Colorado Voters Overwhelmingly Support Net Metering

Four hundred Colorado voters were surveyed on their opinions of net metering last month, and results of the survey show that almost 4 out of 5 Coloradans (78 percent) support giving full retail credit for the extra energy that families, schools and businesses produce from solar panels on their rooftops. Only 11 percent showed opposition toward net metering.

Meanwhile, Colorado utility Xcel Energy is proposing to significantly undermine metering and give half the credit to consumers for the valuable energy they feed back to the grid.   Xcel then turns around and sells this excess energy at the full retail rate to nearby homes.  .

The poll shows 75 percent of voters oppose Xcel’s proposal to roll back net metering, while only 16 percent support the proposal.  Even within Xcel territory, 79 percent of ratepayers support net metering.

About half of the voters polled said that they do not currently have rooftop solar, but would be interested in getting it at some point in the future. Eighty percent of voters within this segment opposed Xcel’s plan to slash net metering credits. 

Even the 46 percent of state voters who do not plan on getting rooftop solar are generally against Xcel’s proposed policy change, with 68 percent of those polled in this segment opposing the proposal.

Despite the $11 million in annual benefits that net metered solar provides to Xcel ratepayers, the monopoly utility continues to attack the current net metering policy.  And Xcel is not alone in its attempt.  Its actions align with the release of a report published by the Washington D.C utility industry group Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which warned of the threat that renewable energy could pose on the monopolistic positions of utilities nationwide.   

Monopoly utilities launched several failed attempts across the country this year to weaken rooftop solar by squashing net metering.  Voters in Louisiana, California, Arizona, and Idaho all upheld net metering.  With that in mind, and based on the results of this poll, Xcel Energy’s fight against Coloradans is not going to be an easy one. 

Suing Cities To Force Fracking: A Tough Turd To Shine

FRIDAY UPDATE: The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports on a letter sent from Rep. Jared Polis to Tisha Schuller, president of the the Colorado Oil and Gas Association:

“Ms. Schuller,” the letter begins. “Please stop suing the communities I represent.”

“Elections matter. In a democracy both sides get to make their case and the people have their say. In the lead up to the recent election, COGA made its case by spending approximately $900,000 in an attempt to defeat the four ballot measures to ban or extend drilling moratoria on the hydraulic fracturing process (“fracking”). Still, the majority of Fort Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield chose to pass measures to extend drilling maratoria or fracking bans…

“I ask you to immediately withdraw your lawsuits against Fort Collins and Lafayette. Colorado home rule communities have held these rights for decades: the right to determine how their own city or town will look and feel; the right to decide between an expanding extractive industry and the value of their homes; and the right to balance increased development with the health and quality of life of community residents. Local governments have authority to regulate oil and gas land use activities because oil and gas operations are matters of local concern that directly involve the use of land and are an important issue for residents and neighborhoods.”


Fracking fluid.

Fracking fluid.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports:

The city of Fort Collins will be spending the next several months juggling two monumental tasks — studying the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing and defending its fracking moratorium against a new lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Assocation, an industry advocacy group, filed suit against Fort Collins and Lafayette. The cities are part of a group of four municipalities that recently passed restrictions on fracking, a process that injects water and a mix of chemicals into the earth to extract natural gas. Both COGA and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s regulatory agency, are currently embroiled in lawsuits against Longmont, which banned fracking in 2012…

Meanwhile, many questions about the lawsuits’ next steps have been unanswered, and are likely to remain so now that COGA has legally challenged the city’s vote. Spokesmen for both the COGCC and COGA have declined to comment officially on the litigation process, as has the city of Fort Collins.

The Boulder Daily Camera's John Aguilar:

Hours before the [Lafayette] council convened Tuesday evening, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association announced that it had filed suit against Lafayette and Fort Collins challenging the legality of ballot measures passed last month that ban or limit new drilling activity.

The association, which represents oil and gas operators in Colorado, stated in a news release that the bans are "illegal since state regulations specify and the state Supreme Court has ruled that oil and gas development, which must employ hydraulic fracturing or fracking, supersedes local laws and cannot be banned."

