Thursday, February 28, 2013

State's Rights? What about Townspeoples' Rights?

     Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told KCNC radio that Colorado has an obligation to sue Fort Collins for banning oil and gas development within its city limits, calling an oil drilling ban a “taking” of mineral rights.
     “The governor takes no joy in suing local government,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told the Coloradoan Wednesday. “As a former mayor he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law.”
     Brown said Hickenlooper was unavailable to talk to local reporters Wednesday.
Hickenlooper told CBS4 that banning oil and gas exploration and production within Fort Collins’ city limits is a “taking” of the mineral rights of the city’s own citizens.
He said the state has “no choice” but to sue every city, town or county that chooses to ban oil and gas development and fracking.
     “That’s not a happy statement for a community to receive that the state wants to sue the municipality,” Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said Wednesday. “Certainly, the city respects the authority of the state and the governor. He has a job to do and we have a job to do.”
     Weitkunat said regulation of oil and gas has been delegated to the state government, but she’d like to see more local government control over where drilling can occur.
“It’s not about defiance; it’s about what’s good for our residents and what’s the beset way to achieve that,” she said.
     “I personally don’t like the idea of getting sued,” she said. “My responsibility as a public official is to protect the city as well. ... I have back-and-forth feelings on that, but I don’t want to have the wrath of the governor by any means.”

     Needless to say, this will set a bad precedent if Ft. Collins caves in on this. It is much easier for Big Oil interests to buy one governor than have to bribe dozens of municipalities individually. If Ft. Collins backs down, governors of other states will seize on this and tell citizens of their states that they also lack the right to decide what will be done in their own towns. There will be no way to defend the contamination and exploitation of their own environs.
     Please take the time to write a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper that he is wrong on this.

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