Campaign Blog

  • Cliff Willmeng

July 4, Oil and Gas Aristocracy and the Price and Rewards of Open Rebellion

We are being reminded lately that to stand up to the corporations of the oil and gas industry is folly, full of risks, and a dangerous and irresponsible task. If we pass laws to ban fracking and expand the rights of our people and planet, we risk litigation to our towns. And so the argument goes; we should listen to the wise council of politicians and line up to negotiate the terms of handing over Boulder County to the carbon and methane barons.

Here's a 4th of July aside - The first complaint against the King of England, as described in the Declaration of Independence reads,

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

The more things change...

Read about Grant Township below, the town that Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and its attorneys Elizabeth Dunn and Thomas Linzey are defending from Pennsylvania General Electric's planned fracking waste injection wells. Grant township isn't much of a powerhouse. It has a population of 741. The industry is in the process of penalizing both the town and its defending attorneys.

How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking

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The oil and gas industry likes to shift the blame for its litigation onto the people and communities being harmed. This allows the corporations and politicians to draw attention away from what is actually taking place, which is the abusive coercion of people into accepting inherently dangerous projects for corporate profit. (Why isn't the oil and gas industry being approached about its tone anyway?)

Again, no town has ever fallen into financial ruin for standing up to the corporate law forcing these projects onto communities, but it is possible that the corporation, the courts, and the government are venomous enough that they would try to make that happen to make an example of what you get when you don't lay down and accept the abuse. Linzey is being punished because he and Grant Township are arguing that people have rights which are superior to corporations, that the natural environment of Grant Township should have rights as well, and that injection wells are offensive and poisonous to the fundamental rights.

Corporations don't like that.

The Rights of Nature Movement Goes on Trial

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Of course if we draw any attention to social movements of the past you will see all manner of coercion against people designed to force them into submission. Some of these tactics punish people financially with arrests, jail, loss of employment, surveillance and harassment, attempts to discredit and marginalize, even physical injury and death. And some tactics threaten legal teams standing up for those movements in court. This last approach is what CELDF attorneys Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dennis are experiencing.

Back in Lafayette people are being issued similar threats and reasons to pack it in, stick to benign strategies, and get back to negotiating the terms by which our town and Boulder County are handed over to oil and gas like Weld County has been. We have the option to cooperate with the state and industry to avoid the risks of corporate sanctions, but that ends up creating another set of risks. We trade political and legal safety for the dangers of cancer, ecological destruction, and climate change. In other words, avoiding one type of risk compels the acceptance of another, more significant risk.

To some this trade-off is worth it. To people like the community members in East Boulder County United we say "Absolutely not." There is no way we are going to hand over this wonderful town to oil and gas just so the three top execs at Extraction can make their $26 million a year and politicians can start their climb up the Party ladder.

We may get harmed in the process of this fight for Lafayette and Boulder County and the planet and the next generations. We don't accept this. We are regular people with families, and jobs and lives and people who depend on us in many ways other than stepping up to some of the biggest and most destructive corporations in the world. The threats and harassment of government and industry can cause real harm because that is what they are designed to do.

And with all of this considered we have concluded that we aren't going to lie down to corporations and bureaucrats any more. In fact, we are going to stand up and defend this place we call home, this land that was once the domain of the Cheyenne and Ute and Arapahoe before armies and industry stole it from them and attempted to commit them in a state of permanent ruin. Maybe the spirit of those who came before us will help us to find the courage that is required of everyone living in these insane times. I believe more people are feeling that courage. We are turning to face the fight.

So that is where we are today at this strange holiday full of fireworks and contradiction. There is no King around but there is most certainly an aristocracy and its Loyalists, and we small people aren't bowing anymore.

So let's find our courage and help others to their feet. Let's storm the ramparts together.


© 2018 Willmeng for Grassroots Power