The Coloradoan reports that lawsuits have not been filed against the "fracking" moratoriums passed in Boulder or Broomfield, mostly because there aren't fracking operations currently underway in those jurisdictions. These latest suits were filed by the industry representative Colorado Oil and Gas Association, following a lawsuit brought by the public Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission last year against the city of Longmont's similar measure. So far, the COGCC hasn't joined in these latest suits against Lafayette and Fort Collins. Pro-drilling forces point to a 1992 Colorado Supreme Court decision, Voss v. Lundvall Brothers, which held that the Colorado constitution "prevents a home-rule city from exercising its land-use authority so as to totally ban the drilling of oil, gas, or hydrocarbon wells within the city."

Following the passage of the local fracking limits last month, we were genuinely surprised that Gov. John Hickenlooper's first response was not to acknowledge the local concerns about the safety of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, but to reiterate the rights of oil and gas companies to access mineral rights wherever they are held. In doing so, he validated fears vocalized by proponents of these local measures:

"The state hasn't been as proactive as people want to protect against environmental impacts," Lafayette's new mayor, Christine Berg, said this week. "To me, (the ballot measure) is more about home rule and the right to determine industrial uses in our community." [Pols emphasis]


Colorado Oil and Gas Association Crying Wolf Again?

Governor Hickenlooper recently announced new rules for the oil and gas industry to address Colorado’s growing pollution problem. If the rules are passed, they’ll require that the oil and gas industry capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and greenhouse gas methane – which is linked to climate change.

The Denver Post reports that “…the oil and gas industry has become Colorado’s largest source of toxic pollutants called volatile organic compounds, as well as the greenhouse gas methane, linked to climate change, and hazardous chemicals including cancer-causing benzene.”

Yet, this fact hasn’t stopped some industry players from complaining about the new rules and it’s already been reported that the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Petroleum Association are likely to oppose the rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Petroleum Association were not standing behind Hickenlooper on Monday; both groups are likely to fight the proposal as it goes forward, knowing that it could set a precedent for other states to tackle methane emissions if it is adopted as currently written. -  KDVR FOX 31, 11/18/13

This isn’t the first time that the oil and gas industry has complained or opposed new rules to protect Coloradan’s water, public health and communities. The oil and gas industry railed against the rules passed in 2008, which brought more balance to oil and gas development – going so far as to sue the state. The industry claimed that the 2008 rules would drive them out of business and damage Colorado’s economy, but the exact opposite happened.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s (COGA) John Swartout called the 2008 rules “…a sad day for Colorado’s economic well-being.”  Yet, since 2010, oil and gas production in Colorado has spiked. In fact, Colorado oil production broke a 50 year record in 2012 and is on pace to top that record in 2013.

Industry executives also argued that new rules would make it harder to operate in Colorado and would divert investments to other, more favorable areas. Just this past summer, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy Inc. announced their plans to expand drilling in Colorado to thousands of new locations.

In 2008, COGA claimed the rules were “threatening to the industry”. Conversely, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business found that the oil and gas industry has grown substantially in Colorado over the past five years.

It’s past time for the naysayers in the oil and gas industry to stop crying wolf and to move forward towards finding balance.  Reasonable safeguards for our air and water are essential for protecting our quality of life and building our economy. We think everyone can be on board with that.

Report: Wind Energy Accounts for 11% of Colorado’s Electricity

Wind turbines in Colorado

Wind energy doesn’t blow…well, sort of.

According to a report released today by Environment Colorado, wind energy is making a significant impact in Colorado, responsible for 11% of the state's electricity.

Via Environment Colorado (full release after the jump):

Colorado’s wind energy is already displacing more than 3 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution, which is the equivalent of taking over 700,000 cars off the road. Wind energy is also saving more than 1.5 million gallons of water per year, which is enough to meet the needs of 36,990 people, or over a third of Boulder’s population….

…The report shows that wind energy is now providing 6,045,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Colorado, which amounts to be 11 percent of the state’s electricity. If state and federal officials commit to continued progress, Colorado could displace the carbon pollution equivalent of more than 584,467 passenger vehicles, and save enough water to meet the annual needs of nearly 32,432 people.

