Nice Photo, But They Don’t “Frack” Peaks

The Denver Business Journal's Cathy Proctor reports on a new pro-oil industry advocacy group, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, and their "long-term" plan to win Colorado residents' hearts and minds over on the issue of hydraulic fracture drilling, or "fracking," in their neighborhoods:

The state’s newest oil and gas advocacy group, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) is planning for the long haul: A multi-year campaign to inform the public about the industry, its practices and how its products are used — and about fracking.

That’s according to spokespersons for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) and Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL), the state’s two biggest oil and gas companies, which are backing the new organization.

Or, put another way, CRED (website here) is not a flash in the pan that will disappear after the Nov. 5 election…

“This is a multi-year effort and we have a long road ahead — irrespective of what happens in [the elections in] 2013, or 2014 or 2015,” said Robin Olsen, a Denver-based spokeswoman for Anadarko, which employs about 1,300 people in the state.

Whatever CRED's long-term agenda may be, as of this writing they are principally concerned with defeating a group of moratoriums (and one outright ban) on the practice of "fracking" with the city limits of several, mostly residential Front Range communities. Here's a CRED mailer we were forwarded yesterday, which was sent to a Democratic household in Boulder. In Boulder, Question 2H would extend an existing moratorium on "fracking" to five years. Their "positive" message gets points for cleverness even as it deceives:


What a lovely photo, presumably of a Colorado mountain ridge–we haven't conclusively identified it just yet. A high alpine forest occupies the valley below the ridgeline, and wildflowers abound above timberline on the opposing ridge that supplied the vantage point for this photo.

The problem, if you think about this for more than a few passing seconds, is that nobody's drilling here.


Fact Check: Industry ‘Poster Child’ Not So Squeaky Clean

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Oil & gas industry group held QEP Resources up as a model actor for air quality, but the company was fined $4 million for polluting air and tried to extend controversial 'flaring' activities

Studies and scientific data increasingly show that oil and gas operations are linked to significant ozone pollution in the West. A recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that people who live near gas wells are being exposed to elevated levels of air pollutants, including the known cancer causing benzene. Last year, the Denver Post reported that oil and gas operations have also been linked to ozone pollution.

Science hasn't stopped the oil and gas industry trade group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) from trying to mislead Westerners about the effects oil and gas production, and neither have basic facts.


Wasting Your Money

sage grouse note from Vernal oil shale mtg

Should Garfield County Commissioners use taxpayer dollars to pay for a partisan study refuting government data on Greater sage-grouse habitat? Should our elected officials be putting a thumb on the scale in favor of industry when they should be working alongside our Western neighbors to find a serious solution to one of our most pressing energy issues?

Those are questions I was left wondering after reading John Stroud’s story in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent yesterday. Stroud revealed that the commissioners had agreed to further pay partisan consulting firm American Stewards of Liberty an additional $15,000 to complete their ‘alternative study’ on Greater sage-grouse habitat in northwestern Colorado. Overall, Garfield County has authorized over $200,000 be spent on outside consultants in preparation to claim federal government data is flawed.

No doubt, there are major potential implications to the Colorado economy should the Greater sage-grouse be listed as an “endangered species.” But rather than working with stakeholders to find real solutions in the face of scientific data, no matter how discouraging, Garfield County Commissioners have chosen to mess with the numbers and shortcut the law rather than finding an effective approach to mitigate the underlying problem.

Just this year, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky told the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee “We simply request the BLM abide by FLPMA and their own statutes and regulations to resolve policy conflicts at the local level. Then, not only would litigation be avoided, but solutions would be put in place that truly benefit the sage-grouse.” Why Garfield County Commissioners believe paying thousands to an out of state consulting firm with a strong history of partisan fights will reduce potential conflict is puzzling.

Last year, a bi-partisan poll found a majority of Garfield County residents opposed the hiring of American Stewards of Liberty. Yet here we are. Garfield County residents should be fuming to see their taxpayer dollars spent for political games, rather than used to bring industry, government and other stakeholders to the table.

Of course, this is just the latest feather in the commissioners’ questionable cap. In 2012, Garfield County Commissioners and colleagues from several other Colorado counties traveled to Vernal, Utah, for a closed-door meeting with oil shale industry lobbyists that violated open meetings law.  That meeting was part of afailed effort to undermine the federal government’s recently approved oil shale plan, which has been hailed by the Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, among others, as “balanced” and “smart.” It was at this very meeting that commissioners began hatching their plan on the Greater sage-grouse.

