Mock smoke swarmed the air around Court and 16th streets in downtown Denver on Saturday evening. Here, the annual Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Party fundraiser hosted members of the Party at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel.
The smoke rose above a mock fracking rig and represented the toxins that the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas puts into the atmosphere. This includes the methane that enters the air and is released during all phases of the fracking process and accounts for sometimes 87 times more pollution than the more commonly credited carbon dioxide receives for trapping greenhouses gasses in the atmosphere over a twenty-year period.
On the surrounding sidewalk community members displayed caricatures of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, Governor Hickenlooper, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Those rallying on the sidewalk said that all of those officials have failed them. The nametag on Governor Hickenlooper’s caricature read, “Hello, my name is Oil and Gas.”
Local residents from more than a dozen organizations urged elected officials to ban fracking, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and to move to a 100 percent renewable energy future. Other groups turned out to call for an end to camping bans that target the homeless and in support of a Right-to Rest bill and another to criticize Democrats for support of Israel and the military budget.
“Colorado, like so many other places in this country, knows first-hand the health, environmental, and climate impacts of fossil fuel extraction,” said Diana Best with Greenpeace US. “We are here because our next president needs to be a climate leader who will keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
Be the Change, 350 Colorado, 350 Fort Collins, Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Guardians, First Seven Design Labs, Flatirons Political Art, Food & Water Watch, Frack Free Colorado, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network made up the crowd who were wearing hazardous material suits with gas masks and respirators.
But not all participants were local. One participant who identified herself as Kay traveled three and a half miles from Coaldale, Colorado and said that she was disappointed in Senator Michael Bennet and Secretary Hillary Clinton as well.
It is estimated that 80% of the planet’s fossil fuels must stay in the ground to reach target warming goals that would subdue further catastrophic climate chaos. This figure includes US coal reserves as well as 100% of Arctic oil and gas that would need to remain in the ground.
“Climate leadership in today’s warming world requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “In the United States, ending federal fossil fuel leasing on our public lands and oceans is the natural place to start.”
Groups especially wanted to direct attention to Governor Hickenlooper whose administration has been accused of maintaining a close relationship with the oil and gas industry and who was heavily criticized by environmental groups for stacking his oil and gas task force with those with a financial interest in maintaining the status quo of the fossil fuel industry in the state, “Colorado has seen a massive expansion of oil & gas development under the Hickenlooper administration with over 53,000 active wells pockmarking the state; fracking is used to extract gas or oil from nearly all of these wells.”
Fracking on public land was the focus of a February 11, 2016 action outside of the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management in Lakewood. The regular sale of leases to the fossil fuel industry to mine for coal, drill for oil, and frack for natural gas is under scrutiny by the public due to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that these industries contribute to total emissions into the air on a national level. The push is to move elected officials to avoid emitting 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
“No matter who will be the next President of the United States, the people’s voice is clear that we need to make climate stability a priority and keep fossil fuels from our public lands in the ground,” said Ruth Breech with Rainforest Action Network. “It’s time to end the dirty energy companies rule on politics and our future.”