Water: Southwest Coalition Statement of Commitment and Call for Allies

            Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting over. —Mark Twain

More than any other area of North America, the Southwest faces water shortages just as demands for water increase. These colliding forces are inevitable products of industrial civilization. Deep Green Resistance chapters across the Southwest recognize the imminent catastrophe. We view the protection of ground and surface water, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights to their water and landbase, as critically important. We declare water preservation and justice as our primary focus.

Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition is a confederation of DGR action groups located in the southwest region of North America. While each group focuses on ecological and social justice issues specific to their region, as a Coalition we work together to reinforce each group’s efforts. Our members include:

Deep Green Resistance Colorado Plateau

Deep Green Resistance Sonoran

Deep Green Resistance Colorado

Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

Deep Green Resistance Chaparral

Great Basin Spring, Goshute Reservation

Great Basin Spring, Goshute Reservation

The Increasingly Arid Southwest

The region is among the driest areas in the world. The southwest receives only 5-15 inches of rainfall a year[1] and nearly all climate models predict an increase in both aridity and flooding with global warming.[2] As increasing temperatures force the jet stream further north and more surface water is evaporated (notably in desert reservoirs like Lake Powell where an average 860,000 acre-feet of water—about 8 percent of the Colorado River’s annual flow—is lost every year),[3] overall precipitation is decreasing even as summer storms paradoxically become more intense. And there is no margin of safety from which civilization can draw—the Colorado River, for example, is already fully allocated; all the water is claimed.[4]

Agriculture is far and away the largest water consumer: California’s Imperial Irrigation District consumes 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water every year, compared to the rest of Southern California, which gets only 1.3 million.[5] Large amounts of water are also used for oil and gas drilling—an estimated 100,000 gallons per fracked well[6]—and coal mining and burning.

 

Ken Dewey, climate.gov

Ken Dewey, climate.gov

The water shortage is already wreaking havoc among wildlife. In California, the drought is partially implicated in the deaths of tens of thousands of native waterfowl. As water sources dry, birds congregate around remaining oases like fountains and irrigation ditches. In such close quarters, disease spreads quickly. Other victims of water scarcity in California include scores of thousands of bark beetle-killed trees—so much so that these results “herald a region in ecological transition.”[10] Unsurprisingly, 2015 is among the worst California fire seasons ever.This year, twelve western states declared drought emergencies.[7] On April 25, 2015, the largest US reservoir, Lake Mead, dropped to an historic low of 1,080 feet. That record surpassed the previous low set last August; Mead has never been lower since it was filled in the 1930s.[8] These conditions are unlikely to improve. In spring of 2015, snowpack in the Sierra Mountains measured at just 5 percent of normal.[9]

Desperate Measures

These unprecedented changes are driving ever more desperate and costly projects, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s planned multi-billion-dollar pipeline project in eastern Nevada’s and western Utah’s arid basin and range country. If completed, the project would pump billions of gallons of groundwater to Las Vegas, threatening the Goshute Indian reservation, the livelihoods of ranchers, many rare endemic species, and the land itself.[11]

A proposed California water pipeline may move as much as 7.5 million acre feet of northern California water south a year. It was just revised to include only a third of the originally planned habitat protection, re-allocating water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Situated between California’s wetter north and its dry and populous south, the delta contains one of California’s largest remaining wetlands, home of green sturgeon, steelhead, and endangered Delta smelt.[12] More extreme are plans to siphon off some of Canada’s abundant water to California.[13] As drought and demand continue their increasing arcs, however, these desperate plans for massive water transfers become more acceptable to many.

The Only Sane Response

The government-industry axis takes water from the less powerful, regardless of any natural rights such groups may have.[14] This cannot continue, not even beyond the very short term. When the unstoppable force of increasing demand for water—continuing without limit—meets the immovable object of shrinking water supplies, environmental devastation and injustice swiftly follows.

DGR Southwest Coalition supports any protective or restorative action for ground and surface water, including the removal of dams and reservoirs by any means necessary. At the same time, we advocate for and support the dismantling of the systems (capitalism specifically and industrial civilization generally) as the only strategic way to safeguard the planet, and to keep it from degrading into a barren, lifeless husk. These are daunting tasks, no doubt, even if we limit our focus to the southwest; and yet, it’s a critical calling for all of us who care for life and justice.