The Greater sage-grouse has become a favorite punching bag for Republicans across the country – including members on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Last month in Montana, U.S. House Natural Resources Committee claimed the Endangered Species Act had become a “sue and settlement” tool for groups opposed to economic development on federal lands. Never mind the science that leads the government to ESA decisions under the law that Congress itself passed.

Oil and gas development is an important piece of the Colorado economy and for Garfield County.  But calling into question the findings of career scientists is only likely to breed conflict.  Should the Greater sage-grouse be listed, Garfield County Commissioners will be partly to blame. Instead of finding solutions and working with all stakeholders on the ground, Garfield County Commissioners have resorted to spending taxpayer dollars on hyper-partisan research while parroting industry rhetoric.  That’s not a solution, that’s adding more fuel to the fire.

Gov. Hickenlooper: Local Control Is Best, Except In Colorado?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado was questioned by a health care professional who asked the governor why he continued to be a party to a lawsuit against the town of Longmont even as they continue to pick up the pieces from devastating flooding.  He evaded any definitive answer but did say, “We didn’t do that because we wanted to, and “we will certainly address all the issues.” 

If you haven’t seen this video, take a look. It’s worth seeing the reaction from Gov. Hickenlooper.

It appears that Gov. Hickenlooper is willing to stump for the oil and gas industry and oppose water, air, and public health protections from oil and gas drilling at all levels of government.


Trust: You Have To Earn It

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.

FACT CHECK: Colorado Setback Rules Riddled With Loopholes

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Last month, Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke at a Western National Governors Association meeting in Broomfield, Colo. where he touted his record for having enacted the strongest set back rules in the country. The truth is Gov. Hickenlooper has often opposed public health protections. In fact, Gov. Hickenlooper has enacted oil and gas regulations, which are controversial and riddled with loopholes.   

At Western Values Project, we know the importance of oil and gas development to our economy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t implement reasonable safeguards for our water, air and communities.  Our small businesses, families, communities and long-term economic prosperity depend on those precautions. 


A Change Of Heart, Or The Height of Hypocrisy?

NOTE: This is the first 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. We clearly support a balanced approach to land use in our communities. 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.


Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government & Public Affairs, Western Energy Alliance

Last week, Western Energy Alliance’s (WEA) Vice President of Government & Public Affairs, Kathleen Sgamma, co-authored an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune in which she touted her organizations ability to work together to find a balance between conservation and energy development. It’s an admirable position and one I’ve taken many times. In fact, Westerners are demanding just that

Unfortunately, that also happens to be the opposite of WEA or Sgamma’s record on conservation. For years leading right up to their sudden change of heart a few weeks ago, WEA and Sgamma have done everything in their power to champion oil and gas development wherever resources may lie with total disregard for our land, water, wildlife and small businesses. In Sgamma’s world, there’s no room for balance – until this month, that is.

Back in 2005, the AP reported that WEA predecessor, the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS) claimed the Endangered Species Act was to blame for high natural gas prices. I guess some things don’t change. Interestingly, in 2012 NBC News said, “So much natural gas is being produced that soon there may be nowhere left to put the country's swelling surplus.”  In 2012, WEA claimed government regulations were making oil and gas development on Federal lands “cost prohibitive.”  But as the Denver Post points out, oil and gas development is an issue of economics and geology. Oil and gas development is occurring on private and state lands because that’s where the oil and gas is.

But Sgamma’s hypocrisy certainly doesn’t end there. Sgamma has consistently resorted to misrepresentations of facts and inflammatory rhetoric to sell energy companies as the underdog in the face of overzealous government regulators. But in fact, industry’s enormous influence on Congress and several administrations, including the current one, has been widely documented – making Sgamma’s claims even more dishonest.

When confronted in 2010 with a report highlighting the fact that just 36 percent of oil and gas leases were being developed by industry, Sgamma blamed an overly strict regulatory environment for the low production.  Just three years later, U.S. Crude Oil output is at the highest level since 1989.  And in 2011, IPAMS claimed increased scrutiny of leases would reduce oil and gas production.  Yet 2010 leasing reforms meant to reduce bureaucratic red tape and increase public input have dramatically reduced protests, all while oil and gas development continues to expand in Western states like Colorado. 

Last month, the Equal Ground Campaign — a coalition of conservation groups advocating for equality between conservation and energy development —invited WEA to match a recent rhetorical shift with action.  On their Facebook page WEA called the invitation a media stunt. This is hardly a reflection of their sincerity to work with groups seeking commonsense solutions to our most pressing natural resource issues.

