Tag Archive for Colorado Oil and Gas Association

COGA turns to Boulder Weekly with latest spin

The industry feebly attempts to remove egg on its collective face from flood coverage.

Editor’s Note:  The following appeared in the Boulder Weekly in response to a letter to the editor by Doug Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association  Flanders is the Director of Policy and External Affairs for COGA.  In layman’s lingo, he’s the go-to guy when COGA needs someone to trash those in Colorado who seek to protect their communities from the known dangers of fracking for oil and gas to health and the environment .


Flared gasOh, Mr. Flanders! I can’t figure out whether you’re wringing your hands in distress and bewilderment or in delight at being able, yet again, to take pot shots at the environment.  Yes, I wrote environment. I did not mean “environmentalists.”

I know a thing or two about the oil and gas industry. Once upon a time I had an insider’s look at it. So before you drip away in self-praise at your community-assistance motives, let me point out that your industry has a 40-plus-year history of spending millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to repair a badly bruised and battered public image. (Remember the 1970s?)

While those who are benefiting from the “assistance” that your mega-billion-dollar companies have contributed towards relief, auditors will find those write-offs buried in your accounting under a derivative of public relations.

You know that your alleged compassion and generosity goes well beyond helping your fellow man and his environment. If there were such genuine caring, your industry wouldn’t be creating the environmental chaos that you inflict each and every day.

Methane released into the air that is damaging to human health as ozone and to the climate even more than carbon dioxide. Chemicals thrust into the ground and brought back up that are causing serious illness to children and adults alike. Total disregard of communities’ rights to self-determination. Perhaps we should do an amputation of your industry’s collective middle finger. Would that it were just that easy.

Your partner-in-crime Tisha Schuller looked to be agonizing when interviewed during television reporting on oil spills, tanks tipped and overturned, berms that allegedly contain contamination washed into farmland and waterways in the aftermath of the flooding. While Ms. Schuller was telling the viewing audience “Don’t worry, be happy,” the cut-aways were showing such images. Now really, Mr. Flanders, do you expect us to believe her — and you?

So as a reaction to your public relations disaster from the flood, you pulled out your Rapid Response Team to come up with an approach to remedy the bruises from falling on your faces. Those dastardly ordinary citizens — moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends — all those people who dare to point out the obvious and according to you and your mouthpieces are using a disaster to drive home a reality that you don’t want in public consciousness. Your industry causes damage — to people’s health and safety, to the environment, to the climate, to the air we breathe and water we drink and use to grow our food. And you will continue to cause that damage until you are stopped. We plan to do just that. And we will do it with truth, justice and the truly American way — not with lie on top of lie on top of lie, not by calling in chits with elected officials, not with lawsuits where the only intent is to deprive people and communities of their rights and well-being. You are on the wrong side of history, Mr. Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the wrong side.

 

Elect candidates who stand against fracking

Cast your ballot for those who will best protect Longmont's right to local control.

Vote, checked with red pencilAs we approach municipal elections Nov. 5, I believe it is critical that voters understand where each candidate stands regarding two lawsuits the city is currently defending. Although each lawsuit pertains to the community’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations within its corporate boundaries, each resulted from a separate approach to address foundational principles of local government in Colorado.

Home rule, citizen initiative and local control are key concepts found in the Colorado Constitution, the Longmont city charter and in years of practical application. The reason these basic principles of government are so critical is simple. When properly applied, they put key decisions about local communities in the hands of the people most heavily impacted, local residents. Under our charter, the citizens elect the City Council, which has the obligation to adopt appropriate policies to protect our health, environment and quality of life. This includes appropriate regulations for all land uses.

If and when residents do not believe the elected city council members are appropriately protecting the community, citizens have the right to initiate appropriate actions. This is what happened in 2012 regarding oil and gas operations. The ability to adopt appropriate land use regulations is a basic right of home rule cities in Colorado and a fundamental expectation of citizens. As you will see below, the primary opponents of local oil and gas land use regulations in Longmont are Gov. John Hickenlooper and the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry. That is why city council elections this year are absolutely critical.

The first lawsuit is an attempt to thwart the city council’s right to reasonably regulate land uses in Longmont. It was filed by Gov. Hickenlooper via his industry-dominated Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The oil and gas industry quickly joined the governor’s legal action so that it could throw its deep pockets of cash into the fight to have the state, not the city council, regulate oil and gas operations within Longmont.