We are reaching out to others who also view water protection and justice as values worth fighting for. For example, preserving instream flows (what’s left in a stream channel after other allocations) and groundwater protection—from fracking, from water mining, from surface contamination. We offer whatever expertise and resources we can muster, and all the passion we have, for our landbase. We’re ready to work with those who struggle with these problems; we’re also ready to take on whatever role is necessary in support of their fights.

This fight should be shared. Please contact us so we can network with you in pursuit of water, justice, and life.

swcoalition@deepgreenresistance.org

[1] C. Daly, R.P. Neilson, and D.L. Phillips, 1994. “A statistical-topographic model for mapping climatological precipitation over mountainous terrain,” J. Appl. Meteor., 33(2), 140-158, as displayed in http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/pcpn/westus_precip.gif

[2] Melanie Lenart, “Precipitation Changes,” Southwest Climate Change Network, September 18, 2008,  http://www.southwestclimatechange.org/node/790#references

[3] “Glen Canyon Dam,” Wikipedia, accessed December 10, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Canyon_Dam. An acre-foot is about 325,853 US gallons.

[4] Brett Walton, “In Drying Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Are Water Dealmakers,” Circle of Blue, July 1, 2015, http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/in-drying-colorado-river-basin-indian-tribes-are-water-dealmakers/

[5] Tony Perry, “Despite drought, water flowing freely in Imperial Valley,” Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-drought-imperial-valley-20150412-story.html

[6] Rory Carroll, “Fracking In California Used 70 Million Gallons Of Water In 2014,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/02/fracking-california-water_n_6997324.html

[7] Elizabeth Shogren, “Senate considers legislation to help the West store and conserve water,” High Country News, June 3, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/california-farmers-fear-irrigation-water-will-go-to-salmon-instead

[8] Sarah Tory, “Canadian water for California’s drought?” High Country News, April 28, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/could-canadas-water-solve-californias-drought-1

[9] Ben Goldfarb, “Fowl play: California’s drought fingered in bird deaths,” High Country News, April 2, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/fowl-play-californias-drought-fingered-in-bird-deaths

[10] Keith Schneider, “California Fire Danger Mounts in Sierra Nevada Forests,” Circle of Blue, July 10, 2015, http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/as-california-drought-rebalances-sierra-forests-fire-danger-mounts/

[11] Stephen Dark, “Last Stand: Goshutes battle to save their sacred water,” Salt Lake City Weekly, May 9, 2012, http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-35-15894-last-stand.html?current_page=all

[12] Kate Schimel, “Gov. Brown slashes Sacramento Delta environmental protection,” High Country News, May 7, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/gov-jerry-brown-slashes-delta-environmental-protection

[13] Sarah Tory, “Canadian water for California’s drought?” High Country News, April 28, 2015, http://www.hcn.org/articles/could-canadas-water-solve-californias-drought-1

[14] Ed Becenti, “Senate Bill 2109 Seeks to Extinguish Navajo and Hopi Water Rights,” Native News Network, April 4, 2012, http://www.nativenewsnetwork.com/senate-bill-2109-seeks-to-extinguish-navajo-and-hopi-water-rights.html

 

Nature on the Rack: Will Falk on Mauna Kea

Please check out this passionate, eloquent essay from Deep Green Resistance member Will Falk. Will deconstructs the issues surrounding the ongoing attempts to block construction of an 18-story astronomical observatory with an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

We can’t add to Will’s work; we only note that western science, like so much of industrial civilization, is merely a toxic mimicry of its indigenous-borne counterpart. And when science gets commoditized, its identity as just another extractive mechanism is further revealed.

JULY 21, 2015
by WILL FALK

Many view the debate surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope’s proposed construction on Mauna Kea and Kanaka Maolis’ opposition to it as fundamentally a question of science versus culture. On the benign end, the word “science” has come to connote something close to cool and objective rationality – nothing more nor less than a collection of knowledge to be used in man’s (isn’t it always “man’s”?) noble aim to transcend nature. More malevolently, however, pitting science against indigenous culture is nothing more than insidious racism. This racism operates on the often unchallenged claim that science is an inherently western way of knowing and therefore superior to indigenous ways of knowing.

In fact, some Mauna Kea protectors wish to avoid this rhetorical ploy so strongly they can be heard saying, “We’re not against science, we’re just against building this telescope on Mauna Kea.” Their words imply that the telescope could be built somewhere else and western science allowed to run its course everywhere but here.

