Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Anschutz: Colorado's very own fracking bully

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 5:30 PM

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I'm sure you would love to read something in our pages that didn't mention Phil Anschutz, but that's not the city we live in anymore, as the Denver billionaire has steadily bought up Colorado Springs' power positions. I guess it's his money and he can purchase who he wants, but that flexing sometimes comes with issues like this, as reported in the Washington Post:
"Three years ago, the multi-billion-dollar Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp., which helped make its founder Philip Anschutz one of the richest men in America, filed a lawsuit against Dryden, a small town in upstate New York.

"The issue: Dryden was sitting on top of some of the best shale gas prospects in the country, and Anschutz had bought a substantial number of leases giving it the right to drill there."
Well, Dryden and another town, Middlefield, had previously banned fracking, something November ballot questions will address here in Colorado. And two days ago, the New York State Court of Appeals sided with the small towns.

"Manifestly, Dryden and Middlefield engaged in a reasonable exercise of their zoning authority as contemplated in Gernatt when they adopted local laws clarifying that oil and gas extraction and production were not permissible uses in any zoning districts," reads the majority opinion. "The Towns both studied the issue and acted within their home rule powers in determining that gas drilling would permanently alter and adversely affect the deliberately-cultivated, small-town character of their communities."

Of course, the ruling has no effect on how things will play out in Colorado, but the players and the issues are as familiar here as they are across the nation. Here's the Post again:

"There has been a wave of local resolutions, laws or proposals to ban or limit fracking and the disposal of fracking waste, including 35 such efforts in New Jersey, 13 in California, 10 in Colorado, 18 in Michigan and many more in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, according to activist group Food and Water Watch." The paper then quotes Sen. Mark Udall as supporting "higher safety standards, but not to ban drilling." Another federal legislator, Boulder's Rep. Jared Polis, is bankrolling the anti-fracking effort here.

If you wonder what it's like for a small group of people to use the law to hold off billion-dollar energy corporations, just listen to Dryden town supervisor Mary Ann Sumne, who talked to the New York Times: "The oil and gas industry tried to bully us into backing down, but we took our fight all the way to New York’s highest court. I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere who are also trying to do what’s right for their own communities.”

And if you wonder what Anschutz thinks of all this, just look at an editorial published yesterday in his local mouthpiece, the Gazette, which lambasts the Colorado Supreme Court for allowing certain fracking amendments to go forward. 

"Without commenting on merits of the jobs-killing measures ... a majority on the state's highest court could find no means to stop these dangerous amendments from moving forward," reads the piece. "As such, they have left this to the voters. So let's be sure to vote the right way."

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