At a time when budget talks are likely to stall in Washington, out West we have the opportunity to show folks what we can accomplish by working together.  We’re demanding a balance.  It’s time for industry organizations like Western Energy Alliance to work with folks on the ground.  Until they deliver, we’ll remain unconvinced by PR campaigns – and we’ll continue to call Sgamma out on her dishonesty and false rhetoric.


Fracktivists to media: Cover fracking-related contamination in Colorado flooding.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)


TXSharon , former oil and gas industry employee, and current anti-fracking activist, and East Boulder County United continue to do citizen journalism covering the flooding and possibility of fracking contamination. The​ situation continues to deteriorate – Denver Post finally covers the story, but a Weld County resident has this reaction to the industry response:

It’s taken 5 days. Tisha Schuller, quoted in the article saying there are “thousands” of flooded wells, is the president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), the industry’s lobbying group here in Colorado. If you read the article, she’s asking that activist photo takers (who stood on broken highways and in flood waters where you can’t tell where the heck you are in all the flood waters) tell her the locations of the damaged wells! I’m dumbfounded. The drillers and lobbyists don’t know where their flooded wells are? Anadarko and Encana can’t hire a plane and fly over their own damn wells to assess the damage? They have no data transmissions indicating problems with a well?


Maybe they could just follow journalists around. Gasline rupture bubbing up through floodwaters in Greeley: (filmed by Channel 1510's Scooter McGee)

Author's note – So I'm low down on the learning curve about fracking.  I assume that industry spokespeople are lying when they say that the wellheads were shut down before the flooding and that there is no contamination – but I don't know enough myself to be able to challenge their statements intelligently. Those of you on Pols who do, please feel free to jump in anytime. – mj55

TX Sharon is a Daily Kos blogger from Texas, who often writes about environmental issues. Her Colorado Weld County friends are sending her pics and video on this disaster, specifically about probable fracking contaminants in the floodwaters. Various Facebook friends of mine  have shared this, and it seems relevant to re-post. TXSharon is trying to get wider coverage for the story, so I've posted it here, and written to her to get her permission to do so. 

From TXSharon's BlueDaze Blog:

Oil and gas wells drilled in a flood plain are under water and leaking in Weld County Colorado. There is at least one pipeline that broke as the dirt supporting it was washed away. Hydrocarbons and no telling what else are leaking into the flood waters yet the media is silent.


TXSharon's blog, which she will continue to update, shows tanks and equipment floating downstream, apparently contaminating the floodwaters. The blog also features first hand accounts from Weld County residents, and excerpts from the sparse media coverage.  


Why is Bernie Herpin Yelling at Students?

(Yikes! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

We understand that drilling and fracking in Colorado is controversial and there are strident opinions on both sides.  We come down on the side that Colorado needs to seriously consider the impacts to our children’s health and on our communities as fracking booms in our State, but know others feel differently.  While we disagree we don’t have to be disagreeable right?

With passions high on both sides, we expect our elected officials to listen and then make reasoned rationale decisions that are, in their view, best for their communities or jurisdictions.

Unless your elected official is Colorado Springs City Councilman Bernie Herpin.

Check out this video of an exchange Councilman Herpin had with a well reasoned University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student. The City Council was conducting a hearing on the ongoing saga of Banning Lewis Ranch in East Colorado Springs.


Doug Flanders’ Veiled Threats Continue to Rile in Fracking Debate

As the Boulder Daily Camera reported yesterday, the fight over an anti-fracking initiative that will appear on the November ballot in Lafayette is heating up thanks to some ridiculously inappropriate comments from an industry shill:

Ned is no relation to Doug

Not Doug Flanders (as far as we know)

Earlier this month, a Lafayette resident — with financial backing from the Colorado Oil & Gas Association — filed a complaint with the city, claiming that the signature-gathering petitions used to get the measure on to the ballot were invalid because they did not include a state-mandated summary of the issue for signers to read.

Last week, the challenge was thrown out by the city clerk, who ruled that the petitions complied with state laws governing home-rule cities. That prompted Doug Flanders, Colorado Oil & Gas Association director of policy and external affairs, to issue a statement that the citizen initiative, dubbed the Lafayette Community Rights Act, could have the unintended effect of cutting off all natural gas to Lafayette homes.

"For example, signatories were probably unaware that approval of this ballot could stop the transportation of all natural gas through pipes, which means disallowing natural gas to your homes," Flanders said in an emailed statement to the Camera on Friday, conjuring up images of residents this winter huddling around candles and wood-burning stoves as the whoosh of piped-in natural gas goes silent and water pipes in the basement freeze and burst.  [Pols emphasis]

Yes, you read that correctly. Doug Flanders, the director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), is essentially threatening Lafayette citizens that passing a ban on fracking might lead to their natural gas being cut off.