Personally, I am against the construction of telescopes anywhere and I have lots of problems with western science. I am careful to emphasize the adjective “western” in western science because Kanaka Maolis often remind me that they’ve always known many of the things western science claims to have discovered. Remember, as Mauna Kea protector Hualalai Keohula has reminded me, that Kanaka Maoli navigated the world’s largest and greatest ocean in canoes built with wood and stone, aided with nothing more powerful than the naked human eye, centuries before the West realized the world was round. This, it should be said, is the right way, the least destructive way, the non-violent way to practice astronomy.

I speak only for myself, here, but I will go so far to say I wish western science never existed. I know in today’s dominant culture my wish is pure blasphemy. As my friend Derrick Jensen noted in his brilliant work Dreams, science is the new monotheism. The old monotheisms – Christianity, Judaism, Islam – succeeded in removing meaning from the natural world and placed meaning in the hands of a jealous, abstract God dwelling in far-off heavens. Science, then, erased God and obliterated any possibility of meaning with Him. When I make these arguments, I’ve found it to be like Jensen has observed, when you blaspheme God, you are called a disbeliever. When you blaspheme science, you are called an idiot.

Still, on the whole, science has been a disaster for life on Earth. The first problem with science is the first problem with so many products of the murderous culture we live in. The first problem with science is science’s epistemology is rooted in this culture’s epistemology. And, this culture’s epistemology is based on domination. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.

One way to understand science is to trace what the leading scientific epistemologists have to say. Remember Sir Francis Bacon from your 6th grade science class? He invented what we call today “The Scientific Method.” He said his “only earthly wish is to stretch the deplorably narrow limits of man’s dominion over the universe” by “putting her (nature) on the rack and extracting her secrets.” As if that wasn’t scary enough, Bacon went on to say, “I am come in very truth leading you to Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave.”

Or what about the hugely popular science apologist, Richard Dawkins? He writes in his book A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love that “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when.”

“To make matter and energy jump through hoops on command” is a soft way to spell domination. Substitute yourself for “matter and energy” (that is what you are, of course). How would you feel if a scientist pointed a gun at you, or shot electrical currents through your muscles, or stuffed you into a cage, starved you, pumped your body full of chemicals and forced you to jump through hoops at his command?

The culture we live in is based on domination. How else do we account for the fact that one in five women will be raped in her lifetime? One in four girls and one in six boys sexually abused before they turn 18? How else do we account for the fact that 2.6 people are killed by American police every day?

Why, then, would we expect western science – a product of this culture – to be any different?

***

There’s a better way to judge science. It is a question that should form all of our moralities. The question is simple.”Is the real world better off because of science?” I think the answer to that question is a resounding no.

I come to that conclusion because my morality takes the needs of the real, physical world as primary. Water, soil, air, climate, my body, your body, and the food that sustains us are all formed by complex relationships of living beings. These living beings form the communities that make life possible. The needs of these communities must inform every action humans take. Anything else is suicidal.

I understand that science can be useful. Western science gives us modern medicine, for example, but modern medicine is more often than not a leaky band-aid applied to a wound created by science in the first place. Many tell me that western science is going to give us the cure to cancer while they forget that most cancers are produced by environmental toxins that exist because of science. I understand that western science can help us predict the devastating consequences of climate change, but science opened the road to the technologies responsible for climate change in the first place. Western science is responsible for napalm, agent orange, and atomic weapons. Of course, the surest way to prevent the destruction those weapons caused would have been to never open the doors of knowledge that lead to them.

The TMT project serves as a perfect reflection of the insanity of western science. Just like western science gains knowledge through domination, the TMT project is only possible through the domination of Kanaka Maoli. If the original people of Hawai’i were not exterminated by genocidal processes, were not made second-class citizens on their own islands, their culture not beaten to within inches of its like by American denationalization programs, Mauna Kea would be truly protected with the highest reverence.

But, western scientists have arrived, confident in the role Francis Bacon has laid out for them, to stretch Hawai’i on the rack and extract her secrets from her. The cops have come twice, with guns on their hips, to make Mauna Kea protectors vacate the Mauna Kea Access Road like Dawkins’ scientists who make matter and energy jump through hoops on command and arresting anyone who refuses the command.

Again, let’s ask the most important question of all. Is the real world better off with or without the TMT?

One way to answer this is to examine the physical processes needed to construct the TMT. Included in these physical processes are the actual materials used in construction. I am no expert on telescope construction and I’ve found it difficult so far to find detailed lists of the materials that will form the TMT (probably because acquiring these materials are a disaster for the environment.) From what I can tell, though, the TMT will be built with materials like steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals.