Senator Mark Udall has been an outspoken champion of wind energy for years, and has ramped up his support in the past year as the federal tax credit has been threatened. Udall's focus on renewable energy makes good policy sense, and it's also a much better political strategy than casting yourself as one of fracking's biggest supporters. Frankly, we've always wondered why more Colorado politicians don't carry the wind energy flag more often; it's better for the environment and has added more than 10,000 jobs to Colorado. As a bonus, there's no loud chorus of people claiming that wind energy is bad.


Hick’s Fracking Fracas Goes On Despite Air Quality Progress

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

A day after celebrating a compromise between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups on a new set of air quality rules to reduce emissions from Colorado well sites, Gov. John Hickenlooper faced new calls Tuesday for an all-out ban on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, from liberals on both coasts.

In Washington, Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, blasted the state’s rules around natural gas extraction, approved last year, and touted by Hickenlooper as a national model.

“The fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry,” Polis said on the House floor.

He also said that homeowners “don’t have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health.”

The Denver Post's Allison Sherry also took note of the blue-on-blue exchange between Rep. Jared Polis and Gov. John Hickenlooper over Colorado's protections (or lack thereof) for homeowners from oil and gas drilling:

“[O]ur state doesn’t have any meaningful regulation to protect homeowners,” Polis said, in the floor debate on a series of energy measures. “Unfortunately the fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry. They don’t have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health.”

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office disagreed, pointing out Colorado’s “robust and leading-edge regulatory process for oil and gas drilling.”

“We respect the congressman representing his constituents,” said Hickenlooper’s spokesman Eric Brown. “And we understand the genuine anxiety and concern of having an inudstrial process close to neighborhoods. Yet the Colorado constitution protects the rights of people to access their property above and below ground.”

In addition to very public criticism of Colorado's oil and gas drilling rules by Polis, and by extension the Hickenlooper administration, the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee points us to a video (above) released by Americans Against Fracking, with a number of minor celebrities–we recognized the one who plays Claire on Modern Family–calling on Hickenlooper to entirely ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in Colorado.

Perhaps most interesting about all of this, though we believe it to be coincidental, is that Hickenlooper is fresh off a round of highly favorable pro-conservation press after Monday's announcement of new air quality rules for drilling and storage. We talked earlier this month about the opportunity Gov. Hickenlooper had, after a very rough Election Day including the passage of four local measures to ban or suspend fracking, to recover some standing with the Democratic base by doing something bold with these air quality rules. The revised draft is considerably stronger than the first one, which was rejected by conservationists as inadequate. 

Hickenlooper's proposal to make Colorado the first state to regulate methane emissions indeed is a very significant development, and he should get credit for it from conservationists. In addition to being a major suspected driver of climate change, methane emissions contribute heavily to the formation of ground-level ozone pollution. With Colorado oil and gas production areas frequently out of compliance with federal air quality standards for ozone, this plan may be as much about keeping the feds at bay as anything else. That shouldn't take away from the good that will be done, but it's worth noting that it wasn't exactly altruistic on the part of the industry.

And as you can see, it's just one piece of a much larger struggle over safe oil and gas production in Colorado. Between the growing calls for a total ban on fracking, which is not realistic, and the present status quo that has pushed fearful homeowners to enact local bans in direct conflict with state law, there must be a middle ground that can balance the need to produce energy with public health and environmental safety.

Hickenlooper's make-or-break political challenge as Governor is to strike that balance.

Poll: Hick Weak, Voters Oppose Recall, Back Background Checks

A new poll from Quinnipiac University of Colorado issues and our gubernatorial race contains new and old lessons:

Colorado voters give Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper a split approval rating and more voters say he does not deserve to be reelected, but he has small leads against possible Republican challengers in an early look at the 2014 governor's race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll completed last night and released today. 

Gov. Hickenlooper gets a 48 percent approval rating, while 46 percent disapprove, almost identical to his 48 – 44 percent approval rating in an August 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. Voters say 49 – 42 percent today that the governor does not deserve reelection, also little changed from August. 

