Environmental causes suffer defeats across the country

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Environmental causes across the country saw defeat last night as voters from Maine to Colorado rejected anti-fossil fuel policies such as hydraulic fracturing restrictions and tar sands oil import bans.

Anti-fossil groups did see some victories on Tuesday night as three cities in Colorado passed restrictions on fracking and an Ohio city also voted to limit fracking. Other environmentalist attempts to harm the fossil fuel industry across the country, however, were stymied.

Frack ’em if you got ’em

Voters in Broomfield, Colo., narrowly rejected a proposal to put a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by only a 13 vote margin — 10,253 residents voted for the ban and 10,266 voted against it.

The outcome essentially means that a slim majority of voters approve of the city council’s agreement with the drilling company Sovereign which bound the company to abide strict air and water quality rules in order to drill in the county.

However, the anti-fracking group Our Broomfield said the oil and gas industry helped pro-fracking forces outspend them 25-to-1, adding that residents would come together to assess a new way forward after the defeat.

“No matter the outcome, we’ll see what the next step is,” said Nate Troup, a representative of Our Broomfield. “When you look at it, Our Broomfield didn’t exist in April. We got this issue on the ballot, and that speaks to the strong community of support.”

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and some chemicals into tight rock formations more than one mile underground. The injected fluids crack the rock formations and release oil and gas that was previously unrecoverable.

Environmentalists argue that fracking poses a threat to air and water quality. Fracking proponents say that drilling will bring in much needed economic growth and jobs. Banning the drilling practice would only serve to harm the local economy groups such as the Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition and It’s Our Broomfield, Too argue.

Fracking deja vu?

Youngstown, Ohio voters defeated yet another attempt to ban fracking on Tuesday night by nearly 10 percent. This is the second time this year that voters have defeated attempts to ban fracking — the previous attempt occurred in May and lost by nearly 14 percent.

The ban was heavily opposed by the oil and gas industry as well as union members who saw the ban as a “job-killer.” The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 spent more than $74,000 opposing the ban, reports the Youngstown Vindicator.

“This is two-consecutive decisive victories in support of these [fracking] jobs and this investment,” said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

However, fracking opponents must think the third time’s a charm because they have showed no indication of giving up their campaign against the drilling technique.

“We’ll continue on. It will be back in some form or another. We’re not quitting. We’re coming back,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, with the anti-fracking Community Bill of Rights Committee.

Environmental bill of rights struck down

Bowling Green, Ohio voters struck down a so-called citizen’s bill of rights that was advanced by environmental activists. The proposal asserted that residents have a right to a healthy environment, including clean air, water and land.

The proposal was advanced by the group Protect BG, but was opposed by Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and the local business community who see fracking as an economic benefit to the area.

The Toledo Blade reports that the city council voted earlier this year to ban fracking and disposing of fracking fluid within the city limits. Activists said it was necessary to strengthen the council’s action through a bill of rights. However, it was defeated 3,548 votes against it to only 1,191 in favor of it.

Keep the tar sands flowing

Residents of South Portland, Maine rejected a plan to ban tar sands oil from Canada from flowing through the city’s six oil terminals. The proposal would rejected any project that reversed the flow of a 236-mile oil pipeline connecting South Portland to Montreal, Canada.

The ban was defeated by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. However, South Portland Mayor Tom Blake promised to write a new law that would ban tar sands from coming into the city.

Tar sands oil is the same type would flow through the hotly contested Keystone XL pipeline, and environmentalists across the country have been active in trying to halt oil shipments from the area.

Protect South Portland, the group that authored the ban, has promised to keep working to prevent tar sands from coming into the city.

“We have such a motivated group of citizens here and I feel like we’re just going to keep working to prevent tar sands,” said Carolyn Graney after the ban was defeated.

The coalition of waterfront businesses and the oil and gas industry were ecstatic to see the ban defeated. South Portland has been handling oil and petroleum products for decades.

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