There has traditionally been a delicate political balance between urban and rural interests in Colorado government and policy. That changed radically after the redistricting of the Colorado legislature when the urban-centric Colorado Supreme Court chose the map that most favored the Democrats.
The new map changed the shape of many “rural” districts so they reached just enough into urban areas to give a clear election advantage to progressives. And the war on rural Colorado began. More farming and ranching restrictions, the most stringent regulations on oil and gas in the country and the legal demonizing of coal hurt rural life, businesses and displaced communities.
The anger in rural Colorado boiled over when the state Democrats passed Michael Bloomberg-sponsored laws in 2013 restricting Second Amendment civil rights. Not only did it result in the historic recall of two state senators (and the resignation of a third before she was recalled) it sparked talk of seceding from Colorado.
The proposed new 51st state of “North Colorado” made national news and snickers. A few counties even held elections on the idea, but it didn’t fly. The new gun control laws were unpalatable and antagonistic but not enough for voters to cut ties with their home state.
That was then. This is now.
Senate Bill 181, as currently written, will re-ignite the northern Colorado freedom movement.
SB 181 takes our current oil and gas regulations, you know the ones that are already the strictest in the country, and squeezes them into a knot. A noose around Weld County, more precisely.
Weld County has the second highest property valuations in the state, right behind Denver. And it’s oil and gas development, not farmland, that makes it so. It’s the lifeblood of Weld.
SB 181 is an existential threat to Weld County. We’re not talking “existential threat” in that vague, macro-level, romantic way the Boulder mafia running Colorado’s government talks about global climate change. We’re talking about the direct and vicious economic destruction of the key energy-producing county of our state.
It’s one thing to have a thought experiment over seceding from Colorado over hateful gun laws. But when it becomes the only way to keep your home, feed your family, fund your schools, police and fire protection, the fight for secession becomes very real. And for the deep-pocketed industry, it becomes cheaper than fighting the constant anti-energy onslaught.
Yes, this is when we’re told SB 181 won’t shut down oil and gas. Well then someone needs to convince the people I know who live in Weld who are considering selling their homes and moving before SB-181 makes it too late.
It’s also worth noting that the sponsor of the bill, Boulderite Sen. Steve Fenberg, has stated he wants to end to the oil extraction industry in Colorado. If 181 doesn’t do it completely, it’s a massive step to the Boulder mafia’s final solution.
If the urban-centric control of Colorado doesn’t change, the end of oil and gas is just a matter of time. People outside the metro bubble are starting to realize it. And secession is attractive to more than just Weld.
A quick study of the 2016 election results shows there are 25 contiguous counties to Weld running up and down eastern Colorado that voted 55 percent or more for Trump, including El Paso and Douglas. These people feel the cultural and economic hostility toward them.
This energy-friendly land mass would make a sizable state of its own or it could have five bordering states vying to welcome them. I’m not calling for secession. I’m telling you the calls for it will turn from an easy-to-ridicule few to a chorus of the displaced.
Of course, like the capitol district in the dystopian Hunger Games movies, the progressive power structure of the Denver-Boulder would fight to keep them subjugated, and not allow them to be free, despite their repulsion of the rural, Trump-voting rubes. If for no other reason they’d never let an electoral vote slip from their grasp.
In the final irony of the bloated, consultant-laden, political stupidity of the oil and gas industry they would finance the secession effort as a matter of survival. When they do, they’ll quickly realize the new requirement that any change to the Colorado constitutional take a 55 percent super-majority vote at the ballot box could stop them. The industry paid to make that super-majority requirement reality. And it could turn out to be the reason they can’t escape their destruction.
It’d be funny and oil and gas would deserve the ironic poetry if only it didn’t destroy hundreds of thousands of lives.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.