Dr. Chaps calls attack on pregnant woman a “curse of God upon America”

(A new low for Dr. Chaps – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE 3/27: Denver media offered near saturation coverage Thursday of the Klingenschmitt controversy, including multiple interviews with Klingenschmitt, who refused to apologize. On KOA radio’s morning news today, the state representative from Colorado Springs said:

“If you were offended because I quoted the Bible in church, I ask you to forgive me. But I will not apologize for quoting the Bible in church.”

Klingenschmitt was interviewed in the Capitol basement by Fox 31’s Eli Stokols, who reported that the Republican lawmaker was “adamant that what he says as a preacher on his Sunday morning program should be viewed separately from his work as an elected official.”

“I’ve said many times that I wear two hats; and on Sundays, I’m an ordained minister and I preach the gospel and I quote the bible,” [Klingenschmitt] said.

Klingenschmitt directed his own outrage at Hullinghorst and Democrats at the Capitol who have blocked personhood measures that, he argues, would afford adequate justice to Wilkins for the death of her unborn baby.

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports on bipartisan outrage over Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt’s latest ugly remarks–but no calls from fellow Republicans to resign.

Several leading Colorado Republicans lashed out Thursday against state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, saying his act-of-God comments about an attack on a pregnant woman whose baby was cut from her stomach were “disgusting” and “reprehensible.”

The lawmaker, who also is a minister, quoted the Bible in his “Pray In Jesus Name” program Wednesday and tried to link the crime to abortion…

“Gordon does not speak for his caucus,” said [Rep. Polly] Lawrence, the House assistant minority leader.

Steve House, the new chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, said Klingenschmitt under the First Amendment has the right to say what he wants but “he does not represent the Colorado Republican Party.”

Original post follows.

—–

You had the feeling it was just a matter of time until Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt said something, in his position as a lawmaker, that was so grotesque that it should be widely reported and thoroughly condemned. That time arrived today.

The progressive organization Right Wing Watch reported that Klingenschmitt said in an online video that the horrific attack on a pregnant woman March 18 in Longmont is a “curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

It’s a statement along the lines of Pat Robertson blaming abortion and gays for 9/11, and it has the effect of casting Republicans–not just Klingenschmitt–as being completely heartless and cold-hearted mean–unless they thoroughly denounce it. But will they?

Right Wing Watch reported this morning:

On his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today, Klingenschmitt discussed the story and tied it to a passage from Hosea in which God curses the people of Samaria for their rebellion by declaring that “their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.”

“I wonder if there is prophetic significance to America today in that scripture,” he said. “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open”

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 25)

We’re not going streaking! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The state Senate has approved a school vouchers bill that would also give tax credits to home-schoolers. FOX 31 News gives a brief rundown, with everything you need to understand about this bill wrapped up in one sentence:

As public schools continue to lose funding, many Republicans are now looking to subsidize parents who choose to send their kids to a private school or home-schooling.

That makes…no sense whatsoever. Even if Sen. Kevin Lundberg muscles this nonsense through the Senate, the grown-ups in the State House will almost certainly reject the idea.

► Reporters at the Colorado Springs Gazette could be fired for speaking out against a 4-part series in the Gazette that is little more than a long, extended, editorialized rant against voter-approved legal marijuana. The Colorado Springs Independent has been doing a good job following the controversy from various angles:

According to national media reporter Jim Romenesko, employees at the Colorado Springs Gazette are being told to sit down and shut up when it comes to its recent marijuana series, “Clearing the Haze,” which, as we reported, is plagued with ethical problems.

Learn more about this growing controversy (pun intended) from longtime Pols reader Zappatero.

► Congressional Republicans are nearing final votes on a budget plan that has no hope of becoming law, but they’re doing it anyway because otherwise they’d have to, you know, govern or something. National media outlets are calling this a “make-or-break” week for Republicans; the smart money is not on the “make” side.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Dems, Common Sense Score Small Victory

drivers-license

AP reports via the Fort Collins Coloradoan on the sort-of agreement between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to sort-of fund the existing program for driver licenses for undocumented immigrants on Colorado roadways:

A compromise to fund a Colorado program granting driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their legal status is heading to the governor’s desk…

The Senate gave unanimous approval to the deal Monday, sending it to Gov. John Hickenlooper. The House had already approved it.

