“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
– First complaint against the King of England, United States Declaration of Independence.
On Monday, May 2, the Colorado Supreme Court reaffirmed what the oil and gas industry and major corporations have contended for years. In doing so, the Court left no doubt about who holds the power: it isn’t the residents of Longmont and Fort Collins. “Applying well-established preemption principles…the court holds that Longmont’s fracking ban is preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.”
With that decision, the Colorado Supreme Court reinforced the rights of corporations and once again relegated the fundamental rights of communities, people, and nature to an afterthought. Where fracking and democracy conflict, one of them has to go. Today over 200,000 affected residents were told that it was them.
The decision was completely predictable. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld a longstanding doctrine of community-level disenfranchisement. What Longmont, Lafayette, Fort Collins, Greeley, and Broomfield experienced is no different than what other communities endure when they rise up to protect themselves from corporate power and industry harms. State preemption is used to bar communities from prohibiting corporate water withdrawals and factory farms, enacting living wages and plastic bag bans, and more. In 2009, the same Supreme Court overturned a ban on cyanide use in mining enacted by five Colorado counties. The North Carolina legislature used preemption to overturn Charlotte’s expanded protections for its LGBT community.
The system is rigged. Industry and its lobbyists write the laws and regulations, the legislature blesses them, and the state enforces them. The democratic will of people and communities is irrelevant. After all of the words of politicians, governor’s task forces, political ballot initiatives proposed and withdrawn, superficial regulations, and other means designed to distract us, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment is the only measure that addresses the root of the problem. “To all of those citizens who are frustrated from the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling, nothing will change unless we change our system. The Colorado Community Rights Amendment directly confronts and changes the structure of law that gives corporations power over our local communities. “, said Nicole Johnston, founder of the East Aurora Community Development group.
Petitioners are working now to get the Community Rights Amendment on the 2016 ballot. If successful, Colorado could turn the tide on the fossil fuel industry and its destruction of community level decision-making. Local democracy is the only way for us to get out of this legalistic, corporate trap and bring in a new era of environmentalism and freedom in the most important of places—where we live, work, and raise our families.
Attorney, Mark Grueskin, representing Democrats, gives oral arguments to the Colorado Supreme Court in a case redrawing congressional boundaries at the in the old Supreme Court Chambers at the State Capitol Thursday morning. Andy Cross, The Denver Post