But Hickenlooper edges four possible GOP challengers:
46 – 41 percent over former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo;
45 – 40 percent over Secretary of State Scott Gessler;
44 – 38 percent over State Sen. Greg Brophy;
44 – 40 percent over former State Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.

In other questions, once again voters express overwhelming support for Colorado's new universal background check law for gun purchases. The poll splits support for the new law limiting magazine capacity (49-48%). And again, despite these indicators of support for the legislation actually passed by the Colorado General Assembly, 55% of respondents oppose the amorphous concept of "gun control." As we've said before, this disconnect is evidence of how Democrats lost, at least for the time being, the messaging battle over gun safety legislation. If the public had an accurate understanding of what was passed, they'd be in much better shape politically.

In this statewide poll, 51% of voters support the practice of "fracking" for oil and gas development. They also oppose the pending recall attempt against Sen. Evie Hudak by a 49-38% margin. Both of these questions are less relevant with action on the issues happening at the local level–but certainly message fodder for each.

Gov. John Hickenlooper's polling weakness evidenced by Quinnipiac is offset by the weak field of potential Republican challengers–also a dynamic we've been watching develop over the past few months. That's not the most comfortable position to be in, of course, with a year for impressions to change in either direction. But we do believe that Hickenlooper's advantage over his weak challengers will grow, not shrink, as voters get to know them.

All the details for today's poll here.

Grand Junction: Sometimes the Air Here Stinks

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  When invisible volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) get cooked in our Grand Valley sunlight, they form ozone.  These compounds result largely from oil and gas operation pollution.  Methane is another invisible contribution to our dirty air, also caused by oil and gas pollution.  This is bad news for over 25,000 asthma sufferers; and doesn’t even include all the kids, elderly and outdoor athletes in the valley and throughout the state who suffer from these invisible attackers.


Hickenlooper Responds Poorly To Local Fracking Ban Wins

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he understands citizen concerns about neighborhood gas drilling but maintains that passing local laws restricting the activity is the wrong way to address the problem.

“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said in an email to the Independent. “Yet local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights.

“A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.

“These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”

Our view: the political balance between the need to produce energy and the desire by local communities to protect health and safety depends on trust. Gov. John Hickenlooper's problem is that he has lost a good deal of that trust since taking office, and to the extent that his objective as governor was to "make peace" between the energy industry and his fellow Democrats, he has failed. At this point, Hickenlooper has been pigeonholed by his own statements and actions as an unreasonably, and on occasion deceptively, pro-industry governor.

The people who worked to pass the moratoriums on fracking will not be encouraged by this latest statement. Hickenlooper's first words in response to the success of these local bans should not be in defense of the oil industry's "property rights." We're honestly surprised to see such persistent tone-deafness from Hickenlooper on this issue. He risks perpetuating the disaffection with base Democrats sensitive to this issue, a problem that began the first time he claimed to have "drank frack fluid," going into an election year. Subsequent gaffes involving top staffers have strongly reinforced this perception. He could try to fix the problem if he didn't all-but-ignore the concerns of local residents in every statement he gives; Hick always talks about mineral rights, completely glossing over the concern about having a "right" to feel safe from environmental harm in your own house.

With Colorado politics maybe more polarized than ever, Hickenlooper needs the Democratic base. He cannot count on transpartisan charm to win re-election in 2014. With a weak field of GOP opponents but an energized GOP base fired up to vote against him, Hickenlooper's electoral future is with his fellow Democrats, the same people he keeps alienating with his own "folksy" arrogance on this issue. And don't take our word for it: the polling data clearly indicates as much.

It's why we believe the biggest threat to John Hickenlooper's re-election is John Hickenlooper.

Audio: GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Deny Climate Change


The Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reports on the first debate between the four top Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidates for 2014: Sen. Greg Brophy, former Sen. Mike Kopp, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and 2010 third-party nominee Tom Tancredo. Yesterday's debate was taped for later airing by the public television Aaron Harber Show. Hanel's story is worth a read, but what may be the most interesting exchange from this debate, for whatever reason, didn't rate a mention. Here's audio and a transcription of the answers by these four candidates to Harber's question about climate change.

