Factions Clash as Council Tables Ordinance Legalizing Anti-Hydraulic-Fracturing Civil Disobedience

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The City Council of Lafayette, Colorado, on 17 January voted to table an anti-hydraulic-fracturing ordinance that could impede oil and gas development within Lafayette through sanctioning acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest.

Golfers play a round at the Vista Ridge Golf Club with a drilling rig in the background in Erie, Colorado, in 2014. Lafayette, Colorado, leaders tabled an ordinance that would sanction nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience against hydraulic fracturing operations. Credit: Daily Camera file photo.
Golfers play a round at the Vista Ridge Golf Club with a drilling rig in the background in Erie, Colorado, in 2014. Lafayette, Colorado, leaders tabled an ordinance that would sanction nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience against hydraulic fracturing operations. Credit: Daily Camera file photo.

The decision, which was stalled on first reading to an unknown future date because of a lack of council members in attendance, came in front of an emotional and unwavering standing-room-only crowd that battled for nearly 3 hours of public comment over the future of hydraulic fracturing within Lafayette.

“We are not afraid of you—none of these people out there are afraid of you,” Cliff Willmeng, of East Boulder County United—the group that drafted the “Climate Bill of Rights and Protections”—said to representatives of Colorado Oil and Gas amid a chorus of cheers.

“We can’t avoid this fight,” he added. “It’s in our living room right now. It’s not one of those times in history where being afraid is going to help you.”

Coming just  2 years after a Boulder District Court judge tossed out the town’s voter-approved hydraulic fracturing ban, the 17 January decision delays driving a further wedge between the city and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—once plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the community’s voter-backed hydraulic fracturing ban.

“With every fiber of my being, I appeal to you to please pass this climate bill,” Louisville resident Paul Bassis said. “Do it for your children, for our children, for the future. You have the opportunity to not just stand on the right side of history, but you can make history.”

The virtually unprecedented ordinance—a similar bill passed last year in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, the country’s first and only case, offering Lafayette leaders the sole successful legal model—would essentially legalize acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action protest and would offer unparalleled immunity from arrest or detainment.

“It’s time to throw off the yoke of tyranny,” resident Stephanie Small said. “If the laws are unjust, we must disobey and change them. There are hundreds of us now, but soon there will be thousands.

“You will have to decide if you will be protecting or arresting us,” she added.

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