Colorado Fracking: To Frack or Not to Frack?

Colorado is debating two bills on fracking. Though they’re on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, they both deal with the increasingly local nature of the fracking battle in the state. One – the Right to Local Self Government Act – would give local governments the right to ban any corporate activity they see fit, with an emphasis on fracking. The other would limit revenues from fracking to areas of the state which banned the practice.

The Colorado Community Rights Network hopes to get the Right to Local Self Government Act on this year’s ballot. It would be a Constitutional Amendment. The attempt comes not too long after multiple municipal fracking bans were shot down by Governor John Hickenlooper. In the wake of Hickenlooper’s lawsuits, many emphasized the right that cities and local areas should have to govern themselves, and in many ways this is the case.

Currently severance tax money is collected on the production of oil and natural gas in Colorado and is distributed to local governments statewide. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), sponsored HB 1064 which would direct a higher percentage of severance tax funds to communities that help provide for the energy needs of the state and limit revenues to communities that bans fracking.

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Opponents say that the threat of limiting revenue to cities that ban fracking is not fair. But proponents of the bill, believe that allowing cities which bans fracking to use funds from severance taxes is not fair. It is essentially allowing government bodies to tax businesses operating in other areas, ostensibly to fix environmental damage caused by those companies. That’s a detrimental precedent to set, especially in an age of highly politicized environmentalism.

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Allowing municipalities to tax businesses in other areas has also been a major debate recently. The Internet Marketplace Fairness Act, passed by the Senate in 2013, allows cities and states to tax online purchases made by their citizens. This is another example of local governments being able to tax businesses not in their jurisdictions, an unprecedented violation of local and community rights.

Fracking isn’t just an environmental issue, and it’s not just an economic, political, security or independence issue. In many ways it is a battleground which will determine how industry must operate in the future. Environmental concerns are becoming more and more politicized, and fracking is both immensely profitable and very controversial. It will shape the future of business and government in this country.

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