City of Broomfield Ballot Title Language is Accurate

It appears that Our Broomfield (OB) has filed an official protest against the Broomfield City Council for the Council’s wording of the title of a proposed charter amendment.  OB proposed this:

Shall Broomfield’s Home Rule Charter be amended for five years so as to prohibit  the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City and County of Broomfield and to prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process in order to protect property, property values, public safety, welfare, and the environment?”

The City of Broomfield instead opted to go with this language:

Shall Broomfield’s Home Rule Charter be amended to prohibit the owners of property rights in oil and gas minerals from extracting their property through the use of hydraulic fracturing methods and impose additional restrictions on wastewater storage and disposal methods than existing state regulations for the next five years to address concerns about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing.”

Our Broomfield claims the City Council “blatantly violated state law” with this proposed title language.  And as with the language of most of the organized anti-fracking groups, it appears that emotion is again trumping reality.  Let’s analyze each proposal.

  • OB – amend the charter so as to prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City and County of Broomfield.
  • CoB – amend the charter to prohibit the owners of property rights in oil and gas minerals from extracting their property through the use of hydraulic fracturing methods.

OB claims that the City’s wording does not adequately represent the true intentions of the proposed amendment.  Isn’t the City’s wording EXACTLY what this amendment would do, though?  Shouldn’t voters be made aware that this amendment would in fact prohibit property owners from exercising their property rights to extract oil and gas through fracking?  Apparently petition signature gatherers explained that the point was to protect citizens from all the nastiness that OB claims will certainly happen if fracking were allowed.  Did they also clearly state that by doing so, mineral rights owners could be substantially impacted?  That may not be the “true intent” of the amendment, but it would still be the reality.

  • OB – prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process
  • CoB – impose additional restrictions on wastewater storage and disposal methods than existing state regulations

Again, the City of Broomfield is correct.  This amendment would in fact impose restrictions above and beyond existing state regulations.  I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, either.  But again, were petition signers told that these restrictions were more than the state required?  I didn’t think this was really a secret, and hopefully OB doesn’t have a problem with this part of the language.

  • OB – in order to protect property, property values, public safety, welfare, and the environment
  • CoB – to address concerns about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing

This is where the emotional pleas from OB are most apparent.  None of the things mentioned are in imminent danger as a result of fracking.  Yes, it must be done in accordance with strict(er?) regulations, and yes, there have been accidents.  But fracking anywhere doesn’t automatically mean that property will be damaged, property values will drop, the public will be in a statistically more unsafe environment, the public’s welfare will be negatively impacted, and the environment will be damaged.  There is the POTENTIAL for all of those things, of course.  And lo and behold, the City of Broomfield describes them exactly that way…”potential dangers”.

I can see why OB is upset with the city’s wording, as it obviously puts things in a much less dramatic light, but none of the language is incorrect.  The reality is, even though the intentions of OB and other anti-frackers may be good, the consequences of what they propose reach well beyond that on which they are focused.  Those that agree with you aren’t going to change their minds b/c the wording on this amendment doesn’t focus on the areas you want it to.  It is like saying “we want to pass this amendment that will prevent childhood deaths by drowning, for the safety of children and families”, but the amendment actually bans the use of all water for recreational purposes.  You can’t ignore the other aspects of what you’re trying to do, even if they don’t necessarily help your cause.

Everyone has an opinion on this topic.  Why be afraid of more truthful wording and less emotional rhetoric, if your cause is really that black and white?

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