Saturday’s Push Back the Frack Rally at the Capitol

Isaac Furtney – 350 Colorado Fall Intern

Over 150 environment and public health advocates came together at the State Capitol building Saturday afternoon to support Proposition 112 for Safer Setbacks, and the Martinez v COGCC case that will be heard Tuesday in the Colorado Supreme Court. Six speakers took the stage on the Capitol steps on a beautiful sunny day to share their stories.

Marlow Baines, Regional Director for Earth Guardians, gave a compelling speech full of calls to action and explained the environmental racism involved in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Next, twelve-year-old Haven Coleman, lead organizer of the Denver Zero Hour Rally, took the stage and bolstered the morale of the group, proclaiming, “Healing is an act of resistance.” She highlighted the fact that actions such as Proposition 112 and its supporters have the fossil fuel industry “super scared.” House District 31 Representative Joe Salazar spoke about the threat oil and gas development poses to his constituents, the ways which they are fighting back and slammed his colleagues in the Colorado Congress for their allegiance to the oil and gas industry. “I’ve learned a little bit about what happens here at the State Capitol, and frankly, what doesn’t happen here at the State Capitol such as passing good regulations to keep oil and gas away from our homes, away from our water sources, and away from our schools”, said Salazar.  

Perhaps the most moving speech of the afternoon came from a mother and former Erie resident named Katherine, who brought her one-year-old and three-year-old along with her. She painted a picture of moving to Erie, where they had planned to raise their children, but soon became inundated by oil and gas operations. This, in turn, elevated the level of Volatile Organic Compounds in her family’s blood to dangerous levels–the 75th and 95th percentiles of the national average for ethylbenzene and benzene–and caused them all to become perpetually ill. Eventually, the family was forced to move out of Erie. “I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert in any capacity, but these are the things I know. I know that no parent would feel okay seeing these cancer-causing toxins in their child’s bloodstream. I know that every parent should be fighting for the health of their children and for their children to have clean air and clean water…people should not be forced to be guinea pigs,” said Katerine.

Next was a musical interlude performed by Tierro Lee of Elephant Revival and the Tierro Lee Band on acoustic guitar and Bridget Law on the violin. Thomas Lopez, of the International Indigenous Youth Council, who championed the work that the youth have done in Standing Rock and beyond to protect the Earth. He represented the native perspective on the struggle for environmental justice. He summarized the colonial mindset of, “we’re gonna take what we want, regardless of who’s already there. It doesn’t matter, because we want it. We have more than they do and we will take it.”

Nick Thomas, an independent candidate for Colorado’s Second Congressional District, remarked that we must push their candidates, representatives, senators and other elected officials to endorse Proposition 112. A Bella Romero Academy of Greeley mother Tricia Nelson encouraged people to canvass and phone bank for 112, illustrating that “You [are] 3-5 times more likely to have someone vote in your favor when you make that physical contact [at their door].”

Megan Meyer, also a mother from Greeley, provided empirical facts about the oil and gas industry as it affects her community. She pointed out Weld County, the “oil and gas capital of the state,” has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Colorado. She explained that “countless studies have correlated air pollution to premature birth,” which is one of the three primary causes of infant deaths along with low birth weight and congenital anomalies. She stated that low-income and Latino community members are particularly affected by this phenomenon, including a close friend of hers who lost a child. She reported that the American Lung Association has given Weld County an “F” rating for air quality. Finally, a young man named Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the Earth Guardians Youth Director and a plaintiff in the Colorado Supreme Court Martinez case against the COGCC for not fulfilling its mission of protecting public health and safety, spoke and rapped heartfully about his case and the fight for climate justice in general.

The event concluded with a canvassing session in the Capitol Hill region of Denver and inspired activists to continue the final push over the next few weeks to pass Proposition 112 for safer setbacks for oil and gas development in Colorado.

Here is a link to the live-recorded video of the event: