Residents in Colorado will hold veto power over which businesses can operate within their communities under a proposed constitutional amendment being promoted by organizations worried about oil and gas drilling.
But the proposal would also allow cities and towns to ban any “for-profit entities,” whether it’s a fracking operation, a company that makes genetically modified seeds or a national retailer.
The Community Rights Amendment will “make the will of communities superior to the will of corporations,” supporter Cliff Willmeng told the Denver Post.
Backers were also behind a fracking moratorium passed by the city of Lafayette in November, one of several Northern Colorado communities to put the brakes on the controversial practice, despite Gov. John Hickenlooper’s insistence that regulating oil and gas developers is state business that’s outside of local jurisdiction.
But Willmeng told the Post that the new initiative goes beyond just energy development.
“This is not just about oil and gas,” Willmeng said. “It’s about any project that puts a community at risk.”
That means cities opposed to industrial feed lots or waste disposal operations could prevent them from opening.
“I just don’t see how anyone does business in Colorado” with such restrictions, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, told the Post.
Even some Democrats — who support stricter fines and regulations on energy companies — think the initiative goes too far.
“When you do things at the ballot box, I think you frequently make a lot of mistakes that create difficulties in the future,” House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst told the Post.
“It would be far better if the legislature took a good look at this and tried to find a way” to increase local control, she said.
But backers say the proposed amendment honors the right of local governments to determine the makeup of their communities.
“Citizen groups and local officials in communities across the U.S. have enacted Community Bill of Rights to assert and secure fundamental rights and to prohibit their violation by certain industries, including agribusiness, waste disposal, genetic engineering, fracking, and others,” said Ben Price, of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which drafted the amendment, in a press release.
“The proposed state constitutional amendment will recognize the full authority of municipalities to adopt such laws, free from state preemptive laws protecting corporations from democracy,” he said.
The initiative needs more than 86,000 valid signatures to appear on the 2014 ballot.
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