You cannot have the TMT without steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals. You cannot have steel, aluminum, and other rare earth metals without mountain top removal, open pit mining, and the combustion of vast quantities of fossil fuels. You cannot have mountain top removal, open pit mining, and the combustion of vast quantities of fossil fuels without climate change, mass extinctions, the forced removal of indigenous peoples, and the violent labor conditions present in extraction industries. So, before the materials needed to build the TMT ever even arrive in Hawai’i, they will be covered in the blood of humans and non-humans alike.

Telescopes are a disaster for the real world just like western science has been. Telescopes cannot be anything other than disasters for the real world because they are products of a murderous system of knowledge. It might be really super cool to discover the 832nd star in the 412th known galaxy with a new, massive telescope. This knowledge, however, comes through the domination of life on earth.

Mauna Kea – and I would argue all mountains – might be best understood as a complex community of living creatures living in mutual relationship. The needs of this community trump the desires of science. Mauna Kea itself acts as a giant water filter and houses the largest freshwater aquifer on Hawai’i Island. Everyone needs clean drinking water, but there have already been seven documented mercury spills associated with the telescopes on Mauna Kea ) Currently threatened, endemic species call Mauna Kea home. The needs of mamane trees and ahinahina to live trumps the curiosity of astronomers to peep at other worlds.

***

Before I finish, let me anticipate the objections I will receive. Yes, I am quite aware of the comforts brought to some of us by western science. But, when we talk about how great science is for “us,” who are we talking about? Are we talking about the few indigenous societies clinging to their traditional ways of life, clinging to the only human ways of life that were ever truly sustainable? Are we talking about polar bears? Sumatran tigers? Bluefin tuna? We can’t be talking about West African black rhino because they just fell into the deepest dark of total extinction.

I know that science produced the internet, the laptop I’m typing on, and brought the delicious cold brew coffee I’m drinking. People often criticize me asking, “How can you condemn these wonderful tools you are using? You get on planes and travel to Hawai’i, you get in cars to visit places across Turtle Island, aren’t you a” – and they gasp – “a hypocrite?”

My answer is simple. Yes, I might be a hypocrite, but I believe my friend Lierre Keith who said, “Understand: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible – its to dismantle those systems.” Western science is a system of power and must be dismantled if we have any chance of surviving the catastrophe facing us. Sitting Bull used American made rifles to defend his people from American cavalrymen. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian poet who was murdered for resisting Shell Oil in his homeland, wrote in English – the language of his oppressors.

I wish with all my heart that I could live as our ancestors lived – a life free from the deepest anxiety that in a few years everything might be gone. I was raised in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah – a place I just visited – and I wish with all my heart that I could spend my life walking in Indian paintbrush, columbine, daisies, and lupine consumed in the total wonder and beauty of life. I wish with all my heart that I could sit still in simple expression of the love I feel. But, while everyone I love is under attack, it is simply unforgivable not to do everything within my power to protect them. It is simply unforgivable not to use every tool at my disposal to defend them.

History reveals western science as an accomplice to the murder of the real world. Western science is attempting the murder of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea and the real world demand that we stop it.

Will Falk has been working and living with protesters on Mauna Kea who are attempting to block construction of an 18-story astronomical observatory with an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

 

 

More on the “Magicke” of Green Technology

Deep Green Resistance understands that Green Technology, Renewable Energy and other similar terms/approaches are a false promise. They will not, and can not, deliver us from the devastation that industrial civilization is wreaking on the planet. We’ve posted that before on this forum (see The Deep Green Resistance Perspective)

But don’t take our word for it – stories of creative ecology has posted its own list of “Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy” which we re-post below.

As you read the list, you may be convinced that such magical thinking as relying on technology to save us from ecological collapse is whistling past the graveyard. We hope you do! Of course, such a conclusion begs the question, “So then what the hell do we do?”

Simple: Dismantle industrial civilization.

What’s wrong with renewable energy?

Posted June 25, 2014 by Kim in appropriate technology. 

burning-wind-turbine

 

Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy:

1. Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labour, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits. Renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure, as they are entirely dependent on it for their existence.

2. The majority of electricity that is generated by renewables is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries that are destroying the planet. Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of devastation. Living communities—forests, rivers, oceans—become dead commodities.

3. The aim of converting from conventional power generation to renewables is to maintain the very system that is killing the living world, killing us all, at a rate of 200 species per day. Taking carbon emissions out of the equation doesn’t make it sustainable. This system needs not to be sustained, but stopped.

