Colorado fracking activists get a nudge (and cash) from MoveOn

The national debate over fracking may be unfolding in the halls of Congress, but the battle over where oil and gas drilling takes place is being waged at the grassroots level -- which is why the liberal advocacy group has announced plans to funnel money, training and "strategic support" to a hundred community activists across the country.

Half a dozen of those activists are working in Colorado. As last fall's flurry of ballot measures banning fracking in four Front Range cities demonstrated, the state has become a hot zone in the energy wars.

MoveOn chose to support only one "Fracking Fighter" in Wyoming, one in Utah, one in Idaho, two in Montana and three in New Mexico. The larger Colorado contingent is one indication of how much more fractious the effort to use the hydraulic fracturing process has been here -- not just in hotbeds of environmental activism like Boulder and Paonia, but in middlebrow suburbia, too.

The local fractivists recognized by the group include Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs, an "Alison G." of Paonia (who bears a strong resemblance to champion skier turned farmer Alison Gannett), Emma Bray and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Englewood (and the groups Earth Guardians and Kids Against Fracking), Joseph Edes of La Veta, and Laura Fronckiewicz of the group Our Broomfield. Broomfield's moratorium on fracking passed by a mere seventeen votes, and twenty on recount -- but that decision is now under further review after a box of uncounted ballots turned up this week.

MoveOn has pledged to inject $50,000 into its honorees' campaigns. That works out to $500 each, hardly a towering sum compared to the millions the gas industry has pumped into fighting local fracking bans, including the dough spent by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (close to $900,000, at last count) in an effort to defeat the four Colorado measures last fall. But, as the results of those elections suggest and the activists insist, there's more to the fracking debate than money.

More from our Environment archive circa December 2013: "Jared Polis to fracking industry: 'You can't sue the whole state.'"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast