‘Gasland’ Filmmaker Josh Fox Calls Out Polis, Calls For Fracking Ban In Colorado
Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox challenged U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’s position on a proposed Colorado ballot measure at a one-man stage play in the Congressman’s own backyard Tuesday.
Fox was in Boulder, Colo. to perform his new solo spoken documentary “The Truth Has Changed” at the eTown Hall venue before a crowd of about one hundred attendees. Fox was also stumping in Colorado for Proposition 112, a 2,500-foot setback measure backed by Colorado Rising, a supporting co-host for the show. The group was recruiting volunteers and asking for donations from attendees to support the ballot measure.
Polis, who is battling Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton for the governor’s office in November, has opposed Proposition 112, saying the measure “would all but ban fracking in Colorado” at an August event hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Polis added that Initiative 97—now known as Proposition 112—was a “wrong solution” for the state and that he opposed the measure and the “divisiveness” it brought with it.
Fox, who lives in Pennsylvania and is on a national tour promoting his new book, explored his conception of “truth” throughout the show, having been prompted by a question from an audience member when he toured with his 2010 film, Gasland, several years earlier. Fox explained that part of his show was pushback against the debunking his film received following its controversial release, and had strong words for those who criticized his film and activism.
“[T]here’s a seething, percolating rage that’s been drummed up. You know that type of Tea Party, white, down and out, heavily armed, mildly or overtly racist, confederate flag waving, proud of ignorance that kind of thing. Not exactly my best friends,” Fox said.
But as Fox closed the show, he turned back to the ballot issue, and called out Polis by name.
“Truth. Truth. Wait, before you sit down we gotta do something right now. We’ve got to take a photo of this whole audience, right—fists or peace signs up in the air—and I think we ought to tweet that out to Jared Polis, what do you think?”
“And say, you know, we know you supported setbacks of 2,000 feet. How is 2,500 [feet] not good?” Fox said, referring to Proposition 112’s ballot language, and Polis’s financial backing of a 2,000-foot setback measure in 2014 that he ultimately pulled at the 11th hour in exchange for a blue-ribbon commission on oil and gas development. Democrats that year feared the Polis-backed anti-fracking measures would “break” the party.
Fox, the celebrity activist and former Polis ally, had questioned Polis’s policy decisions before, after Polis pulled his measures in 2014. Polis had hosted a Capitol Hill press conference for Fox in 2011.
Fox wanted to send Polis a message with his tweet.
“Let’s do this! Let’s ban fracking in Colorado!” Fox exclaimed.
Fox followed through with the promise of the tweeted photo.
“Hey @jaredpolis– These great folks in Boulder last night at THE TRUTH HAS CHANGED want you to support the truth and vote yes on the fracking #proposition112 to keep our kids safe! #frackingharms. @RepJaredPolis @ColoradoRising @OurRevolution,” wrote Fox.
Polis “liked” the tweet.
Arn Menconi, who came up short as a Democratic primary candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in 2018 and ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 as a Green Party candidate, attended the show and tweeted that Fox’s performance “is absolutely brilliant,” and that the activist was “here to say vote YES on 112.”
Fox’s appearance to rally the proponents of Proposition 112 came the same day as Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock issued a statement in opposition to the setback. Hancock called the measure “too extreme for Colorado.”
“Proposition 112 will irreparably harm Colorado’s economy,” Hancock said. “There are better ways to protect the health and safety of our communities while keeping our state’s economy strong, and I hope the next Governor and Legislature find a path forward with real solutions that protect our environment and support jobs and our communities.”
One week earlier, the Weld County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to oppose Proposition 112, calling it a “dumb idea” and a “de facto ban” on future oil and gas development.
“[O]ut-of-state environmental activist groups are leading a campaign to ban oil and natural gas development in Colorado, showing a total disregard for the devastating economic impacts they will leave behind if they succeed, and Proposition 112 (“Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development”) is a one-size-fits-all, blunt instrument that would create a de facto ban on oil and gas production, even in communities that embrace responsible energy development, showing that the proponents of the Proposed Initiative do not support local control as they claim,” the resolution read in part.
In the past few weeks, several communities have voiced their opposition to the proposed increased setbacks.
The City Council of Thornton also voted to oppose the measure, 7-2, calling it “too extreme.”
Johnstown Mayor Scott James and several other Weld County mayors have formed a coalition called Mayors Against Proposition 112 (MAP).
I got mad just thinking about Proposition 112,” James said. “I’m a mayor. I can do something about this.”
Mayors from Greeley, Milliken, Windsor, and Eaton quickly joined, bringing the total to 14 mayors within the first week.
Weld County is the prime target for setback regulation, as it is the state’s top oil producing county at roughly 90 percent, and the state’s top natural gas producer, with approximately 40 percent of the state’s output. Approximately 85 percent of the county’s non-federal land surface area would be placed out of reach should Colorado pass the extended buffer zone language.
Polis is not the only top-ranked Democrat to oppose Proposition 112. Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar have also opposed the measure, as did several Democratic legislators, like State Sen. Angela Williams, from Denver.
“A twenty-five-hundred-foot setback is going to have an economic impact on this state that we at the legislature don’t have the money to backfill,” Williams said, adding the measure “goes too far.”
Only the Colorado Democratic Party’s executive committee and House Majority Leader, State Rep. K.C. Becker, have endorsed the setback so far. Becker is expected to become the Speaker of the House should Democrats retain control of the state’s lower chamber in 2019.