Note: This is the 2nd in a series of posts designed to put the most flagrant bad actors on notice. We’re telling those members of Congress, oil and gas industry representatives and public and elected officials who consistently and deliberately mislead and misrepresent Westerners and our values that we’re watching. Oil and gas development is an important part of the Western economy, but all Westerners deserve a voice in how their lands are used. The Western Values Project is committed to telling the story of these bad actors, setting the record straight and giving voice to Western values.
Read part 1 here.
Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED)
Sometime early in September, a new industry front group popped up in Colorado. Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) launched with a series of radio ads that purported to “inform” the public about the practices of oil and gas development. What Coloradans actually need is an industry willing to own up to its mistakes when they’re made.
The Denver Business Journal reported Anadarko and Noble Energy support CRED, which claims it was created to “educate the public on the safe, environmentally responsible energy development practices of the oil and natural gas industry.” But they don’t pass the smell test. In fact, their spokesman Jon Haubert also works for the Western Energy Alliance (we profiled the misdeeds of Western Energy Alliance’s own Kathleen Sgamma last week).
CRED presents themselves as an organization founded to educate Coloradans on their responsible practices. But just this year the Denver Post reported in June, that 179 spills had already happened in Colorado. In one of the most well known spills in Parachute Creek, industry officials didn’t notify the state until more than 90 days later.
In the same month as that spill, Colorado officials approved groundwater rules that were criticized as “the weakest program in the nation.” Even Colorado’s own Gov. John Hickenlooper cut an ad for industry in 2012, claiming that since 2008, “we have not had once instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.” It turns out that in 2012, twenty percent of all spills resulted in groundwater contamination.
Unfortunately for CRED, it’s hard to take them seriously when the group’s top facts about “safe, responsible” development are simply wrong. Here are a couple highlights:
Their claim: Hydraulic fracturing uses just .1% of the water in Colorado.
Fact: This claim ignores the scarcity of water in Colorado. Colorado’s agricultural heritage could be at risk. Denver Post reporter Bruce Finely noted in 2011 that each well requires between 1 and 5 million gallons of water. Even a Weld County commissioner was quoted about concerns of water impacts, saying, “We must ensure that we don’t jeopardize our agricultural heritage.” The water manager for the city of Loveland said, drillers “may need more water than we have,” said John McGee. And in parts of drought stricken Texas, some aquifers are going dry in areas where there is high demand for water for drilling and fracking operations.
Their claim: The EPA has never found an incident of water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing.
Fact: In 2008, ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize winning news organization, reported benzene was discovered in water samples in Sublette County, Wyoming. They go on to note, “1,000 other cases of contamination have been documented by courts and state and local governments in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania.” In 2011, the New York Times reported that wastewater from drilling operations contained radium at levels “12 or more times as high as the drinking-water standard.”
Is energy development important to Colorado? Sure it is. At Western Values Project, we agree. But Westerners support a balanced approach between energy development and conservation. In Colorado, outdoor recreationalone supported over $13 billion in direct spending and 125 thousand jobs. On the other hand, Mining including oil and gas operations makes up just 1% of the total workforce. An important piece for sure, but diversity is key to a healthy economy. In other mountain states like Montana, the environment and access to public lands are a key reason many small businesses locate or expand their operations. Our quality of life and economy depend on finding the right balance.
Coloradans overwhelmingly call themselves conservationists, and they understand the importance of energy production. But Coloradans sure aren’t fooled by expensive campaigns funded by industry money that bend the truth. If CRED really wanted to work with the people of Colorado and develop energy responsibly, they’d start the right way with the Western values of compromise, honesty and commonsense. Until then, we’ll keep ignoring their PR stunts.