By Vincent Carroll
Denver Post Columnist
“It really started almost immediately when we entered the building,” Wendy Wiedenbeck said of the intimidation she encountered at a meeting of the Boulder County commission Tuesday.
“It was very obvious that it was going to be a tough night … ,” she added. “People were trying to block us as we walked through hallways.”
Wiedenbeck’s offense? As a representative of Encana Oil & Gas, she was there to provide the company’s perspective on proposed new regulations governing energy drilling — a perspective that some anti-fracking activists believe must be suppressed.
When her moment arrived, Wiedenbeck was granted six minutes for testimony, and was heckled intermittently throughout. But she was not surprised. “This behavior is allowed over and over again,” she said. What did surprise her — unnerve her, really — is what happened next (part of which can be seen on a 9News report).
“I had asked someone with me to contact security officers to walk with us to the car just as a precaution,” she said, and as soon as the guards and two Encana employees, both women, left the building they were “bombarded with individuals screaming and video cameras in our face. It was a level of name-calling [‘killers,’ for example] and intimidation I’ve never experienced before.”
And that’s saying something, since she experienced tense situations during work in Pennsylvania involving energy development. Yet that “pales in comparison with what I experienced Tuesday evening,” she said.
When they reached her companion’s car, Wiedenbeck hopped in, too, “because I was concerned if we split that one of us would be in physical danger.” Yet the ordeal continued. When they stopped the car after a short distance to collect their wits, an SUV pulled “just ahead of our car and essentially blocked us in” while a foe of hydraulic fracturing ran up behind them. After their car backed up to avoid the SUV, the screaming thug began to pound on their vehicle.
Eventually seeking refuge in a distant parking lot, they called 911 and secured a police escort to retrieve Wiedenbeck’s car and drive from the area.
The vanguard of the anti-fracking movement needs to look in the mirror. In their crusade to demonize fracking, they’ve become wildly self-righteous, as if they were battling a great and true evil instead of an ubiquitous extraction technique that may deserve additional regulation in populated areas but which has meanwhile been a boon to consumers and businesses alike.
Commissioner Will Toor told me he hasn’t seen anything like what happened Tuesday in years. “Typically we don’t have police at public meetings, but now we will,” he said, marking another sad capitulation to the brutishly uncivil among us. “Our fundamental concern,” he added, “is that we want everyone in any public process to feel comfortable expressing a point of view.”
If you opposed a fracking ban in Boulder, would you dare testify? Not unless you enjoyed abuse. Why, a few months ago fracking foes even hectored Gov. John Hickenlooper after he left a meeting in Longmont.
To get a sense of how divorced from reality some fracking foes are, consider the words of one quoted in the Daily Camera.
Jeff Thompson, the Camera said, “compared Boulder County officials’ stated position — that they’ll adopt the strictest local drilling rules possible under Colorado law — to what it would have been like if Nazi Adolf Eichmann had said: ‘I did everything I could within the law to protect the Jews.’ ”
This isn’t just obnoxious rhetoric. It’s obscene.
It’s also ironic, of course, since the only brownshirts in evidence in Boulder’s recent drama over fracking were the goons intent on muzzling opponents.
The Denver Post: Carroll: The anti-fracking goons in Boulder