Fossil fuels took a licking in local elections in Colorado and Washington on Tuesday, as voters resoundingly said no to oil and gas fracking and coal exports.
In Washington state, the four progressive candidates for seats on the Whatcom County Council that will likely decide the fate of a controversial coal export terminal proposal were running well ahead Tuesday night. Incumbents Ken Mann and Carl Weimer, and challengers Rud Browne and Barry Buchanan were all backed by opponents of the coal terminal, including Washington Conservation Voters which spent nearly $300,000 on the progressive candidates’ campaigns.
Because the county council will vote in a quasi-judicial capacity on permits for the proposed terminal, candidates could not explicitly express their views on the facility that would have a capacity of exporting about 48 million tons of coal per year to Asia. The coal would originate in the Powder River Basin region of Wyoming and Montana. The proposed terminal near Bellingham, Washington, is one of three still being planned in Oregon and Washington.
In Colorado, three of the four communities grappling with the issue of oil and gas drilling and fracking easily adopted measures that would stop fracking for either five years or permanently. The cities of Fort Collins and Boulder passed five year moratoria on tracking, and the city of Lafayette passed a so-called community rights measure that bans fracking. In the community of Broomfield, the vote on a five year fracking moratorium was too close to call.
Also in Boulder, voters gave some momentum to a drive for the city to replace electric utility Xcel Energy with its own municipal utility. They defeated a measure supported by Xcel that would have required voter approval of any utility bond issue and instead approved a separate measure to limit the cost of buying Xcel’s facilities to $214 million.
In Ohio, voters defeated proposed fracking bans in two out of three municipal elections where so-called community bill of rights charter amendments were on the ballot. The measures were defeated in Youngstown and Bowling Green, but one in Oberlin was well ahead. An existing fracking ban adopted by the Bowling Green city council this fall will not be affected by the failure of the charter amendment.