U.S. Rep. Jared Polis didn't like the temporary sights and sounds of oil and gas production across the street from his Weld County vacation home. So the Boulder Democrat tried to stop the work, jeopardizing good jobs, with a lawsuit he subsequently dropped.
Today, Polis backs proposed anti-energy ballot measures that would destroy property rights. Thousands of Coloradans would lose ability to derive income from their properties. His crusade would cost tens of thousands of Coloradans their jobs.
If successful, one or more of the measures could also cost residents of the congressman's home county more than $1 billion in restitution. Similar litigation would burden other oil-rich areas.
"Boulder County could be on the hook for over $1 billion from successful takings claims, or just compensation for the public use of private property, such as a ban on developing minerals," states a summary a new study commissioned by the National Association of Royalty Owners.
If Polis wants to control other people's property, he should follow the example of Boulder's Open Space Department. To stop urban sprawl, the city bought 45,000 acres of private land and left it dormant.
Polis ranks among the three wealthiest member of Congress. He sold his family's online greeting card company, bluemountain.com, for $780 million. If his intellectual property rights had been subject to public fleecing or excessive regulation, he wouldn't have made a dime.
Polis also started ProFlowers and sold it for $477 million. While saluting his success, we also respect those who need oil-rigging jobs, lease payments or investment royalties to feed their families.
Polis has so much money and political clout that Gov. John Hickenlooper negotiates with him, trying to achieve a compromise to stop at least nine proposed measures that could run oil and gas production out of Colorado. Several of the proposals, promoted under the guise of "local control," would forbid oil and gas production within 1,500 feet of residences. Owners of oil properties and mineral rights invested with state and federal protection of their right to extract resources — just as Polis invested in dotcoms with federal protection of intellectual property rights. Conversely, residential owners who complain about fracking bought their properties above or near oil and gas reserves. They should have known someone might drill.
Private property rights are no less sacrosanct than the right to free speech and cannot be lawfully taken by politicians, multimillionaires or majorities. Individuals are entitled to possess jewelry, cars, homes, commodities, land and other tangible and intangible assets because of protections in the U.S. Constitution enforced by the courts.
Just as the Constitution protects against common thieves in the night, it prevents well-funded mobs from stealing in broad daylight. If our system didn't hold individual rights above popular will, property would have no value. No one would buy land if voters could one day cut its value in half.
If voters amend our state constitution to facilitate a large-scale property heist, their victory will be short-lived. The damaged property owners will have no choice but to sue for restitution. Few can afford to stand by and accept the unjust loss of their hard-earned investment dollars. Coloradans will be out thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions in tax revenues and billions in judgments.
When Polis took office, he swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution — including property rights that helped him succeed. Congressman, stop supporting these unfair proposals that would negate potential fortunes and destroy incomes for working class families.