The governor felt compelled to take legal action against our community because a majority of the Longmont City Council dared to enact land use regulations that prohibit oil/gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, within residential neighborhoods and requires these operations to be at least 750 feet from schools, hospitals and day care centers. Since the governor finds these rather timid Longmont regulations to be too restrictive of the heavy oil and gas industry, it verifies how little protection he believes our citizens deserve.

As of today, the city is vigorously defending its home rule rights to reasonably regulate the heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations. However, a future city council could stop defending this lawsuit and capitulate to the governor and the industry. At least one candidate, mayoral challenger Bryan Baum, has publicly stated that he is in favor of settling this lawsuit. If you believe in local control, you need to know where the other candidates stand.

The second lawsuit stems from 2012, when a group of Longmont residents became convinced that a majority of the elected city council was not adequately protecting the community from the impacts of oil and gas operations. The citizens initiated a city charter amendment that prohibits fracking operations within the city boundaries. Approximately 60 percent of the voters agreed with the amendment last November and it is now a part of the city charter. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) promptly filed legal action challenging Longmont’s city charter. The governor quickly joined forces with the industry.

I hope you see the pattern of state government and industry joining forces to attack local control. The opponents of local control hope that the combination of the power of state government and the deep pockets of a politically connected industry will intimidate small communities and citizens. They think bullying local government serves their interests. It will not work in Longmont if we elect the right city council members.

Both of these lawsuits address important local control issues; therefore, they must both be vigorously defended. The one addresses the powers of a home rule city as provided for in the Colorado constitution. The other defends the right of citizens to initiate charter amendments or legislation when their elected representatives fail to act appropriately. These rights and powers of our local community are in the hands of the next city council. I encourage each voter to understand the candidates’ position and cast your ballot for the ones who will best protect our community.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

 

Oil & Gas Industry: Anti-democracy and Anti-American

COGA seeks to deprive Lafayette community of opportunity to vote.

Last week the city of Lafayette received a clear glimpse of the true nature of the oil and gas industry. Within a 24-hour period of time we saw a Halliburton employee, backed by a Colorado Oil and Gas Association law firm file an effort to remove a community’s democratic voice on our future.

Vote plus flagCOGA attempted to strip Lafayette from our right to determine if our community would become a gas field by removing the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Ban Fracking from our November ballot. The Lafayette city clerk and city attorney ruled against the industry and with relevant law and our community. The effort to take the vote away was defeated.

Not skipping a breath, the industry attempted to create fear in the community with the impossible and unfounded claim that voting to ban gas and oil drilling within Lafayette city limits would mean that natural gas would be cut off to people’s homes. This would be similar to saying that if we don’t refine gasoline in Lafayette, we cannot fill up our cars. It should have been clearly reported that the Community Rights Act addresses extraction, and has no provisions at all about natural gas as a product.

If the industry is treating our community is this way before the first drill even hits the ground, imagine how we would be handled once they have established a real foothold in Lafayette.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s full board has 39 members. These 39 individuals are attempting to determine how life for Lafayette’s 25,733 citizens looks for decades to come. This is the world according to the oil and gas industry, which cannot tolerate a democratic voice to be present. And so if fracking cannot coexist with a community voice, clearly one of these has to go.

Preserve Lafayette and our community rights. Vote for the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing.

Coloradans will continue to say “No” to oil and gas without action.

The following Guest Commentary appeared in The Denver Post on June 27, 2013 and is reproduced on Free Range Longmont with permission from State Representative Mike Foote.
Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Oil and gas is an issue that will not go away. The number of active wells in Colorado has doubled over the last four years. The number of spills and other contamination incidents has also increased. Drilling has encroached ever closer to more densely populated areas. The industry will spend and make billions of dollars in Colorado in the upcoming years.

People across Colorado have expressed legitimate concerns about their health and safety as well as their lack of a voice in the process. Changes to the system to increase transparency, accountability, local control and safety can go a long way in addressing those concerns.

That’s why I and other legislators brought forward proposals, including imposing minimum penalties for serious violations of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to focus on protecting public health and the environment, ending its conflicted dual role of promoting oil and gas drilling while simultaneously regulating it.

The industry opposed those bills, as well as others increasing water monitoring requirements, increasing the number of well inspectors, creating a health impact study, and assessing fees for local inspection programs. None of those common-sense reforms made it through the legislature.

However, some hope emerged at the end of the session when Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the COGCC to “reevaluate its enforcement philosophy and approach.” The governor’s order went on to say, “Colorado requires strong and clear enforcement of the rules and assessment of fines and penalties accordingly.”

