Big Money Doesn't Always Win: Fracking Bans, No Coal Exports

Following up on our article, Key Votes to Watch: Climate, Fracking, Coal Exports, here are the results from the 2013 election.

Fracking Votes in Colorado

There’s great news from Colorado, where three of four cities voting on fracking moratoriums approved them.

Most importantly, Lafayette voters passed a Community Bill of Rights, which permanently bans oil and gas drilling. It also prohibits corporations from storing or transporting chemicals, water or any byproduct of drilling in the city. It bans any infrastructure that facilitates the extraction of oil, gas or nuclear, and bans any extraction of city water for those purposes. 

Voters in Fort Collins and Boulder passed five year moratoriums on fracking with strong margins. The vote is being recounted in Broomfield where there is just a 17 vote spread in favor of a moratorium.

Proponents were outspent 40-1, with the oil and gas industry pouring in a whopping $900,000 in contrast to $26,000 raised by activists.

Community Bill of Rights were also on the ballet in three cities in Ohio. It passed in Oberlin, but were voted down in Youngstown and Bowling Green.

Coal Exports in Washington State

Here too, fossil fuel interests took a licking.

All four progressive candidates for Whatcom County Council won. They are all against issuing the permit needed to build a coal export terminal. 

The race was the most expensive ever for this tiny county of 200,000 people. The environmental community spent about $1 million!

The $600 million coal terminal is one of three planned in Oregon and Washington.

Tar Sands Referendum, Portland, Maine

This important referendum lost by only 192 votes and would have passed easily if not for big oil’s money.

If the referendum passed, it would have permanently blocked exports of tar sands oil from Portland’s harbor, effectively blocking the route through Maine.

The proposal would have amended Portland’s code so that a terminal to store, process and export tar sands oil could not be built.

The Petroleum Institute was a major contributor to the $600,000 to defeat the referendum. Grassroots activists raised just $42,000.

As is often the case, people strongly favored the proposition until opponents framed the debate around misinformation – the "huge" economic and job losses that would result. 

But activists say they will be back with a second referendum and the head of Portland’s city council says he will work with them to pass a law that would block tar sands exports. We will keep you updated on what ensues.

Here’s the background.

GMO Food Labels in Washington State

Since Washington requires mailed-in ballots, only 60% of the vote has been counted, but as of now, this referendum also lost, 54.8% to 45.2%. 

Had it passed, Washington would have been the first state to require labels on food that contains GMO, breaking through the logjam of threats of lawsuits from Monsanto in particular. 

Just two months ago, polls showed that two-thirds of voters favored the GMO labeling proposal, but that changed once big money started rolling in. Opponents ended up spending triple that of GMO activists.

"Win or lose, this is a long war, and labeling is inevitable,"  David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, told Seattle Times. Dr. Bronner’s was the biggest donor for GMO labels, contributing $1.7 million.

Here’s the background.

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