(This is a good place to note that COGA is a different organization than the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Flanders' COGA is a oil and gas trade group, while the COGCC is a state agency).

Now, we could argue about whether Flanders' statement is a legal violation as it relates to making knowingly false statements about an election issue, but that's almost a secondary issue. Flanders and COGA have ABSOLUTELY NO AUTHORITY TO CUT OFF NATURAL GAS TO ANYONE, let alone an entire community such as Lafayette. This would be like Colorado Pols threatening to turn off the Internet if you don't like what we write. It's childish and petty, and it's completely stupid.

We would imagine that Gov. John Hickenlooper and others at COGCC (the state agency) have daydreamed about strangling Flanders over these asinine comments, particularly since both have been trying hard recently to calm the flames of angst around fracking in Colorado. Flanders' statement is exactly the kind of thing that reinforces opinions that the oil and gas industry really cares nothing at all about the well-being of its customers — and it's the kind of thing that will draw otherwise non-committal elected officials into the fray in defense of local citizens.

Gardner’s Givers – a kid from Colorado and a river in Alaska just released their third story on how special interest PAC money influences Congress.  The first two focused on Republican Mike Coffman and Democrat Diana DeGette.  This one is about Cory Gardner.  Here is an excerpt:

“The Colville River flows through much of the Brooks Range. Alaska’s largest Arctic River is home to 20 fish species. Known as an internationally-recognized area for nesting birds of prey, the Colville River’s bluffs provide significant nesting habitat for raptors such as Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcon and Golden Eagle.” – from On Arctic Ground

The river delta has been designated an “Aquatic Resource of National Importance.”

Inuit family on Colville River

One would have thought that this is one of the few places on Earth where other species might be safe from encroaching human development….and that would have been true except for the hundreds of millions of barrels of oil under the cold, sparsely-populated tundra.

“Frackers” Near Rep. Polis’ Farm Hit With $26,000 Fine

Smoke from Sundance Energy's drilling operations. Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis.

Smoke from Sundance Energy’s drilling operations. Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis.

The Boulder Daily Camera's Charlie Brennan reports, the drilling company that set up operations directly across the street from Rep. Jared Polis' rural Weld County farm faces a (relatively) stiff fine:

State regulators have proposed $26,000 in penalties against the company that launched a drilling and extraction operation directly across the road from a Weld County property owned by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and used as his weekend getaway.

Additionally, the order Friday from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission states Sundance Energy must meet with the holding company through which Polis owns his Weld County property to discuss its future plans in detail.

"It's an illegal well that's located too close, and a rig that is too high, and it kind of vindicates our initial charge of complete carelessness with regard to following state regs," Polis said Wednesday. "I don't think they should be able to frack the well they drilled there illegally, but at least the $26,000 fine is a start, and I hope the company takes the offset regulations seriously in the future."

Sundance Energy declined to comment Wednesday.

Polis was hounded by conservatives after filing suit against the drillers, then dropping that suit to pursue a claim before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. A second line of criticism from conservatives and energy industry proponents was opened by noting that Polis has, among his plethora of investments, some money invested in energy companies too.

This recommended $26,000 fine for Sundance Energy drilling too close to Polis' property certainly vindicates him on the first point. As he said all along, the well was not in compliance. This story says a lot about the plight of landowners all over Colorado now threatened by drilling near their homes, as "fracking" pushes drilling into areas that haven't seen it before. The law, which may itself not be adequate to protect the public, doesn't always get followed. Surface landowners suffer losses from drilling near their properties, from peace and privacy to health and safety. Rep. Polis had the resources and wherewithal to fight back, but not everyone confronted by drilling near their home does. And even though the drillers will pay a fine, the well is still drilled. None of this is new, but here is a very good example of what happens.

As for the second point, about Polis having energy investments? Note: he doesn't invest in Sundance Energy.

But even if he did, is there anybody out there who wants companies they invest in to be breaking the law?

Mortgages May Be Tipping Point for Fracking Conversation

Few issues in recent Colorado history have exploded with such widespread passion than fracking. A few years ago, the average Coloradan couldn't have defined fracking with a dictionary — in part because the word itself has only recently made it into the pages of a dictionary. Today, fracking has become one of the major political pressure points in Colorado, and it's likely to continue.