Implicit in the order was the recognition that enforcement of oil and gas industry regulations in Colorado is neither strong nor clear, and that the COGCC has become too cozy with the oil and gas operators it is supposed to be monitoring. It is my hope more progress can be made on this issue as well as many others related to oil and gas over the next year.

Recently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association announced it would conduct a “listening tour” around the state this summer. As an elected official, my job is to listen to the people of Colorado all year long, and I hear widespread frustration about the current oil and gas system. Perhaps after listening like I have, COGA will be more interested in partnering toward some solutions rather than saying no to any real reform. Because if the industry continues to say “no,” the people of Colorado will say “no” to oil and gas.

That is exactly what is happening across the Front Range right now. Concerned citizens’ groups have popped up from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. A ballot measure banning fracking passed in Longmont with a bipartisan 60 percent margin. Ballot measures in other cities and counties are promised this year.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, industry supporters have called these citizens extremists and hypocrites for heating their homes and driving cars to work. That isn’t the language of dialogue; that’s the language of confrontation. People have responded with the tools available to them: public protest and the ballot box.

Coloradans know that our most precious natural resources are not gas and oil, but water, air and natural beauty. They will act to protect what’s most precious.

Until Coloradans have confidence that the oil and gas industry is behaving responsibly in our state, and under strict environmental safeguards, we will see this dynamic continue. Building public confidence by setting and enforcing high standards will not only protect the environment and people’s health and safety, it will also protect the livelihoods of the Coloradans who work in the industry.

Negotiation requires more than just sitting at the negotiating table. It requires a willingness to accept opposing viewpoints and a commitment to find common ground. Coloradans deserve no less.

State Representative Mike Foote represents House District 12 in Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville.

 

 

Crocodile tears don’t wear well on Big Oil

Tisha Schuller, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has been busy making the public relations rounds these days. And she’s promised to remain busy all summer as she goes from editorial board to editorial board with her latest talking point: polarizing.

What has Ms. Schuller (and the oil and gas industry) so motivated? Fracking, of course. Or more accurately, public opposition to fracking, a highly toxic and dangerous extraction method that threatens the health of every man, woman and child nearby or downwind of the volatile organic compounds that are released.

 

Fracking  near Mead CO

 

“Out in the boonies,” for the most part, and away from populated areas, until recently, the oil and gas industry had the luxury of operating under the radar of the air traffic control of the Front Range.

We should have been paying closer attention. But then, those in powerful places really didn’t want you to know very much. It might raise your eyebrows; bring frowns to your forehead; make you question. It might even activate you.

The West Slope has been fighting the fallout from fracking for oil and gas for years. Trying to preserve their health and their way of life, our friends on the other side of the Rockies have been battling their county commissioners, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, elected officials and don’t forget Big Oil, tirelessly and with determination, while most of the rest of us were leading our lives in “blissful ignorance” to the looming threats.

Ah, Ms. Schuller, I’m sure you long for the good old days, when all you had to do was keep an eye on the politicians in Denver to be sure that enough of them were on the same page as you.

So you tell your tale of woe to the newspapers so that your message, “We’re the good guys,” will be delivered by reporters not organizations that Big Oil has created and financed (Longmont Times-Call, “Colorado Oil and Gas Association seeks to depolarize local drilling disputes,” June 4, 2013).

With the inside media track, you write more of the same in the Denver Post. You moan and wring your hands about how abused the oil and gas industry is when all they do is provide you with, well, “everything.” You claim that “drill, baby, drill” is not you. If there even is such a thing, it comes from “extremists” on your side.

You claim that anyone against the vile consequences of horizontal hydraulic fracking is an “extremist” on the other side. Big Oil is no “villain.” They are your mommy and daddy taking care of your every need. “You’ll realize we were right when you grow up.”

But you, COGA and all of your industry members and the 501(c)(4)s that carry out your public relations and advertising directions, who execute your carefully crafted talking points are the “moderates.” Oh, please!

You do know “Energy in Depth,” don’t you? When you read about them on their website, you are given to believe that they are just a nice public service organization who will deliver, as “Dragnet’s” Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

But founding member IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America), in a 2009 internal document, wrote, “IPAA’s government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign — known as ‘Energy in Depth’ — to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”

It went on to say, “The ‘Energy in Depth’ project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy (now owned by Exxon/Mobil), Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.” Giants, all giants of the most profitable industry on earth, pretending to be the “David” in a battle against attacks from folks like the Longmont voters who banned fracking in our city.

EID was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to … attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” among federal and state associations and member companies “working closely with news media and policymakers.”

