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2013 Election Big Success For Colorado’s Fracking Foes

Grace Hood
Fort Collins 2A Campaign Manager Kelly Giddens congratulates a supporter as Tuesday election results are reported in Fort Collins.

It was an early victory for Fort Collins Ballot Issue 2A Campaign Manager Kelly Giddens. Voters resoundingly approved a 5 year time-out on fracking.

“It’s going to be time to get to work determining the effects of fracking on our health, safety and environment in Fort Collins,” Giddens said.

Voters in Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette all approved measures that will either ban or pause the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Initial results show Broomfield voters narrowly voted against a proposed moratorium.

In all four races, proponents were heavily outspent by the opposition — funded largely by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“I don’t think you can buy votes,” Giddens said. “You can’t really buy elections. You can try. But these people were really excited, passionate and willing to go out there and knock doors and make phone calls and talk to their friends and family. I just think this is what they want.”

Fort Collins Alliance for Reliable Energy, an opposition group, spent nearly $400,000 on TV ads and direct mailers pointing to the safety of hydraulic fracturing and the importance of oil and gas to the state’s economy.

“We did a lot of catch up,” said Ray Martinez, campaign chair for FARE. Martinez says he’s pleased with the results given the short amount of time his group had to campaign. Ultimately he says Fort Collins, Lafayette and Boulder now face legal action from the state of Colorado.

“Litigation is a real factor when we look at Longmont who was warned by the state with two letters written saying if you do this, we will file. And they did it and they got filed on,” Martinez said.

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC
A workover rig performs remedial work on an existing water injection well just inside Fort Collins city limits, Oct. 22.

In 2012, Longmont voters were the first in the state to ban fracking. There too the oil and gas industry spent heavily to beat the measure and failed. Sam Schabacker helped organize the Longmont campaign and is Mountain West region director for Food & Water Watch.

“There’s no doubt that Colorado is certainly a litmus test for much of the West,” said Schabacker.

He says successful anti fracking initiatives send a strong message about public attitudes on fracking. Adding that “all options” are on the table for future organizing activity.

“It will pave the way for potentially a statewide ballot campaign, something in the state legislature. And of course it will have bearings upon the 2014 gubernatorial race,” Schabacker said.

While opponents of the four ballot measures were disappointed with Tuesday’s results, they’re not admitting defeat. B.J. Nikkel worked as a consultant for all four opposition groups.

"There's no doubt that Colorado is certainly a litmus test for much of the West."

“It’s important to recognize that these are communities that have very high concentrated Democratic constituencies,” Nikkel said. “So I think as the debate moves from places like Boulder and Fort Collins to a broader Colorado — maybe a more purple Colorado — I think you’ll see a different outcome...”

If there’s one thing that’s clear, she says Tuesday’s election results are just round one of a much larger debate in Colorado and across the country on the safety of hydraulic fracturing.

Editor's Note: The audio segment above has been changed. As it aired for broadcast, it was stated that the process of hydraulic fracturing involved pumping sand and water into the ground to break up oil and gas deposits. The story should have said the process involves pumping sand, water and chemicals that are proprietary to oil companies into the ground to extract the resources.

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