The revenue department initially asked for $166,000 to keep open five offices that handle the licenses, and potentially expand the program. Lawmakers readjusted the request to $66,000, allowing for three offices to be open.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

The dispute over funding this program, in the end, was hurting Republicans politically more than it was helping them. After the Joint Budget Committee Republicans led by strident anti-immigrant Sen. Kent Lambert blocked the funding request for this program, the debate shifted from one of immigration policy to one of functional government. Because the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses was already on the books, and Republicans did not have the majority needed to repeal it, starving the program of funds was broadly condemned as improper and out of character for Colorado. By reducing the number of driver license offices that could process these applications to one for the entire state, an intentionally broken process would have resulted. Responsible lawmakers aren’t supposed to do that, even if it seems like the norm in Washington, D.C. these days.

So what you have here is a partial win for Democrats and immigrant rights groups, salvaging something like a functional program, and giving hope that the clear public safety benefits of licensing undocumented immigrants–with the attendant testing and insurance compliance requirements in order to drive legally–can still be achieved. Whoever it was among the Republican legislative leadership who decided to pull the plug on this ill-advised grandstand made a wise but belated decision.

Because it would be a lot better to do that before getting beat up in the press.

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 23)

Get More Smarter

Today is the nicest day of the work week weatherwise, so play hooky if you can! For the rest of us, it’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Ted Cruz is running for President.

► Colorado had the third-highest voter turnout in America in 2014, which means we are doing something right–unless you don’t want everybody to vote.

► Republicans in Congress have a nightmare of a week ahead. From the FOX News report we cited over the weekend:

Next week could very well break the U.S. House of Representatives.

Or, if things go well, the House Republican majority could score two of its biggest legislative victories in quite a while, demonstrating it can govern.

The stakes are high as the GOP plans to debate and approve a budget. It’s a two-step in which Republicans slash spending but maneuver parliamentarily to bolster defense programs, satisfying both fiscal conservatives and budget hawks.

Or, the effort could blow up in the Republicans’ face.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Don’t Discriminate Against the Elderly; Everyone Else is Fair Game

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters Woods

Freshman Senator Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada) is up for re-election in 2016, and that means Senate District 19 will be one of the most heavily-contested legislative races of the cycle. Republicans may wish they could get rid of her (and they might try), because she has been nothing short of her own negative advertisement during her first few months in the Senate. 

“We don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, so that is why they were excluded in this bill.”

— Sen. Laura Woods, speaking today on the Senate Floor in support of SB15-069

Senator Waters Woods was again on the Senate floor today speaking in favor of her “Right to Discriminate” legislation (SB15-069) that seeks to repeal anti-discrimination laws put on the books just a few years ago. Under existing law, employees have rights against discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry; Republican-aligned business interests have opposed these laws because they fear “frivolous lawsuits,” and Woods has been just the person to carry this leaking pail of water around the Capitol in 2015.

Woods wants to get rid of almost all of the anti-discrimination protections created in the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013,” but she has rendered her own arguments moot by insisting on one solitary exception. Woods believes that Colorado should only have anti-discrimination laws that protect the elderly, an absurd stance to take on an already ridiculous policy idea. As Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) said in a press release, “It doesn’t make sense. A 77 year old white man, like me, is protected under the bill still, but a 60 year old African American is not. Why?”

It’s not like this bill was a late addition to the calendar that caught some people off guard; Woods introduced this bill in January, and has been taking heavy blows in the media ever since. Did Senate Republicans not realize that Woods would be so vocal in her support of an exception for the elderly? Have they not been paying attention to the words that are coming out of her mouth? [Video after the jump]

The “Right to Discriminate” bill has one stop left on the Senate floor before it heads to the House for its official demise, which makes this whole thing that much weirder from a political and strategic perspective. Republicans don’t have the votes to get this bill to the Governor, so why not just kill it in a Senate committee before Woods can use it for self-harm? This is a bad bill, made worse by stupid arguments, all of which will undoubtedly come back to haunt Republicans in one of their most at-risk State Senate seats.