The short answer, as you might have guessed, is none of them think it's a problem.


This is What Happens When You Don’t Have Drilling Regulations

A disturbing story from EnergyWire (paywall) by former Denver Post reporter Mike Soraghan highlights the problem with the fallacy that the oil and gas industry can regulate itself:

New Mexico oil and gas regulators haven't fined a single driller for violations this year. They didn't last year, either. Or the year before that.

That's not for a lack of problems at well sites. Since 2010, inspectors recorded more than 3,600 violations. [Pols Emphasis]

Instead, it's because the state Oil Conservation Division hasn't had the authority to levy fines since March 2009. So when inspectors find a problem, there's not much they can do except ask the driller to fix it.

'We play a lot of poker,' explained Daniel Sanchez, the agency's chief of enforcement.

Colorado's regulations on oil and gas aren't as completely vacant as those in New Mexico, but they're about as toothless as your great-grandmother. As of October 21, there had been 328 oil and gas spills in Colorado — 328 — which is well more than one per day. Proponents of widespread oil and gas drilling will say that "accidents happen," but at what point do we step in and do something about companies who keep producing "accidents"?

Hickenlooper’s Chance To Recover Some Shine

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More astute post-election analysis from FOX 31's Eli Stokols we wanted to be sure got a mention:

When three of four northern Colorado cities voted in favor of moratoriums on oil and gas production work that relies on so-called fracking, it, too, served as another shot across the bow at Hickenlooper, a former geologist who has already sued the first city to enact such a ban and is widely perceived as an advocate for his former industry.

“The fracking issue certainly complicates Hickenlooper’s political fortunes,” said political analyst Eric Sondermann. “He has staked out some independent ground — to his credit, in my estimation — but it does pit him against a whole lot of his liberal, environmental, Democratic base.”

The votes to ban fracking by citizens in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins on Tuesday serve to highlight an emerging confrontation between many left-leaning voters and the governor who will need their votes in 2014, when it’s increasingly likely they’ll also be voting on some sort of statewide fracking ban.

And it puts more pressure on Hickenlooper’s administration heading into the final stage of a rule-making process whereby the Air Quality Control Commission is about to approve a new set of regulations on the oil and gas industry to limit the industry’s impact on poor air quality by forcing it to more closely monitor greenhouse gas-causing emissions from thousands of well sites. [Pols emphasis]

“The votes are more proof that Coloradans don’t trust the industry and are unsure if the governor and his administration will do what it takes to protect public health and the air we breathe,” Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith told FOX31 Denver.

This week's crushing defeat of Amendment 66, an ambitious and comprehensive school finance measure that would have gone a long way toward solving a decades-long chronic shortfall, is just the latest in a long series of brutal moments public relations-wise this year for Gov. John Hickenlooper. With the passage of moratoriums (and one outright ban) on "fracking" in three out of four Front Range residential cities where they were on the ballot, combined with the wholesale slaughter of Amendment 66, arguably no one in the state had a worse night Tuesday than Hickenlooper. This is a man who lost on his left and on his right.

We want to be clear that despite all the political trouble for Hickenlooper this year, we still don't see any viable challenge to him among the current–or even conceivable–slate of Republican challengers in 2014. Hickenlooper is lucky to have the Colorado Republican Party to contend with, as we know of few entities better equipped to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory (see: 2010). That said, Hickenlooper needs to shore up a constituency for next year's elections, and he needs to start with his beleaguered Democratic base.

Luckily for Gov. Hickenlooper, a big conservation win is out there for the taking.


One Foot In, One Foot Out

In case you missed it, last week, Gov. Hickenlooper was roundly criticized as a draft rule from Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission found its way into the hands of a few reporters. As many of you know, oil and gas industry expansion in Colorado has renewed concerns about deteriorating air quality across the state.  But perhaps more worrisome, is the seeming lack of follow through from those we elect who are supposed to have our back when it comes to drafting the new rules.

Just a few weeks ago, Noble Energy executives and Gov. Hickenlooper called for zero methane emissions saying, “In the end, it’s got to be close to zero,” and “getting methane emissions to zero, or as close to zero as we can get them, remains an administration goal,” respectively.

