Voters in several Colorado communities recently elected to ban or severely restrict hydraulic fracturing (fracking)—a process by which energy producers have vastly expanded production of natural gas and oil—in their areas. (Of course, these voters continue to power their homes and automobiles using energy produced by fracking.) An editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette explains why voters were wrong to do so.
“In the United States, voters have limited authority by design,” the Gazette explains:
Theories and concerns about potential dangers do not authorize majorities to violate fundamental protections of civil rights. . . . . Just as this country was founded to protect [rights to freedom of] religion and speech, it was founded to protect reasonable use of private property. The Fifth Amendment makes this clear. It prohibits governments and voters from depriving any individual of “property, without due process of law.” It says private property may not be taken for public use “without just compensation.”
Energy producers have a moral and constitutional right to operate on lands they own and contract to use for the purpose. Voters are wrong to violate that right.
Hopefully Colorado courts will overturn the popular vote in this case. In any case, kudos to the Gazette for making a principled argument in defense of frackers’ rights.
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Creative Commons Image: Maarten Heerlien