The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from “abridging the right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” but this isn’t stopping the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and area oil and gas apologist Keira Bresnahan from trying to talk Mesa County residents into voluntarily giving up their right to even sign petitions to get issues on the ballot, where everyone can have a chance to consider them.
The Chamber is running a “Decline to Sign” campaign urging people not to sign petitions for state-wide initiatives, including Amendment 93, a measure to create all-day kindergarten funded in part by corporate taxes, and another measure, Proposition 94, that would increase severance taxes coming to the state by reducing the number of oil and gas wells that are exempted from the tax. “Severance taxes” are royalties that oil and gas companies pay to the state in exchange for extracting the state’s non-renewable natural resources. The money eventually comes back to the counties providing the natural resources to help them financially. The extra revenues Proposition 94 would to bring to the state would help fund the all-day kindergarten.
Mitigating public health hazards — keep your right to choose
In the aftermath of the sudden, fatal gas line explosion in Firestone, Colorado in April, 2017 that killed two men in their home and injured a woman and child, the grassroots group Colorado Rising is working to get a statutory measure, Proposition 97 (pdf), on the statewide ballot. It would create a 2500-foot protective buffer zone between oil and gas operations and any occupied buildings and other vulnerable areas, like playgrounds and water sources. The problem is a matter of public safety and the proposal aims to protect citizens from hazards like exposure to toxics and contaminants, the fatal explosion in Firestone, and other health and safety hazards posed by drilling activities. At least a dozen fires and explosions occurred along Colorado’s oil and gas lines in the eight months following the Firestone explosion, so this problem poses a real and present danger.
Colorado Rising is prepared to respond to other false claims like Bresnahan’s, and has a page on their website dedicated to addressing all the false arguments you will hear against the initiative.
Drilling companies playing dirty
In a letter to the editor in today’s Daily Sentinel, Bresnahan portrays Proposition 97, the drilling buffer zone public safety initiative, as a sinister plot by “out of state environmentalists” to “ban fracking.” That’s an overblown portrayal meant to scare people, though.
The initiative seeks to move drilling and fracking operations — an industrial activity — a reasonable distance from sensitive and densely populated areas where people work, live and go to school. Scientific studies have determined that one half-mile from drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations provides a reasonable safety buffer from the hazards of such activities. The one-page ballot proposal doesn’t contain any language that would even come close to banning fracking.
Explosions, fires and death matter. Don’t throw away your right to petition government.
Bresnahan’s letter inspired me to find out where I can exercise my First Amendment right to sign the Proposition 97 petition, so I went to Colorado Rising’s website to find out. I saw a list of places on the front range where people can go to sign, but there was a surprising lack of information about where people in other parts of the state can go to sign, so I emailed Colorado Rising to ask how people in Grand Junction can sign. They responded quickly, saying,
“We had to remove all of the other listings from our ‘Where to Sign’ calendar from our website because the oil and gas companies have hired so many ‘blockers’ — people who are paid to harass our signature collecting volunteers — that it became impossible for us to collect signatures anywhere that we have listed on that calendar.”
So the oil and gas industry is doing a lot worse than just writing letters to the editor trying to convince people not to sign the petition for the initiative. They are actively taking steps and spending plenty of money to prevent Colorado citizens from exercising their right to sign.
Don’t give up your rights.
Understandably, people circulating petitions for Proposition 97 in our area are keeping their whereabouts a little quiet, so if you want to sign, contact me and I’ll get you in touch with them. I also found out they also plan to have a signing event in Grand Junction the near future. The date, time and location are to be announced.
Until then, don’t give up your right to Coloradans weigh in on policies that might benefit all Coloradans.