A network of outsiders could bring Colorado's economy to its knees. With heavy backing from out-of-state environmentalists, a group of local teenagers is petitioning to end fracking in the Centennial State.
That would be a colossal mistake. Colorado is blessed with a booming oil industry, the seventh largest in the country. The state's energy sector is creating jobs, income and tax revenue. And thanks to smart government oversight, its energy bounty is helping, not harming, the environment.
Unfortunately, misinformed outsiders are jeopardizing this progress.
In March, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency tasked with managing the responsible development of the state's natural resources, must consider a petition submitted by the Boulder-based Earth Guardians. The petition requests that COGCC halt further fracking until an "independent" third party can verify that the practice can be safely done.
This decision effectively nullified the COGCC's decades-long role guiding energy development while protecting Colorado's natural resources.
The court's decision is an outrage. Since its creation, the COGCC has successfully balanced the state's economic and environmental needs. Far from being a rubber stamp for gas and oil companies, the commission has helped create a rigorous set of regulations, especially when it comes to fracking. In fact, the COGCC was the first state regulatory board in the country to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.
The COGCC has not only rigorously sought environmental protection, but helped Colorado's economy flourish. The gas and oil industry employs 213,100 Coloradoans - nearly 7 percent of the state's workforce. Oil and gas contribute $28.5 billion to Colorado's economy.
Coloradans understand the importance of energy to the state economy. Nearly 70 percent favor increased gas and oil production.
The goals of the Earth Guardians fly in the face of the best interests and wishes of Coloradans of all stripes. And no wonder: Outsiders are taking advantage of the youthful ideology of the six teenagers behind the petition to push a radical environmental agenda over the needs of Colorado's workers and families.
Consider that Earth Guardians' legal representation comes courtesy of Julia Olsen, the Oregon-based executive director of Our Children's Trust, an activist organization that has pursued climate-related lawsuits in all 50 states.
Meanwhile, Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental action group, has been funneling money and manpower into Earth Guardians and other activist organizations across the state. Its goal? Ending fracking here and everywhere. Lauren Petrie, one of the group's directors, recently bragged during a rally in Boulder that her organization was working to "pass bans and moratoriums on fracking across the state."
The Earth Guardians also receive support from other anti-oil and gas organizations such as Brooklyn-based 350.org, Catskill Mountaineer, which is also based in New York, 1% For the Planet, in Vermont, and San Francisco-based Bioneers.
The goal of these organizations is to end fossil-fuel extraction, regardless of the economic consequences. After all, obstructing the flow of gas and oil may cost Colorado jobs and money, but the majority of those pushing this agenda won't be impacted: They don't live here.
And no matter how much money activists pour into banning it, fracking is safe and profitable. The practice now accounts for two-thirds of America's natural gas production. And even the Environmental Protection Agency, echoing numerous other studies, concluded that fracking has no impact on natural resources such as drinking water.
Before this misbegotten court ruling, Coloradans enjoyed environmental protection second to no other state, as well as a thriving energy economy.
The Earth Guardians, with a big boost from activists who don't have to live with the consequences, have overturned that balance. It's time for Coloradans to take back control of their state from misguided outside groups.
Regina Thomson is president of the Colorado Issues Coalition.