One would think the obvious solution to growing air quality worries is reasonable safeguards for our air. Even industry knows regulations can have positive impacts not only for our environment but for their bottom line as well. Referring to public confidence in oil and gas operations, an industry executive said recently, “regulation is one of the components that can help.”

That’s why it comes as such a surprise to see the Hickenlooper administration back-pedaling so quickly from comments they made just weeks ago. On Tuesday, Gov. Hickenlooper told the Denver Business Journal, “I think we can have less emissions. Natural gas producers, if they have a leak, they want to fix it. My goal is to get to zero [emissions], but that’s decades away.” Unfortunately, Coloradans are tired of waiting.

In September, the University of Texas released its study of green completions and found the technology reduced methane emissions by 99%. We have the technology now to drastically reduce methane emissions. Now we need our elected officials to stand up for commonsense solutions that protect our health.  Making the new air quality rules work for everyone, not just industry, is the right thing to do.  Colorado’s quality of life and economy depend on it.

Still No CREDibility

At Western Values Project, we understand the importance of oil and gas development not only in Colorado, but also across the West. We also understand that we all use energy in our daily lives. Yet one thing remains confusing. Safeguards for our air, water, communities, and families seem like logical steps our government and industry can take to mitigate the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.  But at nearly every turn, it seems industry and their apologist’s intentionally mislead the public, and ignore calls for greater transparency into their operations.

Take for example a recent mailer to Coloradans from the industry led and paid for front group Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) as case and point.  CRED recently sent out a paid mailer, which claims that industry has been fracking safely for 60 years. Yet the facts don't support this claim.

Image (688)

So far in 2013, the oil and gas industry in Colorado has averaged one spill a day related to drilling and fracking. Of these daily spills, on average one spill per week has contaminated groundwater – nearly 25 percent of all spills led to water contamination.

Last year, Colorado's oil and gas industry reported 402 spills related to drilling and fracking – of which 20 percent (or 85 spills) contaminated groundwater. Not to mention the huge spill into Parachute Creek  – 10,000 gallons of gas and waste – which contaminated nearby water and soil with benzene, a known cancer causing chemical.

In addition to water pollution, a recent report found that fracking poses health risks from air pollution – to people living within 1/2 mile from drilling sites.

CRED's mailer also claims that fracking requires a tiny amount of water resources. Once again the facts don't support their propaganda. According to an analysis from an independent nonprofit, annual fracking in Colorado requires enough water to supply a city up to the size of Cincinnati, Ohio or Ft. Collins, Colorado.

CRED's mailer also failed to mention that once water has been used for fracking it's too polluted to ever be reused. Yet, almost all of household use water is put back into streams or reused.

The industry front group's mailer also says that fracking fluids include chemicals "similar to those in your household, under your sink, in your backyard or in the garage." Once again, the industry seems to be swapping out fact for fiction. In 2008, an ER nurse in Durango was exposed to a worker who'd come into contact with fracking chemicals - and subsequently suffered liver, heart and lung failure, spending 30 hours in the intensive care unit.

We're willing to bet that most Coloradans don't keep frack-like chemicals on hand that can cause heart, liver and lung failure.

CRED's un-credible mailer is an unfortunate example of the billion-dollar oil and gas industry's bottom line – putting the health and safety of Colorado families and communities at risk for the sake of their profit margins.

Energy development is and will no doubt continue to play an important role in the Colorado economy.  But one thing is clear, reasonable safeguards for our air, water, and communities are not barriers to doing business; rather those very safeguards are the responsible things to do for the communities the oil and gas industry operates and lives in. Until CRED understands that, Coloradans will remain skeptical.

“Frackenlooper’s” New Reality

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Boulder Daily Camera's John Aguilar reports:

Aversion to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing became apparent Tuesday as residents in three cities along the Front Range — including Boulder and Lafayette — voted to put a halt to the energy extraction method within their borders…

Lafayette's measure — an all-out ban on new oil and gas drilling in the city — was prevailing 58 percent to 42 percent, while Boulder voters were overwhelmingly saying "no" to fracking within city limits. The margin in Boulder was 77 percent in favor of a five-year extension of the city's fracking moratorium versus 23 percent against.

