No bullying in debate on fracking

Civility, not bullying, should be the hallmark of our democracy. Unfortunately, concerns over hydraulic fracturing in Boulder County descended recently into shouting, harassment and threats aimed at someone who dared speak out in favor of the practice — and at elected officials.

The scene was played out in a meeting of the Boulder County Commissioners, as the board deliberated on what regulatory framework to put in place to address concerns about the practice, known as fracking.

Protesters initially took over the Dec. 4 hearing, forcing three elected county commissioners to retreat temporarily.

Wendy Wiedenbeck, community relations adviser for Encana Oil and Gas USA, later testified at the hearing about the company’s position on new fracking regulations. Wiedenbeck was repeatedly interrupted, subjected to disparaging comments and — worst of all — harassed and threatened as she and a colleague walked to a car.

The actions of some in the anti-fracking crowd prompted the commissioners to prepare a written statement and draft a security plan for future meetings.

“Suppressing alternative comments and shutting out voices through intimidation and fear is not part of the democratic process we hold dear,” the commissioners said in the statement.

We agree. Those who disrupt public meetings or threaten speakers should be ashamed of themselves, and we applaud the commissioners for taking steps to ensure civil discourse in the future. No one should be subjected to bullying tactics by those with whom they disagree. The protesters’ actions were intended to silence opposing voices, whereas respectful dialogue is what is needed in any democratic process.

Ironically, those who subjected the Encana official to such abuse made themselves the issue, diverting attention from legitimate issues raised by fracking itself. Those who resort to bullying do nothing but damage their own cause.

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