As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Anthony Hahn reports:
Final returns on Tuesday for Erie’s municipal election, billed in recent months as a referendum on the town’s renewed post-Firestone approach to oil and gas regulation, confirmed a wide-margin victory for mayoral candidate Jennifer Carroll…
“I think (the win) pretty simply means that people care about oil and gas and want their elected officials to take a stand,” Carroll said after the first wave of results were released Tuesday evening. “I kept my campaign classy and honest, I only talked about my ideals for Erie, and my focus was on residents and how I can engage them better. I think that resonated with them.”
Carroll’s win likely signals more of the same for the town and a more aggressive approach to local control over energy development as a deluge of drilling plans appears aimed at the region.
It comes despite some serious bankrolling from pro-oil and gas interests in the days leading up to the election. On Friday, paperwork unveiled that Vital for Colorado, a group with past attempts at influencing local elections, had poured more than $55,000 in election activists in support of “pro business” candidates.
We last discussed leading oil and gas industry political group Vital For Colorado following municipal elections in Greeley last fall. The group spent lavishly in support of pro-oil and gas candidates for Greeley City Council–but the effort blew up in their faces after one of the candidates they backed was found to be a convicted felon, which disqualified him from serving.
In cities where the rights of surface land users (meaning people) and mineral extraction rights are in fundamental conflict, the oil and gas industry is losing more elections they contest than they win. This is a shift that has been going on for some years in Colorado. Decisions by residential Front Range cities to assert greater control over oil and gas drilling within their boundaries, which have been generally overruled by the courts, have resulted in numerous defeats for pro-oil and gas municipal candidates despite the disproportionate amounts of money spent by the industry. This groundswell of opposition to oil and gas drilling in residential areas also provoked the industry to fund the controversial Amendment 71, which tries to impede constitutional ballot initiatives and thus prevent advocates of greater local control over oil and gas drilling from passing one. Unfortunately for the industry, Amendment 71 may itself be unconstitutional.
In all of these storylines, there is one consistent theme: local communities trying to protect themselves from heavy industry near their homes and schools, and the oil and gas industry trying to stop them from protecting themselves.
Unless you’re on the payroll of the industry, it’s an easy choice. And once again voters have made it.