Watch the video after the jump…

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Gardner Gets Weasely On Crude Oil Exports

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

A news hit for Colorado’s junior Sen. Cory Gardner from the trade journal Hellenic Shipping News, a story titled Oil Producers Face Skeptical Congress in Drive to End Export Ban:

Coming into this year, it seemed that the time was right to overturn a ban on exporting U.S. crude oil: Republicans controlled Congress, production was nearing an all-time high and gasoline was falling toward $2 a gallon.

Despite a lobbying push by drillers, and steep job losses in the oil fields, there’s been no significant effort in Congress to lift the 40-year-old ban. Even the Senate’s top advocate for the idea hasn’t proposed legislation…

The reason for the go-slow approach is wariness among lawmakers that they’d be blamed if gasoline prices climb after the ban is lifted. And the oil industry itself is split, with some refiners, who benefit from low prices, opposed to lifting the ban. Oil produced domestically is selling for about $9 less than the global benchmark.

Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Sen. Gardner serves, held a hearing on the subject of lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Going into the hearing, Gardner was reportedly “undecided” about whether to support lifting the ban, but his reported comments certainly indicate where he’s leaning:

Two members of the panel, Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who often sides with Republicans on energy issues, and Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said they were still undecided on the issue.

Gardner said it may make sense to sense to send some of the light sweet crude produced from shale rock formations overseas, because U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast can better handle heavier crudes. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds pretty supportive to us! And an energy industry press release after yesterday’s hearing praises Gardner’s “insightful question” that teed up the industry’s argument perfectly:

“Colorado Senator Cory Gardner asked an insightful question yesterday about what happens if we don’t lift the ban,” said Eberhart. “We will have a glut of crude with nowhere to go.  Oil and gas companies will no longer have an incentive to keep producing, so we’ll start losing jobs. The current shale boom has helped create 1.7 million of them.”

Consumers are plowing their savings from cheap gasoline right back into the economy all around the country, helping boost economic growth. The full reasons for the current rock-bottom price of oil are more complicated than simply the “shale revolution,” most importantly the price war initiated by foreign oil producers intended to make North American shale production from “fracking” unprofitable. The industry wants a “price floor” to ensure their operations remain profitable, and the ability to export crude oil would raise prices at least by the difference between the American and global market price–and possibly much more, depending on what OPEC does.

And once the price of oil starts going up again as it surely will, American consumers would feel the pain even more. This is where politicians with the authority to decide these questions must face the hard reality of choosing between their oh-so friendly allies and donors in the energy industry…and the rest of the economy.

Gardner may pay lip service to being deliberative about this, but where he’ll land in the end is unfortunately a foregone conclusion.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 20)

Get More SmarterYour bracket isn’t busted; it’s just resting…for next year. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Everyone wants to know how construction costs for a new VA Hospital building in Aurora got so out of hand. Electa Draper of the Denver Post takes a look at the discussion.

► Republicans in Congress, federal budgets, and the “Magic Asterisk.” Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains why Republicans budgets are complete nonsense:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Congratulations–A Piddly TABOR Refund!

vacuum

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

Colorado taxpayers could be in for state tax refunds between $15 and $89 per person next year, depending on household income.

Those were the predictions from economists for the governor’s office and state legislature presented Wednesday to the state’s joint budget committee.

Colorado is collecting more and more tax revenue due to an improving economy…

In the minds of most Government 101-level citizens, an improving economy would ipso facto mean revenue to plow back into all the priorities the state needs to fund: health care, education, transportation, law enforcement. It would mean no more, or at least fewer quibbles about money to fund programs already on the books like driver licenses for undocumented residents, and properly funding the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for concealed-weapons background checks.

But in Colorado, with our 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights tying the hands of elected officials, that conventional wisdom is turned on its head. AP’s Ivan Moreno:

The state’s quarterly forecasts released Wednesday from legislative and governor’s office economists showed lawmakers they will have to refund anywhere from $70 million to $220 million in tax year 2016. Those refunds are triggered by the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which calls for refunds when revenue exceeds the combined rate of inflation and population growth…

Democrats have long blasted TABOR spending limits as restricting government’s ability to make investments in services, particularly when the economy rebounds after years of cuts during recessions…Republicans, meanwhile, favor TABOR and see it as a needed check on overzealous government spending during economic booms.

