By Travis Sexton, The Saint Consulting Group
The latest trend by environmentalists and NIMBYs in the West is to seek fracking bans at the local level because they are losing battles at the state level. This should be a concern to energy companies, as the new strategy seems to be working.
Colorado is at the forefront of the fracking battle at the local level. In November 2012, voters in the City of Longmont approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas or other hydrocarbons. While the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act is being challenged in litigation by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the damage has been done.
Several municipalities have followed Longmont’s lead. In the upcoming November elections, Fort Collins, Loveland, Broomfield, and Boulder are asking voters to approve moratoriums on fracking, while Lafayette is seeking to ban any new oil and gas drilling.
In California, Governor Brown’s recently signed Senate Bill 4 provides for direct regulation, tracking, monitoring and oversight of fracking in the state. It is the first such legislation dealing with fracking in the state’s history; however, over 100 environmental, health and social justice organizations joined together to oppose SB4, stating that the bill did not go far enough to protect Californians. The joint statement letter signed by each of the groups can be seen clicking here SB_4_statement.
In response to SB4, environmentalists are vowing to take the fracking fight local. The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Baker wrote on October 18, “Fracking foes shift focus toward local limits,” that Santa Cruz County passed a moratorium on fracking last month and the City of Los Angeles looking to do the same. Adam Scow, the California Director for Food & Water Watch,” is quoted as saying, “The burden of protecting people’s livelihoods has fallen on local communities.”
Let that be a warning to oil companies looking to drill in California. If the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has succeeding in doing anything, it is emboldening local citizens to take action and to win land use fights politically at the local level.
Aside from California, here are some other fracking fights that have gone onto state and local ballots:
Where Traditional Methods Fail
Traditional lobbying tactics often fail in a city hall packed with angry residents, as Saint Consulting has learned in over 30 years in successfully fighting land-use battles for companies facing similar situations as the oil and gas companies in Colorado and California. While elected state officials are mostly immune from angry mobs during their legislative proceedings, local elected officials are forced to directly interact with their constituents, their neighbors, and their friends. And when things get heated, the words and promises of the paid lobbyist are often lost in the mind of even the most well-intentioned elected official.
The Saint Approach
As an alternative, we suggest a political campaign that builds vocal community advocacy with an approach that aims to identify, educate, harness and mobilize public support for energy projects. The Saint Energy Practice represents clients across all energy sectors – oil, natural gas, electrical power generation, power transmission and renewable energy – throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. We focus on developing and implementing winning strategies that earn public approvals and land use permitting for controversial energy projects by engaging the public through a variety of modern outreach techniques and designing winning campaigns.
Travis Sexton is division manager, western United States, for The Saint Consulting Group; email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 510-770-1511, ext 7305