Anti-frack­ers pump out votes where wells run dry

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

DEN­VER | The four lo­cal anti-frack­ing ini­tia­tives ap­proved last week by vot­ers in Colorado and Ohio should have roughly the same im­pact as out­law­ing surf­ing in Den­ver or cliff-div­ing in Cleve­land.

That’s be­cause there’s vir­tu­ally no hy­draulic frac­tur­ing tak­ing place in any of the com­mu­ni­ties that ap­proved the frack­ing bans.

Food & Wa­ter Watch, an anti-frack­ing group, trum­peted the Nov. 5 votes as “his­toric vic­to­ries” for the move­ment, even as crit­ics dis­missed the votes as purely sym­bolic, given the no­tice­able lack of oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in those com­mu­ni­ties.

Vot­ers in another three towns — Bowl­ing Green and Youngstown, Ohio, and Broom­field, Colo. — re­jected the frack­ing bans. The only Ohio city to ap­prove the anti-frack­ing “com­mu­nity bill of rights” was Ober­lin, a lib­eral col­lege town where no oil and gas drilling or hy­draulic frac­tur­ing is tak­ing place, said Mike Chad­sey, Ohio Oil and Gas As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman.

“There’s def­i­nitely no shale de­vel­op­ment in the en­tire county, much less in the city of Ober­lin,” said Mr. Chad­sey. “I would say this was an easy win for th­ese groups where you have a small lib­eral-arts col­lege town with lots of stu­dents.”

Ditto for the Colorado mea­sures, where frack­ing mora­to­ri­ums were passed in Boul­der, Lafayette and Fort Collins, three univer­sity towns known more for their large stu­dent pop­u­la­tions than their oil and gas de­vel­op­ment.

“Boul­der and Lafayette were noth­ing more than sym­bolic votes,” Colorado Oil and Gas As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Tisha Schuller said in a state­ment. “Lafayette’s last new well per­mit was in the early 1990s and Boul­der’s last oil and gas well was plugged in 1999.”

In Fort Collins, the Coloradoan news­pa­per ar­gued that the town was be­ing used by anti-frack­ing ac­tivists as a po­lit­i­cal “pawn,” given that there are only about a half-dozen wells within the city lim­its. The hy­draulic frac­tur­ing process typ­i­cally lasts a few days in the life of a 30-year well, and the old­est of the Fort Collins wells dates back to 1924.

“Nearly 90 per­cent of Fort Collins is al­ready off lim­its to any sort of oil and gas drilling — frack­ing or oth­er­wise. And the re­main­ing 10 per­cent doesn’t have all that much oil un­der­neath it in the first place,” said the Oct. 26 ed­i­to­rial.

Even so, Sam Sch­abacker, Moun­tain West Re­gion di­rec­tor for Food & Wa­ter Watch, said the bal­lot wins prove that “[v] ot­ers un­der­stand that frack­ing is in­her­ently dan­ger­ous and im­per­ils the fu­ture of our beau­ti­ful state.”

“Coloradans have sent a strong sim­ple mes­sage in this elec­tion: they do not want frack­ing in their com­mu­ni­ties,” said Mr. Sch­abacker in a state­ment. “It’s some­thing that Gov­er­nor [John] Hick­en­looper should es­pe­cially take no­tice of as we head to­wards 2014, and that all of our state and fed­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tives should pay at­ten­tion to.”

In Broom­field, vot­ers de­feated the fiveyear frack­ing mora­to­rium by just 13 votes out of 20,519 cast. That ra­zor-thin mar­gin is likely to trig­ger an au­to­matic re­count af­ter the of­fi­cial elec­tion re­sults are posted.

The Ober­lin vote in fa­vor of the ini­tia­tive was 71 per­cent to 39 per­cent. Mean­while, vot­ers in Bowl­ing Green de­feated a sim­i­lar pro­posal by a mar­gin of 75 per­cent to 25 per­cent, while Youngstown re­jected the anti-frack­ing mea­sure by 54 per­cent to 45 per­cent af­ter re­ject­ing a pro­posal in May by 56 per­cent to 43 per­cent.

Bowl­ing Green and Youngstown are “la­bor towns, blue-col­lar towns, salt-ofthe-earth towns,” said Mr. Chad­sey. “We didn’t spend one dime or send out one piece of lit­er­a­ture. It was all the Cham­ber of Com­merce and the la­bor union — they said, ‘This is bad for the in­dus­try and would kill our jobs.’”

If Food & Wa­ter Watch re­ally wanted to gauge voter sen­ti­ment, crit­ics say, the group would have put a mea­sure on the bal­lot in Weld County, the heart of Colorado’s boom­ing Den­ver-Jules­burg basin, in­stead of go­ing af­ter the low-hang­ing fruit of col­lege towns de­void of oil and gas de­vel­op­ment.

“By choos­ing th­ese seven cities — al­most all of them col­lege towns or sub­urbs of col­lege towns — the ac­tivists have shown just how des­per­ate they are for a vic­tory,” Si­mon Lo­max, an an­a­lyst at the pro-in­dus­try pub­li­ca­tion En­ergy in Depth, said in a Nov. 5 ar­ti­cle, “Anti-En­ergy Ac­tivists Go Lo­cal Be­cause They Are Los­ing Ev­ery­where Else.”

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