Stettner: Your friendly update on Colorado environmental politics

Alexandra Stettner

I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump. Let’s talk about something that’s happening right in our backyard.

Colorado is lucky to have a large mix of perspectives and backgrounds, creating a mixed political scene. While having voted blue in recent years, from the perspective of a Californian, Colorado is a swing state. For that reason Colorado becomes incredibly influential in being an example to other states on how certain policies turn out. Legalization of marijuana is an example of this. That policy’s success helped influence other states that it could work for them as well.

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Coloradans are passionate about their environment and rightly proud of it. It’s for that reason that several environmental issues are contentious here. It is important to remember that Colorado, and Fort Collins, could be a leading example for other governments.

Not surprisingly, fracking will continue to be a major point of contention in Colorado. The state has a long history with fracking as one of the first states to explore the extraction method. Fracking has also been introduced into the judicial system at many points in Colorado, setting precedence for future legal conflicts around the country.

On Wednesday the Colorado Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit with Boulder County over not allowing oil and gas companies to drill within county limits. The ban was unconstitutional after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that fracking decisions and regulations are to be set at the state level, not local. The interesting thing about the lawsuit is that it was unnecessary; the county was planning on reforming the policy to allow drilling this month.

This lawsuit was likely an action taken by the attorney general to hurry the country’s process, but also to send a message to other local governments to not even think about going around these recent decisions. Community and local opposition to fracking in Colorado is fairly popular; Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder and Lafayette are all municipalities where voters moved to ban fracking.

Anyone who cares about the implications of fracking (water and air contamination, fossil fuel emissions to the atmosphere, geological shifts) should be concerned about the state of the anti-fracking movement. Banning at the local level isn’t working, but targeting certain aspects of fracking (such as the waste) could have a larger impact before the state government can get behind the dangers of fracking.

Fracking becomes an even larger issue when you consider giving public lands to the states, opening up the opportunity for the land to be sold. It is likely that these lands will be used to further develop oil and gas interests. This kind of policy has been suggested recently by Utah Congressional Representative Jason Chaffetz.

Public lands are important in western states simply because of how much land is designated to public use and management compared to those in the midwest and on the east coast. Not only are these lands treasured for their value in sheer beauty and in being natural habitats, but also for the economic benefit of recreation and tourism. Some organizations are powerful in lobbying government and organizing the public like Keep it Public, Wyoming, which aims to bring together multiple different groups who all benefit from public lands. This includes hunters, fishers, hikers, campers, off-road vehicle users, wildlife enthusiasts and anyone who generally likes to go outside.

Chaffetz pulled his bill after a couple of weeks due to backlash from the public. Moving to sell public lands is not a popular policy among the public and is a further reminder to us that our representatives will respond to public outcry.

These are just some of the environmental issues being raised. Local action on environmental issues has a track record of being successful. Local environmental damage (or any environmental issue) is a non-partisan topic and should be treated as such. This is something that no matter your party, you should be actively aware of because it directly affects you.

 

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