Democracy in action: American voters said ‘no’ to fracking this week


All in all, it was a great night for progressives and a better-than-usual moment for the environment in the 2012 election. Mitt Romney in the Oval Office would have been disastrous, perhaps surpassing even George W. Bush as a pawn of Big Oil, Big Gas, and Big Coal. President Obama’s victory makes it essential that we keep the pressure on so that Washington gets tough on everything from fracking pollution to offshore drilling, and so that it makes sure BP pays the full price for its destruction of the Gulf. And having a solidly Democratic Senate will help in that regard.

But the most heartwarming development on Election Day happened well under the radar screen. I’ve told you many times on this blog how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas deposits deep under the earth, is being foisted on unsuspecting communities from Pennsylvania to Louisiana to California by Big Oil and Gas and their bought-and-paid-for allies in government. But the people are finally wising up. And the people are fighting back, like they did in this Colorado town:

LONGMONT — Longmont’s city charter will now ban fracking. 

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the ban — Ballot Question 300 — was leading 16,798 votes to 11,544 and had widened its margin of victory with every report, according to the Boulder and Weld county clerk’s offices. That gave ban supporters about 59 percent of the vote.

“Are you kidding?” screamed ban supporter Teresa Foster as results came in to a watch party held by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “Awesome! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” 

The charter amendment bans hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process used by oil and gas drillers to crack rock deep below the surface of the earth. Supporters of a ban say the practice is environmentally risky; opponents say the risks are exaggerated and that the measure would bring lawsuits and expensive claims for “taking” mineral rights.

The ballot question also forbids the storage of fracking waste in city limits.

What’s truly amazing about what happened in this Colorado town is that the big frackers spent a gusher of money — some $507,500, to be exact — to bombard every voting citizen with flyers and mailers and anything they could think of to convince them to vote this measure down. But at the end of the day, people trusted their gut instincts over the Big Oil and Gas moneybomb that exploded over their town. And I suspect that most American rank-and-file citizens harbor the same doubts about the wisdom of so much drilling done so rapidly with such an unproven process.

On fact, Longmont, Colo., wasn’t the only American community to turn back fracking on Tuesday:

Voters in Ferguson Township, Centre County Pennsylvania adopted a Community Bill of Rights guaranteeing the right to clean air, pure water, a sustainable energy future, the peaceful enjoyment of home, the right of ecosystems to exist and flourish, and the right to exercise self-government in the local community. To protect these rights, the amendment also bans corporations from conducting shale gas drilling and related activities in the community.

The same thing happened in Ohio:

Yesterday, voters in Broadview Heights, Ohio came out in record numbers to say yes to the adoption of a Community Bill of Rights banning corporations from conducting new gas and oil drilling and related activities in their city. A similar Charter Amendment was also adopted by voters in Mansfield, Ohio by a wide margin of 62 percent yes votes to 37 percent no votes. It adds a Community Bill of Rights to the City Charter and prohibits injection wells without written city approval.

Citizens are not politicians — they can’t be easily bought. The question for the next couple of years regarding fracking is whether our leaders will listen to voices of the people in all-American communities like Longmont, Colo., or will they listen to their campaign donors. This goes straight up to the White House, since it is Obama who will be picking the heads of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, who will have enormous say over whether frackers get to pollute our tap water or ruin our air. I can’t predict what will happen on Pennsylvania Avenue. But there’s now little doubt about what they think on Main Street.

To read about the fracking ban that was enacted in Longmont, Colo., on Tuesday, check out:

To find out more about the anti-fracking vote in Ferguson Township in central Pennsylvania, please read:

To read about similar votes in two Ohio towns, go to:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • I am so against fracking I don’t know how to express it. Oil companies and drillers need to be stopped. I’m convinced fracking contributes to earthquakes because it disburbes the earth deep down and the earth has to react somehow. Not to mention the pollution that is going on deep beneath the crust. The use of water and chemicals to frack is, at this point, unconscionable. We need the water they are wasting to frack and all those chemicals don’t belong down there. Mother Nature will surely turn and show her wrath because of the disrespect humans are showing her now.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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