights to create some new, undefined, as yet untested right of nature,” said Feeley. “I think it’s a separate subject altogether.”

Chantell Taylor, attorney for objectors Mizraim Cordero and Scott Prestidge, argued that “under the guise of local self-government, now we’re taking away rights.”

“We’re taking away rights and putting businesses and corporations in a lesser protected class, telling them that local governments can eliminate, redefine and effectively change the legal status of corporations and business entities,” said Taylor. “So imagine a voter who thinks they’re voting for local self-government, only to later find out their local small business is losing rights.”

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said that the initiative raised interesting legal questions, but that it wasn’t the role of the title board to determine a measure’s constitutionality.

“I mean, the right to nature, it’s a phrase we don’t hear here commonly, we haven’t probably interpreted it in case law, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flow with the single subject or that there’s anything surreptitious about it,” said Staiert.

Solicitor General Dan Domenico agreed, saying that “the basic point of it is fairly straightforward.”

“Mr. Feeley and I might both be a little mystified, even though I grew up in Boulder, by the concept of the rights of nature, but I think that’s perfectly fine and within the broader concepts of what they’re trying to do here,” said Domenico. “The fact that I don’t know exactly how that would work if this were to go into effect is a fairly common feature of initiatives and doesn’t necessarily make it a second subject.”

The initiative’s sponsors are aiming to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

8 Responses to Anti-Fracking Measure Moves Closer to Petition

  1. Brian McFarlane
    April 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I’m sure they likely meet the criteria for their initiative to go forward with signatures, this ruling isn’t about constitutionality. But I agree with Mike Feeley and Chantell Taylor … giving local governments the power to establish “the fundamental rights of individuals, their communities and nature.” … “under the guise of local self-government, now we’re taking away rights.”

    I think this and other initiatives like it are communist in nature. For a “community” to decide to take away property rights as if it is the “communities property” is not what this nation was built on.

    Do they have a definition of what “corporate activity” is? I imagine there are numerous “Inc.s” in these communities… when does it become something “they” don’t like?

    I hope they can’t get the signatures needed but my guess is there are enough people liking the “local control” meme that we will see this on the ballot in November. I suspect that even a person that is a major part of a “corporation” in a “community” will sign the petition without realizing that it could affect his/her “corporation”. I predict it will fail badly as people become more informed on the subject.

    • OfTheSoil
      April 5, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Mike, I see that, as a someone who makes their living from the energy industry, you are more interested in advancing the rights of corporations above communities. Your talking points are so predictable; fear mongering as usual.

      What is really wrong with people having the right and legal ability to protect their communities against corporate harm? Don’t you live in a community? Or does your right to make a living supersede your communities right to a clean environment?

  2. joel in Littleton
    April 4, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I would hope that if this kind of legislation is inacted,the oil/gas industry would fight it,the state would deny that locality the oil/gas tax revenue generated in that county,and those businesses in that locality would move to a less hostile enviornment. “Rights of nature?” Lawyers have come a long way,baby.

  3. Miles
    April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Got to stop fracking anyway possible. The methane they frack for is exactly the same stuff humans and animals make after eating a meal. There’s so much on the surface we can heat and cool every home and business, and power every vehicle as long as those meals keep being eaten! Of course that’s the facts that aren’t being told by the corporate media. Hope you all had a great lunch today, now your making methane, er, natural gas! No need to take any environmental risks by fracking, drilling or mining. The answer for all our energy needs are located right below our spines!

    • Kurt Schlegel
      April 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      What is your plan to collect that Methane and will you be the first in line?

  4. April 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    It should be clarified that ballot initiative number 75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment does not actually ban anything at all. Instead, it protects Colorado communities that are enacting local laws to protect their fundamental rights, which is entirely consistent with the ideals described in our Declaration of Independence. If a corporation is operating in a manner that is contentious enough with a community that’s its entire existence depends on the State forcing it onto people, yes, that corporation would not be given superior legal rights to people, and that community would be able to make law protecting life, health, and wellbeing, free of preemption and associated lawsuits.

    Of course most businesses do not operate in a manner inconsistent with people’s fundamental rights, which means the Community Rights Amendment would have no impact on their business at all, and could preserve the quality of life in a municipality that most businesses depend on to begin with.

    Please feel encouraged to read the full text of the Amendment here:

  5. Energy Citizens
    April 8, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Regardless of this ruling by the state title board, Coloradoans should wake up to the threat represented by this anti-energy, anti-development ballot measure. Under the guise of “local control,” supporters of this measure mean to ban fracking across the state. A recent University of Colorado study estimated that the economic results would be devastating, including 93,000 lost jobs. We must push back against the fear, hysteria, and unfounded claims of anti-fracking activists.

    • April 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

      The Colorado Community Rights Amendment only protects communities that create laws to protect the fundamental rights. It has no jurisdiction over superficial decisions, and only concerns itself with businesses that both are viewed as a threat by communities, and that are reliant upon State force to operate within those communities. As most businesses are not viewed by people as threats to their fundamental rights, it is telling that the oil and gas industry identifies itself as one of these enterprises that cannot operate within a democratic society.

      So if the concern is that ballot initiative number 75 will ban fracking across the entire state, then this would have to assume that the full state of Colorado views oil and gas development as enough of a threat to their fundamental rights as to enact laws to prohibit it in every municipality without exception. The Colorado Community Rights Network has no polling to indicate this, and where communities want hydraulic fracturing, the ballot initiative simply will not apply, as it relies upon people and local communities to decide upon action.

      Again, if oil and gas development cannot function within a democratic society, it begs the question about if the corporations that conduct that development should be given higher legal authority than the people our Declaration of Independence professes to be the source of all political power and legitimacy. This is the decision that Colorado voters should be able to address.

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