4. Humans, and all living beings, get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive, and food and habitat for everyone are being sacrificed to feed it. Farmland and forests are being taken over, not just by the infrastructure itself, but by the mines, processing and waste dumping that it entails. Ensuring energy security for industry requires undermining energy security for living beings (that’s us).

5. Wind turbines and solar panels generate little, if any, net energy (energy returned on energy invested). The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal of these technologies is almost as much—or in some cases more than—they ever produce. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out. (Although this is really beside the point, as no matter how much energy they generate, it doesn’t justify the destruction of the living world.)

6. Renewable energy subsidies take taxpayer money and give it directly to corporations. Investing in renewables is highly profitable. General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi all profit from renewables, and invest these profits in their other business activities. When environmentalists accept the word of corporations on what is good for the environment, something has gone seriously wrong.

7. More renewables doesn’t mean less conventional power, or less carbon emissions. It just means more power is being generated overall. Very few coal and gas plants have been taken off line as a result of renewables.

8. Only 20% of energy used globally is in the form of electricity. The rest is oil and gas. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions (which it can’t), it would only reduce total emissions by 20%. And even that would have little impact, as the amount of energy being used globally is increasing exponentially.

9. Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20-30 years, then need to be disposed of and replaced. The production process, of extracting, polluting, and exploiting, is not something that happens once, but is continuous and expanding.

10. The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. This shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but an exercise in profiteering with no benefits for anyone other than the investors.

Edit 27 June:

Further Reading

http://theenergycollective.com/gail-tverberg/330446/ten-reasons-intermittent-renewables-wind-and-solar-pv-are-problem

http://thebulletin.org/myth-renewable-energy

http://docs.wind-watch.org/ProblemWithWind.pdf

Zehner, Ozzie, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism http://www.greenillusions.org/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html#ixzz32e4D227e

 

 

Green Technology and Renewable Energy: The Deep Green Resistance Perspective

Solar Power - Not SustainableFew topics generate more commentary on our page than critiques of alternative energy. For many, solar, wind, and other non-fossil energy sources and technologies represent a pragmatic hope for saving the biosphere. Our position on these technologies is that they represent a false hope for a couple of reasons. One: their manufacturing processes are fossil-fuel intensive and involve other nonrenewable resources like metals and plastics. Once built, solar panels and wind turbines have a limited life-span, after which they must be replaced. Two: even if they’re recycled, that process is itself toxic and energy-intensive, and must take place at specialized facilities, which means transportation, which means more fuels and infrastructure. Three: while in operation, both solar and wind facilities kill wildlife by displacement, collisions with turbines, burning in solar mirrors, and so on.

We’re not opposed to solutions to problems, as we’re often accused; only to solutions that have so many hidden costs they’re ultimately ineffective. Rather than prolong a system–industrialism–that cannot exist for long on a finite planet, our focus should instead be on a future that it actually sustainable, which by definition means one that eventually will not have artificial electricity in it. This future is coming one way or another; the only real question is how much of the living world will be left when it does. Ivanpah Destruction 3

Green Technology and Renewable Energy FAQs

Business and Government Continue Partnership to “Frack Over” Colorado

We don’t mean to be hyperbolic about the issue (in fact, that would be next to impossible), but the following editorial from the Boulder Daily Camera helps delineate how Colorado serves as another example of fascism. When government and industry work this closely together, there’s really no other way to describe the warm and cozy relationship.

Deep Green Resistance also notes with continued anger the assault on the rights of citizens to govern their localities, and serve as agents for their open landbase. We urge those who share this outrage to check out the possibilities offered by organizations such as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

 

Is Colorado’s fracking battle over?

Editorial: Is Colorado’s fracking battle over?
POSTED: 06/09/2015 08:00:00 PM MDT | UPDATED: ABOUT 14 HOURS AGO

Tiffany Taskey stands on a path just behind her family home in the Vista Ridge subdivision in Erie last fall with an Encana Corp. fracking well in the background. Encana closed down operations at the site after measurements showed noise levels that exceeded state-mandated levels. Encana said it would be back when it resolved its "low-frequency noise issues." Many residents said the well site was too close to their homes in any case. (Paul Aiken / Daily Camera)

Tiffany Taskey stands on a path just behind her family home in the Vista Ridge subdivision in Erie last fall with an Encana Corp. fracking well in the background. Encana closed down operations at the site after measurements showed noise levels that exceeded state-mandated levels. Encana said it would be back when it resolved its “low-frequency noise issues.” Many residents said the well site was too close to their homes in any case. (Paul Aiken / Daily Camera)

The national debate over hydraulic fracturing extends from one extreme to the other. New York state has banned the practice, while Texas recently passed a new law giving drillers carte blanche and local communities little recourse so long as a drilling site is “commercially reasonable.”

