Sustainability should not be legally impossible

by Nora Gayer

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Joel Dyer

write today on behalf of the Boulder Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This is our statement of solidarity with frontline communities worldwide, and in particular with East Boulder County United, the Boulder County Protectors, and the Erie Protectors.

We share the fundamental analysis that fracking is imminent in Boulder County and that fracking is the result of a system designed to harm people, rather than a fluke in an otherwise harmless system.

Over the past few years, Colorado courts have struck down fracking bans enacted by the citizens of Lafayette, Longmont, Broomfield and Fort Collins. These court decisions are symptomatic of the fact that our current system of law was designed to protect corporate profits over the rights of workers, communities and nature itself. On May 1 of this year, the Boulder County Commissioners ended the Boulder County drilling moratorium that had been in place since 2012 and began paving the way for the County to be fracked. In order to preserve the possibility of a habitable climate, we reject this system and refuse to lend legitimacy to the laws that make sustainability legally impossible.

Many people in Boulder cannot bring themselves to believe that corporations — with the blessing of both major political parties — would force poison upon their children. This is not their experience in life to date: the consequences of extraction have always fallen most heavily on indigenous people, people of color, poor folks and people living under Western imperialism. It is not lost on us that we are writing this statement on territory that belongs to the Southern Arapaho, the Cheyenne, and the Utes, who were ethnically cleansed from this land and forced onto reservations so that Euro-American colonizers could mine for gold. For that reason, we also express our solidarity with local indigenous leaders in opposition to the continued legacies of colonialism and extraction.

Regardless of what people would like to believe about Boulder County, we are about to get fracked. And it is happening because ordinary people currently have no legal avenue by which to refuse industrial activity in their communities.

We have heard self-declared environmentalists accuse the Boulder County Protectors of making the perfect the enemy of the good. But in the words of Naomi Klein, “‘Perfect’ left the station a couple decades ago. We’re not letting the difficult be the enemy of the necessary.”

Even if there once was room for compromise with the fossil fuel industry (hint: there wasn’t), by now the hour is far too late for anything but an all-out fight. The industry is literally dragging our planet to hell, along with those of us who live on it.

Nowhere in Boulder County are humans safe from extractive industry. Air and water don’t stand still — Boulder County already has an “F” from the American Lung Association for air quality due to oil and gas extraction in neighboring counties. The fossil fuel industry has our planet on a fast-track to becoming uninhabitable, and we see the evidence right here. The latest science out of Oil Change International indicates that, to meet the Paris Climate Accords targets — targets that many climate scientists believe do not go far enough — there can be no new fossil fuel infrastructure. Boulder County is not immune to that scientific fact. As such, the County Commissioners’ recent pledge to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement targets is meaningless and cynically misleading in the absence of an attendant immediate ban on fracking.

The Democratic Party has shown that it has no plans to stop this menace.

In 2011, Commissioner Jones advocated for collaboration between industry and environmental groups in Natural Gas 360, which is nothing more than an industry propaganda outlet. She also personally met with 8 North, a subsidiary of Extraction Oil & Gas, during Boulder County’s drilling moratorium. As a public official, Commissioner Jones owes us transparency on important issues like this. However, she did not inform the public of the meeting. Nor has she released notes from the meeting, which she apparently intended to keep a secret. When pressed, Commissioner Jones defended the meeting by likening a meeting with industry reps to a meeting with constituents.

Now 8 North has submitted plans to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to drill in Lafayette near Pioneer Elementary School and fields, where children spend their days going to school and playing soccer. Outside of Lafayette Council member Merrily Mazza, the remaining council members have no viable strategy to fight drilling. As the wells line up, they are now flailing to maintain some political credibility while keeping community members acquiescent in plans that threaten to poison their children. The Lafayette City Council, it would appear, is operating from the same playbook as the Boulder County Commissioners. Since they ended the drilling moratorium in May, Commissioners Jones, Gardner and Domenico have continuously reassured the people that we have nothing to worry about. Their talking points are tailored to maintain order rather than justice, so that our community might “peaceably” accept the violence of fracking. Nine months ago, East Boulder County United and the Boulder County Protectors presented the County Commissioners with the Climate Bill of Rights and Protections, which would not only ban fracking, but also fundamentally shift the balance of power away from corporations and empower community members to defend ourselves against any industrial activity that impinges on our fundamental right to a healthy climate.

For nine months, citizens have urged the commissioners to put the Climate Bill of Rights and Protections to a vote of the people, and the commissioners have refused. In other words, they will not grant the public — the living, breathing public — a vote in whether or not the oil and gas industry poisons us. The Commissioners have subverted democracy for too long.

This isn’t just about being right; it’s about our very survival.

It’s about the fact that we currently have no legal avenue by which to protect ourselves from an industry that wants to burn us alive — as the recent explosions in Brighton, Mead and Firestone remind us. When our elected officials prove themselves unwilling to defend us, we have to defend ourselves. We refuse to sit idly by as this beautiful county is turned into an oil field.

We are socialists because we envision and fight for a world in which democracy extends into every arena of our lives. Currently, the course of ordinary people’s lives is determined by a set of institutions over which we exert no democratic control. The fossil fuel industry’s planned assault on Boulder County epitomizes capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy.

In DSA, we say “Socialism or Barbarism.” This isn’t merely a slogan about some hypothetical future; barbarism is here. Barbarism is the U.S. letting Puerto Rico, a colony in everything but name, starve in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Barbarism is brutal police repression of the Native-led mobilization against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Barbarism is FEMA’s abandonment of poor communities in Coastal Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Barbarism is our County Commissioners opening the doors to 8 North and Crestone poisoning the County’s citizens and intensifying the (un)natural disasters already being brought on by climate change. The only way out is to build the power of ordinary people. We are nonviolent. Our opponents are clearly not.

We acknowledge that in this fight there will be casualties. But when our side wins, the casualties are the profits of the oil and gas industry and, possibly, the political careers of the Democratic Party bureaucrats who collaborate with them. When the other side wins, children get leukemia and houses explode.

We encourage everyone in this county who breathes air, drinks water and loves the land we live on to consider what they would do to protect the resources upon which our lives depend. Obedience to a set of laws that guarantee our poisoning is not an option.

We can win this fight, but no one is going to do it for us. Please join us in defending Boulder County. Start by signing up for direct action training at eastbocounited.org.

Nora Gayer/Secretary, Boulder DSA

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

  • Susan

    I can sympathize with you Boulder citizens…I live in Pennsylvania, the Fracking Capital of the USA. No matter what we do, who we contact, or where we protest, FERC, the states’s DEP, and the fossil fuel companies force themselves on us and carry out their hostile toxic plans for cracker plants, wells, and pipelines. It’s sickening…figuratively AND literally.