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Hate fuels Boulder fracking debate

Compare the look of a Boulder anti-fracking activist screaming at Encana employee Wendy Weidenbeck as she walks to her car to the 1957 photo of a woman screaming at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, as she walks alone into high school.

Compare the look of a Boulder anti-fracking activist screaming at Encana's Wendy Wiedenbeck as she leaves a public hearing to the 1957 photo of a white woman screaming at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, as she walks alone into the newly desegregated high school.

“The function of the Human Relations Commission is to foster mutual respect and understanding and to create an atmosphere conducive to the promotion of amicable relations among all members of the city’s community.” Boulder Human Relations Office

For a community with an “Office of Human Rights” and is home to a university with a multi-million dollar diversity department, Boulder was anything but an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance of diverse opinions during a December 4 public hearing on land use and hydraulic fracturing.

Newspaper (Denver Post, Daily Camera) accounts of what happened that night do not adequately convey how quickly events spiraled out of control, so much so that anti-fracking activists, including children, took over and forced Boulder County Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, and Will Toor from the room.

With the commissioners gone, a group of well-coached child activists, who call themselves “Earth Guardians,” took charge and chanted an anti-fracking rap, which the adults repeated in a cult-like manner.  Then the “Earth Guardians,” seated in chairs reserved for the county commissioners, symbolically voted to ban hydraulic fracturing.

This behavior wasn’t limited to a few rude attendees. Dozens of adults participated and encouraged the children’s inappropriate behavior. Paul Falkenberg of 23rd Studios posted a video of the chaos, which provides a more accurate portrayal of how the situation deteriorated at the start of the hearing.

After order was restored some 30 minutes later, the meeting proceeded. Wendy Wiedenbeck, community relations advisor for Encana Oil and Gas, provided testimony on her company’s position about possible new fracking regulations.  A man (presumably Falkenberg) taped Weidenbeck’s six minute testimony and can be heard interrupting her, which included a suggestion that the community “tar and feather your [Wiedenbeck’s] ass.”

As troubling as those incidents are, they pale in comparison to the treatment that Wiedenbeck and another female colleague endured after they left the hearing. The same man who taped Wiedenbeck’s public comments, along with several others, harassed and threatened the women as they walked back to their vehicle calling them “killers,” screaming that they are “poisoning our children,” and shouting at them to leave Boulder and never return because they aren’t welcome; they aren’t wanted. Fear is obvious on the face of the young blonde woman who walked with Wiedenbeck, but it did not deter the mob.

The angry anti-fracking gang menacingly reminded the women “we know your name,” and followed up with “this [harassment and threats] is a shadow what is to come.” Watch the video (begin at the 6:27 mark) to get the full impact of the unadulterated hatred these people demonstrated toward Wiedenbeck who was simply doing her job.

An interesting side note, research into 23rd Studios and Paul Falkenberg reveals he recently moved to Boulder from New York. His area code is from Manhattan, which is ironic since part of his strategy is to question where she lives, where her children go to school and to demonize Wiedenbeck assuming she isn’t part of “the community.”

This video conjures up the image of the iconic photo of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who bravely endured a “thicket of racism” when she walked alone into Little Rock High School on September 4, 1957. A photographer captured the hatred on a young white woman’s face as she screamed behind the black teenager.

Like the conduct of those white students in 1957, the behavior captured on these videos is meant to intimidate reasonable people into silence.  Who would want to risk that kind of treatment just to support fracking?

Even the Boulder County Commissioners recognized it for what it was – eco-left thugs trying to intimidate and silence any dissent. The next day, December 5, the commissioners issued this statement:

The Boulder County Board of Commissioners deeply disapproves of the conduct of certain individuals who came to disrupt the public hearing on proposed Land Use Code regulations for oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County last night.

As a county, we have a long history of respecting the First Amendment rights of all, and as a Board we greatly respect and appreciate the opinions and information which was brought forth at the hearing and for the respect and conduct of the majority of attendees once the hearing was underway.

The troubling activities last night included the disruption at the beginning of the hearing by a group of individuals intent on overpowering anyone in the room with an opinion different than their own; the jeering of a spokesperson from the oil and gas industry during her testimony – and mob harassment, cursing at and intimidation of the same representative and her colleagues as they left the building and walked several blocks to their cars; a bullying atmosphere in and around the hearing room; and outbursts of cheering for threatening rhetoric aimed at quashing opposing opinions.

Suppressing alternative comments and shutting out voices through intimidation and fear is not part of the democratic process we hold dear. As your publicly elected officials, we strive to create a safe environment for people of all opinions to come forward and provide input and feedback in our public hearings.

As we mentioned repeatedly during the hearing last night, we call upon residents to be considerate of all by allowing everyone’s voice to be heard in a respectful manner.

Last night’s efforts by a small segment of attendees to threaten and intimidate a speaker walking to her car was nothing short of shameful. Public hearings should create a space for everyone to feel comfortable to participate. Furthermore, any speaker should be able to attend and leave a public hearing free of threatening harassment.

As much as it pains us to do so, we will be creating a security plan for future hearings to ensure that everyone is made to feel welcome for taking the time to let his or her voice be heard. In the interest of helping to create this safe environment, the plan will entail the removal of individuals who elect not to participate in civil discourse and the prosecution of individuals who threaten the safety of other individuals.

From the perspective of the Independence Institute, hydraulic fracturing is a mature process and a safe and reliable way of extracting oil and natural gas that otherwise may not be recoverable. It is an economic and environmental blessing for Colorado and the nation. For more information, please read “Frack Attack: Cracking the Case Against Hydraulic Fracturing.”

While we support fracking, we also acknowledge that no energy resource is 100 percent risk free. But to suggest that the fracking process kills babies is so utterly absurd, it should be dismissed immediately and those making the claims should be discredited.  That isn’t likely to happen because people and the industry are afraid of the well-funded, angry so-called environmental groups. Critical thinking is the victim. The eco-left’s irresponsible verbal venom is killing any kind of reasonable public debate.

Boulder isn’t the only place this has happened. Just a few months ago Longmont anti-fracking activists swarmed Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper, a former geologist and fracking supporter, screaming “dirty water, dirty air, we get sick and you don’t care” and plastering signs on the windshield of his vehicle as he tried to leave a community event. Watch the video here. Now, there is an online petition to recall him.

The eco-left doesn’t want to compromise on regulations. After accepting more than $25 million to kill coal by advocating conversion of coal fired power plants to natural gas, groups like the Sierra Club now want to rid the U.S. of natural gas. Of course this isn’t even remotely possible and would be an economic and environmental disaster.

The time has come for reasonable people to stand up to eco-hate and intolerance. For those with the courage to show their support for fracking and find pleasure in irritating the extreme eco-left, email amy@i2i.org. The Independence Institute will send you a free “Mothers In Love with Fracking” T-shirt. Just pay $5 for shipping and handling. Wear it if you dare!

It's fashionable to show support for domestic energy production with a "Mothers In Love with Fracking" T-shirt from the Independence Institute.

It's fashionable to show support for domestic energy production with a "Mothers In Love with Fracking" T-shirt from the Independence Institute.