If you ask the average Colorado citizen what TABOR does, if they have an answer at all it will usually be limited to its most famous provision requiring votes on tax increases. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of a long, long iceberg. TABOR’s arbitrary limits on spending, restricted to the rates of inflation and population have made things even worse. The state has not fully restored the major cuts forced all over the budget during the recent recession–but without a statewide vote to allow “excess” funds to be retained and put to beneficial use, the benefit citizens naturally expect to realize from improving economy and government revenue is squandered.

Squandered so taxpayers can get a check for between $15 and $89. Yes, every dollar in your pocket counts. But the value of programs and services Coloradans rely on every day counts too, and in this case there is a strong argument that the personal benefit of properly funding our public institutions is worth more to a taxpayer than dinner at Chili’s.

Or at least it should be.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 19)

Get More SmarterWe don’t care what anybody says: Today is NOT the first day of the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Anyone got an extra $1.73 billion that they aren’t using? We may need it to finish the new VA Hospital in Denver that is actually in Aurora. Also, Rep. Mike Coffman is complaining again that other people aren’t doing stuff.

► Surprise! No, wait…what’s the opposite of surprise? Colorado doesn’t have much room in next year’s budget to fund things. It’s almost like we need a new source of revenue or something.

 ► We may not have much money in the state coffers, but at least we’re offering tax refunds! Thanks, TABOR: Destroying Colorado one ratchet effect at a time.

 ► But wait, The U.S. Senate will save the fiscal day! Oh, nevermind.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Step Right Up and WIN! This Boom will never Bust, Baby!

 (Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This Time Is Going to Be Different, Really…

 

“All that I am asking for is $10 gold dollars, and I can win it back with one good hand.  …I got no chance of losing, this time….”      The Loser, R. Hunter/J. Garcia

Colorado is about to lose thousands of jobs, again, as the latest boom and its promise of vast riches crashes into the reality of a volatile commodity market.  Again.

Like in the last bust in 2008 that hit the western Colorado gas fields, it was just months prior that the boosters, peddlers, hucksters and snakes, oil-salespeople were all saying this time would be different, this time we would ride the mineral riches to everlasting everything. 

Until we’re not.  Until the prices, in the most volatile of animal spirited commodities—fossil fuels, drop. Again.  And then Colorado is left holding the bag.  Again.

Last month there was an article about how poorly reclamation is happening, if at all, in Colorado’s oil and gas patch, a dry time in a dry land.

Sure the PR teams at shops popping up like mushrooms in the mountains after a monsoon, weave webs of spin to convince you, Colorado, otherwise. 

This time will be different.  Just like the last time would be different.  And the time before that. 

I love you, Colorado, I would never hurt you.

Again.

Of course Colorado is no stranger to the vagaries of volatility, in the boom and bust that is—in fact—the historical mark of the Mountain West.  

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GOP State Senator’s “like” of Facebook page doesn’t signify an endorsement of Thurlow recall effort

(Classy – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A Facebook page has emerged calling for the recall of Rep. Dan Thurlow, who’s voted against his caucus numerous times during the current legislative session, angering talk-radio hosts and their allies.

Among the 111 people who’ve liked the “Recall Dan Thurlow” page Colorado State Sen. Owen Hill. Thurlow and Hill are both Republicans.

I called Hill to find out if his “like” of the page meant he endorsed a recall of Thurlow, and he told me it doesn’t signify an endorsement of the effort.

“I like a lot of pages on Facebook to hear what’s going on,” Hill told me. “Facebook is a phenomenal way to keep track of information.”

“I’m concerned personally about many of his votes,” Hill added.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 18)

Get More SmarterOkay, Leprechauns, that’s enough. Go away now. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Long Bill is coming! The Long Bill is coming!

No, it’s not! But it will be! From the Denver Post:

The much-awaited introduction of the state budget bill may be delayed up to a week to give the Joint Budget Committee more time to answer pressing spending questions and adjust for the next fiscal forecast.