To listen to Gov. John Hickenlooper, the debate in Colorado is all but over, with the industry having won a Texas-style victory. At a joint appearance with Sen. Cory Gardner last month in Denver, Hickenlooper suggested fracking opponents no longer have the enthusiasm or support to put regulatory measures on the ballot, as they did a year ago before the governor brokered a last-minute deal to remove them.

“There will be proposals, but I don’t think there will be something that will be funded to any significant extent, and therefore I don’t expect something to get on the ballot,” Hickenlooper said, according to the Durango Herald.

Boulder Congressman Jared Polis, who backed the ballot proposals and then agreed to remove them a year ago, says it’s too early to say what might be proposed for the 2016 Colorado ballot.

“Given the pending Fort Collins and Longmont lawsuits that will hopefully confirm local authority to regulate fracking, and that we are 18 months out from the 2016 election, I can no more predict whether a ballot initiative is needed or would be viable in 2016 than I can predict who is going to win the World Series that year,” Polis told the Daily Camera. “But if the governor is clairvoyant, I’d love to schedule a trip to Vegas with him soon.”

Polis sees more uncertainty in the outcomes of the Fort Collins and Longmont appeals than we do. A Boulder County judge overturned Longmont’s fracking ban last July. A Larimer County judge overturned Fort Collins’ five-year fracking moratorium in August. Everywhere it has contested such community actions, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association has won, citing preemption by the state, which “fosters” oil and gas development by statute.

Until now, there has been an uneasy but delicate balance between the state’s ability to preempt local limits on fracking and the traditional right of localities to engage in land-use regulation. But if the alliance between the state government and the oil and gas industry prevails in the Longmont case, it could change all that. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, representing the state, and the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, representing the industry, are contending in that case that state law implicitly preempts all local regulation in this area. If the appellate court agrees, the COGCC would have “exclusive authority” to permit and regulate fracking.

The deal Hickenlooper brokered to get the fracking measures off last year’s ballot relied upon a task force to find a compromise. One member of that task force, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis, daughter of former Republican Gov. John Love, proposed that the legislature change the state’s official posture from fostering oil and gas development to administering it, making it less of an industry enabler and more of an impartial arbiter. Thirteen of 21 task force members supported that proposal, but that was one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to make it an official recommendation.

A cynic might contend that this is exactly the outcome Hickenlooper, a former geologist in the oil business, wanted all along. The citizen initiatives were removed from the ballot and no meaningful changes were imposed on the industry.

Last month, the state of New York issued a 2,000-page report, the result of six years of work, describing the concerns that underpin its fracking ban. It cited a lack of sufficient data on a host of fracking impacts, including air quality, climate change, drinking water, surface spills, earthquakes and community impacts such as traffic, road damage and noise.

While the industry claims, for example, that fracking fluid has never polluted underground drinking water, a study last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found chemicals used in fracking fluids in the drinking water of three Pennsylvania households. Methane was also detected in those families’ water. A powerful greenhouse gas, methane leakage rates into the atmosphere during fracking are only just now becoming the subject of serious study.

Fracking has been a boon to the Colorado economy and a major contributor toward meeting America’s goal of energy self-sufficiency. While we join many critics in looking forward to the day when clean energy takes over from fossil fuels, we recognize we are not there yet. But that does not mean that the state needs to be in bed with the industry it is supposed to be regulating. That’s never a good idea.

The political center of gravity in Colorado is nowhere near New York’s, but it’s a little troubling that Hickenlooper seems to want to push it toward Texas on this issue. The recent troubles in Erie illustrate the potential problems when oil drilling is located less than 1,000 feet from people’s homes. Common sense suggests local communities should have some control over such land-use issues.

Colorado has a history of greater concern for the environment and for local control than the governor seems to appreciate. If the industry wins from the courts the right of implicit state preemption in all matters relating to oil and gas development, we hope the governor’s declaration of surrender on behalf of those who would regulate fracking more stringently proves premature.

—Dave Krieger, for the editorial board. Email: kriegerd@dailycamera.com. Twitter: @DaveKrieger