A five-year fracking moratorium was also winning in Fort Collins, 55 percent to 45 percent, as of 11:40 p.m.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan's Kevin Duggan:

[Issue 2A] passed easily, even though the campaign supporting it was outspent 39-1 by an opposition campaign funded by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, or COGA.

The victory is a tribute to the more than 100 volunteers who took their message — that time is needed to understand the health impacts of the common oilfield practice — before it should be allowed to continue, said Kelly Giddens of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.

And Megan Quinn at the Broomfield Enterprise has an update on Broomfield Question 300, the only anti-"fracking" initiative on yesterday's ballot that wasn't immediately successful:

Broomfield will likely conduct a recount after a five-year ban on fracking failed by just 13 votes on Tuesday. 

In final unofficial election results, with nearly 20,733 ballots — or slightly more than 59 percent of registered voters — counted, voters rejected Broomfield Question 300, which aimed to create a moratorium on all hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Broomfield. The margin of defeat was 13 votes — 10,253 for the ban, 10,266 against.

In all four cases, these "fracking" moratoriums (and in the case of Lafayette, an outright ban) were overwhelmingly opposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. COGA spent upwards of a million dollars opposing these local ballot questions, orders of magnitude more than proponents, and still only barely appear to have turned back just one out of four of the initiatives.

There's no question that these votes to ban "fracking," placing these Front Range bedroom communities squarely in opposition to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, significantly complicate Hickenlooper's hopes to charm the issue out of controversy. Voters remain highly skeptical of the state's ability and/or willingness to protect them from the harmful effects of drilling in their neighborhoods. Beneath a thin veneer of affected concern, Hickenlooper's administration has proven itself indifferent, even hostile, to the concerns of local residents. After lawsuits against the first cities who assert stronger protections for themselves, other communities had the choice of knuckling under or joining the "rebellion" against the COGCC's perceived inadequacies. And yesterday, at least 3 out of 4 chose the latter.

Now it's Hickenlooper's move again. We strongly suggest a new approach.

Oil and Gas and the Air We Breathe

Yesterday, the Denver Post published a story, which highlights increasing concerns from scientists who believe that as oil and gas operations expand in Colorado, air quality will continue to deteriorate. But there are ways to mitigate industry’s impact on air quality. "What you can do is look at the known sources and make them better,” said one scientist in the story.  At Western Values Project we couldn’t agree more.

Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission is currently evaluating measures to improve air quality and further reduce emissions from oil and gas drilling. Given the state's recent struggles with air quality this rule-making process comes at critical time.

According to a recent report in the Colorado Independent:

"Driven largely by emissions from fossil fuel processing, ozone violations along the Front Range spiked this past year and its unlikely that Colorado will meet a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency deadline to improve air quality. Missing the target means federal regulations will be ratcheted up, causing more hassle for drivers than for the oil and gas industry…"

Despite Colorado's recent air quality problems – and the oil and gas industry's prominent role in polluting – the industry hasn’t expressed much support new rules to clean up our air and protect public health.

In public comments, the oil and gas industry stated that mandatory annual well site monitoring using infrared (IR) cameras was "infeasible, unnecessary and not economically justified…"

The industry also claimed that the state is "putting the cart before the horse" with the air quality rule-making process.

Yet, in 2012 there was a huge spike in registered ozone violations across the Front Range and according to Gary Kaufman, deputy director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, oil and gas production is the biggest source of the chemicals that cause ozone formation. Ozone is commonly known as smog and symptoms of exposure include cough, pain, and shortness of breath.

Could it be that the oil and gas industry doesn't want to be held responsible for their actions?  Energy development is an important piece of Colorado’s economy, but our quality of life depends on ensuring there our responsible safeguards for our air, water and communities.

We’re keeping a close eye on what is happening with the rule process and will keep you posted. The coming week will be key to ensuring we have strong rules.  You can find out more about the Air Quality Control Commission and its work to protect Colorado's air here