Senate President Bill Cadman and House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst — along with the chambers’ respective Republican and Democratic leaders — agreed to waive the March 23 legal deadline for the spending bill, known in legislative parlance as the long bill.

The new deadline is March 30, though it may get introduced sooner if budget writers finish their work faster. The remaining budget schedule — with final negotiations expected to end April 10 — are likely also delayed by a week.

► Governor John Hickenlooper supports SB-215, a school reform bill aimed at reducing student testing. As Fox 31’s Eli Stokols reports, Hick also made his position clear on prior reforms:

Hickenlooper sought to show broad consensus around reducing the number of assessments for students and teachers while maintaining high academic standards across the state.

He also drew a line in the sand on a related issue, implying that he would likely veto any measure that includes changes to the reforms passed under 2009’s Senate Bill 191 requiring that a teacher’s effectiveness by determined in large part by their students’ demonstrated achievement.

With the Republican senate president and Democratic Speaker of the House behind him, Hickenlooper called the education reforms adopted as a result of S.B. 191 “essential reforms.”

 Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights” Gets Euthanized Today

UPDATE: An amusing sidenote via Twitter, as posted by Rep. Patrick Neville, House sponsor of the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights.”

“Parent’s deserve rights?” It seems Rep. Neville is exempt too.

—–

Measles.

Measles.

AP via 7NEWS reports, a bill that was never going to pass, and has arguably damaged Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly much more than it ever helped them is set to die this afternoon in a Democratic-controlled House committee:

Democrats are expected Tuesday to kill a Republican bill giving parents broad authority over their children’s school curriculum and medical treatment…

Republican sponsors have called it a needed check on government. The bill passed the Senate last month.

But Democrats control the House and say the measure goes too far. It limits schools from providing non-emergency medical care without a parent’s permission. Democrats say that’s a recipe for hiding child abuse.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

As opponents testified at every stop during this bill’s trip through the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate, there are a huge number of excellent reasons to oppose the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” Advocates for children and organizations devoted to fighting child abuse argued that the legislation would make it harder for schools to intervene in abuse cases. Public health experts warned of disastrous consequences for important programs like the Colorado Healthy Kids Survey, an anonymous and already optional questionnaire regarded as critical for making informed decisions about a broad range of issues affecting young people.

But by far the biggest controversy with Senate Bill 15-077, and the one that caught the attention of local and national media, is the bill’s further easing of already-weak regulations in Colorado on the vaccination of school age children. With an epidemic of measles in California making national news, along with ongoing local outbreaks of whooping cough and controversy over Colorado’s last-place rank among the 50 states for vaccination of children, the Senate GOP caucus totally lost control over the optics of this bill–which morphed, despite the protestations of “moderates” like Ellen Roberts, into the “Anti-Vaxxer Bill of Rights.” And the fact is, Roberts and others who voted for this bill have no one to blame but their fellow Republicans, after Sens. Laura Waters Woods and Tim Neville contradicted with their own words Roberts’ insistence that this was “spun by the media” into an anti-vaccination debate.

We expect Roberts will not be overly saddened to see this bill die today despite her vote for it. But for Roberts and all of the Senate Republicans who voted with her, the damage is already done.

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Get More Smarter on St. Patrick’s Day

GMS-GreenGreen beer? Drink away. Green milk? Not so much. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado legislators are taking up the issue of police brutality today with a handful of bills, including increasing the number of body cameras.

► The so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights” (also known as the “No Rights for Children”) should finally meet its inevitable end today in the State House.

► Meet state Sen. Chris Holbert (R-Rich People Only).

 
Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Will Fracking cause the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

Probably not, but few any longer dispute that some activity related to fracking can induce earthquakes, despite years of industry pressure to deny the link.  But this is not about Frackquakes either. 

Not really. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management did try to lease the dam at the Paonia Reservoir once, and that gets closer to today’s update.  

For many it includes this perplexing fact: that oil and gas leasing on public lands starts with a whomever whim, nominated by no one really knows who, how, or why–and sometimes, maybe on a Friday afternoon when someone is not paying enough attention, something kind of crazy might slip through at the agency.  