The next tipping point in the anti-fracking argument may come via the real estate sector. As Grist reports:

Lawyers, realtors, public officials, and environmental advocates from Pennsylvania to Arkansas to Colorado are noticing that banks and federal agencies are revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values, and in some cases are refusing to finance property with or even just near drilling activity.

Real estate experts say another problematic trend is that many homeowners insurance policies do not cover residential properties with a gas lease or gas well, yet all mortgage companies require homeowners insurance from their borrowers…

…Brian and Amy Smith live across the street from a new gas well in Daisytown in Washington County, Pa., an hour south of Pittsburgh. Last year, when they applied for a new mortgage on their $230,000 home and hobby farm, they were denied.

According to ABC affiliate WTAE, this appears to be the first example in western Pennsylvania of a homeowner being denied a mortgage because of gas drilling on a neighbor’s property:

In an email, Quicken Loans told the Smiths, “Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this loan. It is located across the street from a gas drilling site.” Two other national lenders also turned down Brian Smith’s application. [Pols emphasis]

“I think a lot of folks nationally are watching this case,” says Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a congressman who represents areas north and west of Denver. He noted that in his home district fracking leads to a “haircut on a property’s values.”

“I think it is something that the banks would frankly be smart to look at,” Polis says.

Rep. Polis has been an outspoken critic of fracking near populated areas, and recently posted a story on Colorado Pols about his personal encounter with the issue. The oil and gas industry has fought back against worries of air and water pollution by muddling the science and research and relying on an argument that they see no concrete evidence of potential contamination. But if mortgages start getting denied on a larger scale, the pudding will be full of the proverbial proof.

People who live near fracking operations were likely already concerned about their ability to sell their home in the future, but the news out of Pennsylvania is even more worrisome. If people can't get a home loan because of an oil and gas operation that is near their neighbor's home, entire communities could be upended. If a potential buyer can't get a loan to buy your house, then you're never selling that house…and foreclosure becomes a very real option.

Once that first domino falls here in Colorado, it could eventually be enough to topple residential fracking practices altogether. The industry's main positive argument — job creation — becomes all but irrelevant at that point. What good are jobs in a community where nobody wants to live?

Industry front group pivots to “If you can’t be right, be loud” strategy

It appears that Colorado oil and gas lobbyists are back to playing their old games of lies and misinformation. Monday, the industry-sponsored, blatantly anti-science group Energy in Depth (EID) put out new propaganda in an attempt to distract from the truth of how damaging oil and gas operations are to western air quality. In an interesting twist, EID’s Simon Lomax chose to attack Denver Post environmental reporter Bruce Finley as a means of casting doubt on the studies and data Finley references in his stories. Lomox spent a great deal of time and a lot of column inches cherrypicking to try and refute the negative effects of oil and gas drilling pollution on air quality. Our favorite line here at C&BP is when Lomax blames trees for smog.

"…and, not for nothing, those percentages don’t even include the biggest source of smog-forming emissions, which is the “biogenic” category – meaning trees and other vegetation." — Simon Lomax, "What Bruce Finley Failed to Mention About Air Quality," Jan. 29, 2013

EID is a front group that was launched in 2009 by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) – a.k.a the natural gas lobby. It has a team that works in various energy producing states where citizens are rightly concerned about the impacts of oil and gas to clean air, clean water, and property values.


It was disappointing to see that Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) CEO Tisha Schuller decided to insert her group into the theatrics. It was just over a month ago that Schuller began her “charm offensive,” announcing that she would tour Colorado in an attempt to depolarize the debate around drilling and fracking near communities. One way for her to do that would be to publicly distance herself and her organization from disinformation producers like EID. Instead, COGA retweeted EID’s claims.

Speaking of claims, here are a few other facts regarding fracking and air quality that EID would much rather the public wasn’t aware of.

  • According to the EPA, “Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas…oil and natural gas production and processing accounts for nearly 40% of all U.S. methane emissions, making the industry the nation’s single largest methane source.”
  • According to the EPA, “Some of the largest air emissions in the natural gas industry occur as natural gas wells that have been fractured are being prepared for production.”
  • CU’s Colorado School of Public Health determined that residents living within one half mile of natural gas wells are at greater risk for potential health problems.
  • The EPA has found emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes, totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants.

Front groups like EID detract from the real conversation around fracking and drilling in the west. Unfortunately, it seems as if industry is turning to them out of fear, as more western communities move to install common sense protections for their residents. If people like COGA's Tisha Schuller really want to have a depolarized conversation, they need to publicly distance themselves from groups like EID. Instead, Schuller is doing what every other mouthpiece for Big Oil does, spreading lies and misinformation so that the oil and gas companies she represents can continue to pollute.