Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton just switched positions with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, this week by supporting a state Supreme Court ruling which prohibits local governments from banning the process.
Trump told reporters in Colorado last Friday that he supports fracking in general, but thinks local governments should be able to ban the process. In Colorado, environmentalists have been pushing local governments to ban fracking, despite a Colorado Supreme Court ruling.
“I am not an expert on the Colorado constitution, and what I’m told is that the basis for the Colorado court’s decision was a Colorado constitutional one,” Clinton told a local reporter Wednesday. “I have long been in favor of states and cities within states making up their own minds whether or not they want to permit fracking.”
Several state and federal courts have agreed with Clinton that only the state government has the legal authority to regulate fracking, as any ban would be “preempted by state law and therefore, is invalid and unenforceable.” The oil and gas industry of most states has historically been regulated by state, not local, government.
Environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Earthworks and a local group called Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED) currently support local bans on fracking in the state, and disagree with Clinton. Trump’s position coincides with that of environmentalists.
The state’s environmentalists are supporting a ballot initiative that would ban fracking across 90 percent of the state. The initiative would cost $14.5 billion in lost economic output and 104,000 jobs, according to a study by economists at the University of Colorado.
The ballot measure is part of a larger green political campaign of 11 measures proposed to the state legislature in January. The ballot measures include attempts to delay the fracking permitting process to an outright ban on fracking in Colorado.
Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, has bucked his own political party to oppose these local fracking bans for years, often fighting with the state’s environmentalists.
When The Denver Post asked Hickenlooper why he thought Trump was wrong, the governor responded, “if you turn over total responsibility to the local communities, they are subject to the voters who aren’t anywhere near the (fracking site) but will, in many cases … vote to ban any oil and gas activity at all.”
Energy is a huge portion of Colorado’s economy and fracking has caused an economic boom. The oil and gas industry added $29.6 billion to Colorado’s economy in 2012, or about 10 percent of all annual economic activity in the state. The industries also supported 111,500 jobs, allowing the state to recover from the Great Recession faster than its neighbors.
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