The BLM did lease a cemetery for oil and gas drilling and fracking, according to a National Geographic article (sponsored—without intended irony, I presume—by Shell), published on its website today:  Fracking Next to a Cemetery? 10 Unlikely Sites Targeted for Drilling”:

Kanza Cemetery sits on a 320-acre expanse east of Colorado Springs offered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The rural graveyard, where more than a hundred people are buried, has been there for at least a century. Its land was leased for $26 an acre. 

The day started out like most others had before it, with Pa looking through the morning news and Ma off to collecting from the hens, when there was a knock on the weathered old farmhouse door…

Over cookies and lemonade at the Paynes’ home, a BLM representative informed them about the auction and its implications. She says they were assured that the graves would not be disturbed.

Drilling the Dead…

The leased cemetery and surrounding lands are among a number of places highlighted by the group Western Values Project in a new report “ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE: The Top Ten Most Shocking Places the Oil and Gas Industry is Trying to Lease and Drill.” 

It does seem that no where is off limits in the minds of some folks seeking their fracking fortune off the public’s domain.

The National Geographic article also notes, from the report, private ‘split estate’ lands in Wyoming where the landowners obtained a conservation easement to protect sage grouse among other species and resources, that the BLM has put on the auction block for oil and gas drilling at industry’s request.  

Indeed, oil and gas companies have been invited by the federal government to nominate public minerals under other people’s private lands, even those with conservation easements, and among the ranches and farmlands of the West for years.  

The local community had to fight back to stop the leasing of the orchards and irrigation works of Colorado’s North Fork Valley.  The agricultural lands there are the result of a century of back-breaking hard labor, first by Homesteaders then by generations, and decades of federal projects and millions in expenditures along the way.  (Thanks Wayne Aspinall!). 

Then there are the historical sites, and not insignificant ones: even the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site was nominated for oil and gas drilling.  BLM, thankfully, did catch that one before it went to sale.   

And industry has repeatedly nominated lands in the South Park area, including a large amount of Denver’s water supply.

There Interior Department reforms, that the BLM has begun to implement, have led to the agency agreeing to complete a Master Leasing Plan that hopefully will provide stronger guidance on which areas should be off limits to oil and gas development.  And in the North Fork Valley the BLM has agreed to consider a community-based set of management recommendations for the valley as it updates its resource management plan for the area. 

But industry remains, it appears, feeling entitled.  In Utah it has set off to achieve a new type of visual impact by taking on the art community, which is noted in the Western Values Project report.

This, in particular, seems to have attracted the ire of the grumpy-sounding Big Oil lobby spokesperson in the National Geographic article:

“A single artist determining that her work requires ‘an unimpeded view to the horizon’ does not automatically trump the public’s right to the energy it owns beneath the land,” [Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance] says.

An interesting comment from a single industry that often behaves as if its interests trump the public’s in deciding where oil and gas development is appropriate. 

To that question it usually appears it has one answer: any where and everywhere. 

The oil and gas industry, it seems, does not see problems with leasing around organic orchards; in towns or city water supplies; atop sacred historical sites and on consecrated ground; the minerals from beneath another’s own private lands, even those under a conservation easement; in sage grouse or other sensitive habitat, or even amidst art installations.

No, fracking probably won’t cause the Zombie Apocalypse.  But there seems something unholy about letting the oil and gas industry be the one to call the shots about the public’s resources and lands.

Decisions about which of America’s shared places and publicly-owned resources should be subject to leasing for drilling, fracking and industrial development, and which ought not to be, should be shared decisions and not simply left up to industry to propose, decided behind a cloak of secrecy away from public oversight.

The BLM has taken important steps to making improvements in this process.  But it still has a ways to go.  Shining more sunlight into BLM oil and gas nominations (which the agency has now specifically re-designed its process to avoid) and strengthening the public’s ability to have truly meaningful input into where, when, and how this activity occurs, remain largely in the realm of aspiration. 

This is reform that the agency needs to stick with and complete. Because an informed and engaged public remains the best defense against bad policy. And Zombies.