In the escalating ballot battle between the drilling industry and Colorado communities, new records show that energy companies are spending millions of dollars to stop anti-fracking measures in the state.
Environmental groups are currently gathering signatures on two statewide measures, 75 and 78, to appear on Colorado's November ballot. The first initiative would amend the state constitution to enable local governments the option to enact regulations more protective of health and safety than those required by the state, largely addressing the Colorado Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down fracking bans approved by voters in the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont. The other initiative would create 2,500-foot buffer zones between homes, schools and sensitive areas like playgrounds and water sources, and all new oil and gas development.
Active oil and gas wells in Colorado.Map: CPR/Nathaniel Minor | Data: COGCC
But in just the last three months, energy companies such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp, Noble Energy and Whiting Petroleum have funneled more than $6.7 million combined to Protect Colorado, an industry group that aims to defeat these measures, according campaign finance records reviewed by Reuters.
Protect Colorado argues that the initiatives threaten oil and natural gas development and would "devastate" the state's economy. The group raised concerns that these initiatives "would give local governments the sole power to regulate oil and natural gas activity in their jurisdictions, including the power to ban fracking."
"We are doing all that we can to defeat these measures because they would devastate Colorado's economic strength and competitiveness," Mike Kopp, executive director of Colorado Concern and former Colorado Senate minority leader, said. "Passage of these measures would mean—literally—that thousands of careers in a safe, environmentally-responsible industry would come to an abrupt halt, tax revenues that help fund schools and other important local projects would be cut off, and small towns around the state would suffer economically."
Colorado is the seventh-largest oil and gas producing state in the country.
Reuters cited a study by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which found that 90 percent of Colorado's surface acreage would be unavailable for oil and gas development if the setback law passes.
Yes For Health and Safety, a nonprofit pushing the two ballot initiatives, has raised concerns about the health risks of fracking operations and decried the state supreme court's decision to overturn local fracking bans in favor of Big Oil and Gas.
"Time and again, we've seen that this industry will say or do anything to mislead the public and protect their bottom line, but the scientific evidence speaks for itself: Fracking is a leading driver of climate change and destroys our most basic resources," Tricia Olson, executive director of Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking, told EcoWatch.
"If we don't have clean air, water, soil and healthy bodies, how can our communities thrive? Big Oil and Gas may have billions of dollars, but we have passion, commitment and an historic opportunity to show communities everywhere that when people come together to protect their health and safety, anything is possible."
Get fossil fuels on the ballot in #Colorado and vote for renewables! @YesHealthSafety #keepitintheground https://t.co/6gcemFJM3u— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1468451983.0
online petition, the group states:
With more than 73,000 fracking wells, many within walking distance of our homes and schools, Colorado has become ground zero for fracking in the U.S (watch a timelapse of wells spreading throughout our state here).
For years, Coloradans have demanded a stop to this dangerous extraction method. Despite being outspent 500-to-one by the oil and gas industry, five communities have successfully banned fracking in their backyards.
But the oil and gas industry refused to listen. With the support of our governor, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) sued these communities, claiming that they have no right to participate in the decision of where and how they drill. In an outrageous rejection of democracy, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed and overturned community regulations and protections against fracking.
Time for a just transition: In response, communities across the state are taking to the streets rallying fiercely for protection of the health and safety of their neighborhoods and families with two state ballot initiatives (#75: Local Control and #78: 1/2-mile Setbacks) that would empower local communities to protect themselves against the hazardous impacts of hydraulic fracking.
In the video below, 16-year-old environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh urges support for the measures.
"2016 is the year we that make a conscious decision to leave fracked oil in gas in the ground," the youth director of Earth Guardians says. "The Yes for Health and Safety initiatives, number 75 and 78, will protect the people of Colorado from the toxic fracking industry and keep climate-cooking methane out of our atmospheres. These initiatives mean protecting the people, protecting our water and our rights to a healthy atmosphere."
Inside Energy has called Colorado's ballot battle a David vs. Goliath fight pitting the ballot's supporters who have raised "just tens of thousands of dollars" against the deep-pocketed fossil fuels industry that can afford expensive advertisement. One of their television ads touts how "natural gas can help reduce our carbon footprint. We need natural gas, and fracking helps us get it."
Inside Energy reported that Protect Colorado has also bought billboards in Fort Collins and Denver metro with phrases such as, "Think before you ink, it's decline to sign."
Each initiative needs 98,492 signatures from registered voters before Aug. 8 to qualify for the November ballot. Organizers are busy collecting signatures throughout Colorado and will be attending the ARISE Music Festival in Loveland from Aug. 5 - 7 to get any final signatures needed. It is unknown how many signatures have been collected thus far but Lisa Trope of Food & Water Watch told Reuters she was optimistic the measures would get on the ballot.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
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