Today’s blog post is from Isaac Furtney, a Colorado native who is interning for 350 Colorado and who worked on the Prop. 112 campaign. He reminds us to stay organized and keep the pressure on elected officials to regulate the oil and gas industry. Regardless of the final outcome of Prop. 112, the landscape has shifted after over 1 million Coloradans demanded greater protections. While the laws may not have changed, industry is paying attention.
November 6th was an emotional night for supporters of Proposition 112 and its goal of 2500 foot oil and gas safety setbacks. While the measure failed, it garnered 1,113,143 votes from passionate supporters. At least twenty-five hundred people volunteered on behalf of the measure. Though the landscape has changed around this issue in Colorado, the fight continues. The struggle has returned to localized efforts, and activists will need to find ways to work together within the bounds the state Supreme Court has set to regulate oil and gas development as much and as sensibly as possible.
These bounds are variable, and while the Court ruled that Longmont’s and Fort Collins’ bans were preempted by Colorado state law, the Court is now hearing a case, Martinez vs COGCC, which could potentially turn all that on its head. The first step is to enforce existing regulation such as the 500-foot setbacks from homes and 1,000-foot setbacks from hospitals and schools. It must be ensured that the oil and gas companies comply with federal and state regulations such as Colorado’s Air Pollution and Prevention Control Act (§ 25-7-100, et seq.) and Water Quality Control Act (§ 25-8-100, et seq.). Activists must continue to keep pressure on elected officials such as the newly elected governor who will appoint an entirely new cast of members to the COGCC no later than July of 2020.
With the framework of 112 rejected by a majority of Colorado voters, the movement must learn from what worked and what didn’t. The movement lost ground against the oil and gas industry’s threats of economic woe, job loss and negative impacts to school funding. While the arguments for Prop. 112 with regards to health and safety are popular with liberal-minded voters, perhaps more robust studies and evidence supporting the claims would support the issue. Going forward, we can argue for stronger protection as it relates to climate change, arguing that we need to curtail the production and use of fossil fuels immediately in order to preserve the livability of our planet.
Some key questions for the climate movement, and supporters of Proposition 112 include: how can our society keep would-be oil field workers satisfactorily employed in different jobs during the transition away from fossil fuels? What should our solution be to the conundrum that Weld County relies on oil and gas production taxes for its schools? How can we take a more holistic and comprehensive approach to addressing the tangible problems created by taking on the significant problem of climate change? How can we be honest and self-critical in service of climate justice?
As a movement, let’s stay organized and keep the pressure on elected officials to regulate the oil and gas industry. The public does have the power to convince oil and gas companies not to drill in certain places as evidenced by Highland Natural Resources Corp. recently deciding to withdraw its permit to drill in Rocky Flats after concerned residents filled a town hall to voice their opposition. This is an example of how the landscape has shifted after over 1 million Coloradans demanded greater protections. While the laws may not have changed, industry is paying attention. Let’s keep showing up to city council meetings and town halls to propagate our goal of climate justice. Let’s continue writing letters to the editor to convince our neighbors to take up the cause. Let’s donate to groups fighting for climate justice in order to amplify our work. We should write, call, and fax our elected officials to take timely action to fight fossil fuel extraction and usage. The 112 battle may have been lost, but the movement gained many supporters due to the tireless work of volunteers, and thus is better organized and prepared for the battles to come.
Isaac Furtney is a Colorado native, an intern for 350 Colorado, a Fort Lewis College graduate, and a bus operator for Saint Vrain Valley School District.