By Scott Weiser
They call it the “People’s Republic of Boulder” as a joke aimed at the perpetual shenanigans of the most liberal city and county in Colorado. But Boulder County and the City of Boulder, for all their leftist leanings are still political subdivisions of the State of Colorado and the United States of America and are subject to all the laws and regulations thereof.
East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors on the other hand aren’t government agencies, they are anti-fracking groups whose spokesperson Cliff Willmeng said “We do not recognize the authority of this body, we do not recognize the authority of those industries to override the free people of Boulder County. We will not be allowing a single well in Boulder County” at a May 1st meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The members of the COGC tolerated Willmeng’s tirade with stone-faced bemusement and then went on about its state-authorized business of regulating the extraction of oil and gas statewide.
Willmeng is an extremely radical activist who was the driving force behind the attempt to pass an ordinance in Lafayette that would have made physical attacks and obstruction against oil and gas employees and operations legal, an absurdity fronted by his mother, Lafayette City Councilperson Merrily Mazza. That entirely unconstitutional ordinance was defanged by more rational voices on the City Council back in January, just as Boulder County’s five-year moratorium on oil and gas development was overturned by the courts and expired on May 1st.
Groups like East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors aren’t really all that concerned about fracking itself. Fracking is being used as a propagandistic buzzword and stalking-horse for an anti-technological Luddite return-to-primitivism effort to completely stop the extraction of fossil fuels.
Despite the hysterical propaganda from these kind of organizations the EPA, even under Obama, did not find any credible evidence of substantial risks to air or water resources that can’t be mitigated as a part of a comprehensive 2016 study of fracking impacts. The EPA identified many areas of possible concern including examples of surface contamination from fracking fluid spills, which can be controlled by proper well operation, but was not able to show that sub-surface injection itself or the subsequent oil and gas production poses any substantial risks to the environment.
Now Willmeng is once again trying to forward the fiction that Boulder County is a sovereign nation not subject to American law. Engaging in a bit of bald-faced cultural misappropriation Willmeng and his fellow radicals invoke a mish-mash of Native American theology and socialist ideology as justification for their plan to balkanize Boulder County to “create democracy in our municipalities and counties within the State of Colorado.” Their manifesto claims “our communities are under siege from a structure of law that has bestowed greater rights on corporations than on the communities in which they operate.”
What they actually mean is that private property rights, in this case the rights of those who own the oil and gas are an impediment to their socialist desire to turn Boulder County into Venezuela. They want to amend the state constitution to dispose of private property rights by making “local laws that elevate the rights for Colorado residents and communities above the rights of the State of Colorado, including legal rights for the natural environment.” To socialists, when individual rights conflict with their collectivist ideology, those individual rights must be discarded in the name of social democracy.
But the state and federal Constitutions remain in force to protect private property mineral ownership that pre-exists the homes that these fractivists live in, and live in with full knowledge that they didn’t buy the mineral wealth under their property. It’s right there in their property deeds. So unless they are prepared to pay the estimated 8 billion dollars that some say is what those resources are worth, they cannot be allowed to prevent it’s extraction.
Reasonable regulation of oil and gas extraction by the COGC to minimize risks and harm are perfectly appropriate, but the key words are “reasonable” and “regulation,” which cannot be replaced with “ban,” no matter how much radical activists might want it to be.