People in our communities spoke loudly and clearly. Only Boulder and Boulder County avoided industry lawsuits. We concerned citizens took every democratic and every legal step we were advised to take.
We were told to appeal to our local government. We did. Our councils said they could not side with their citizens.
We were told to appeal to our state legislators. We did. Thankfully, Matt Jones and Mike Foote had the honesty to explain the hopelessness of fighting the oil and gas industry and its multitude of lobbyists in the state legislature. In the ensuing four years, state legislators have been unable to move any bill, however mildly it affects the industry, out of committee or through the legislature.
We were told to try amending the state constitution via a state-wide citizen initiative. We did. Twice. Both in 2014 and 2016. Without paid petitioners and millions of dollars in advertising, it’s nearly impossible to succeed.
We were told federal elected officials would help in the fight. Did they? U.S. Rep. Jared Polis personally funded paid petitioners to get two local control state ballot initiatives on the ballot in 2014. At the 11th hour, Rep. Polis pulled both initiatives in a grand bargain with Gov. Hickenlooper. What the citizens got in exchange was an oil and gas task force composed of Democratic Party loyalists and industry reps. The bait-and-switch task force accomplished exactly nothing (a few non-industry participants did voice their outrage over the industry’s control) except for ensuring that the two local-control initiatives never made it onto the ballot.
And finally, in 2016, the oil and gas industry funded a Trojan horse state ballot initiative — Amendment 71 — supported by millions of dollars in industry-funded advertising; it effectively precludes any kind of citizen-initiated constitutional amendment for anyone but the super-wealthy and corporate interests.
So I ask, what do you suggest we do now?
Justice and injustice are different than legal and illegal. Hundreds of years of U.S. history tell us that.
City councils, state legislators, state agencies, and U.S. senators and representatives have shown that they are either powerless to — or simply won’t — protect the people from corporate harms. The industry and its minions have shut off every legal avenue to protect our communities and residents. There is no alternative to right this blatant injustice other than accept our moral responsibility and use nonviolent civil disobedience to break unjust laws.