So look for the word “polarize” to repeat over and over while COGA presents itself as the only sensible entity. But don’t believe it. Don’t count on COGA to protect your health and all that derives from it.

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.

Oil and gas industry attacks democratic process

Lady Justice

Longmont is fighting back

Thanks to City Council for committing to a vigorous defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act.

This act was placed in the city charter by the will of Longmont voters who have a constitutional right to protect their health, safety and property values. Colorado oil and gas is attacking our democratic process by challenging the people’s vote and the Longmont charter in court. Their process is not safe and responsible. Their promises of revenue have not materialized in fracked communities. Roads have been damaged by heavy trucks, property values and municipal revenues have diminished, and the prospect for long-term, well-paying jobs has been lost.

There is much evidence of the horrors suffered in other communities subjected to today’s unconventional fracking. People are exposed to carcinogenic and other dangerous chemicals; methane gas is released into the air and water; water is poisoned by toxic chemicals; millions of gallons of water are used at each site and turned into toxic waste.

If you care about children or any human beings, pets and livestock, schools, your church, recreational facilities, the value of homes, parks, streets, our precious aquifer and long-term job growth, you will fight this attack by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

A vigorous legal defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act will ensure long-term economic growth and a viable future for all who live in Longmont.

Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2012
Contact:  Michael Bellmont
(303) 678-9470

 

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit against Longmont’s Charter Amendment

 

Before the ink was barely dry on the Longmont Charter Amendment, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, that prohibits hydraulic fracturing next to homes and schools in Longmont, the oil and gas industry has filed a vicious lawsuit against the People of Longmont.  This suit was brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—with brazen support from Governor Hickenlooper—to force the citizens of Longmont to allow a dangerous, industrial activity that threatens the health, safety and property of citizens in Longmont.

On November 6, 2012, over 25,000 people, 60 percent of Longmont voters, representing all demographics and all political philosophies spoke loud and clear that it is their intention to prohibit hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the disposal of attendant wastes within the city limits of Longmont.  The citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to health, safety, and property shall not be infringed.

The legal assault by COGA is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process.  “It is unconscionable that the oil and gas industry has decided to sue the people of Longmont to recklessly endanger our health, safety and property,” said Michael Bellmont, a spokesperson for Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

Our Longmont has assembled a legal team that will assist in a vigorous and unwavering defense of the charter amendment that it placed on the ballot with the concurrence of over 8200 Longmont voters who signed the petition to qualify the measure (nearly 45% more than required).   “We will not be bullied.  We will not permit Governor Hickenlooper, who has publicly stated he will support a lawsuit and the oil and gas industry to put this dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes, schools and public parks,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Longmont.

Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is equally culpable in this decision to sue the people of Longmont after publicly declaring he will support any oil and gas company that seeks to sue citizens who want to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.  Any action that he directs the State of Colorado to take against the City of Longmont and the citizens of Longmont will be received with immense animosity and will carry a heavy political price.  Hickenlooper took an oath to represent the people, NOT the oil and gas industry.

Hey, Gov! Which mouth are we to believe?

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

I have found newspaper coverage about the recent oil and gas association conference in Denver somewhat baffling. On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the governor spoke at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. The Times-Call ran articles covering the speech on both Thursday and Friday with these headlines: “Hickenlooper says Longmont drilling rules must be challenged,” and “Gov. Hickenlooper: Drilling regulations need more work.”

It would appear that the governor was speaking out of both sides of his mouth last week.

Out of one side of his mouth, Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a new set of state initiatives to oversee oil and gas operations to create “integrity and trust” in energy development in our state. According to the article, the focus of the initiatives includes: well-bore integrity, water sampling, fugitive methane emissions and setbacks from densely populated areas. He also remarked that public concern about hydraulic fracturing must be addressed.

After catching his breath, the governor then spoke out of the other side of his mouth. At that point, Gov. Hickenlooper threatened to take the city of Longmont to court to quash its recently adopted comprehensive oil and gas drilling regulations. He stated that the Longmont City Council should accept his word that the state rules governing oil and gas regulations have sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of local communities. These are the same rules that, when speaking out of the other side of his mouth, he said must be revised to bring “integrity and trust to the industry.”

Only a politician would even attempt to sell such convoluted logic to the public. There is no doubt in my mind which entity (state of Colorado or city of Longmont) I want protecting the health and environment in my community. The governor threatening to use the courts to keep the elected Longmont City Council from protecting its residents is unconscionable.

Hickenlooper’s oil and gas fling; Coloradans watching

Near Evans, Colorado. Courtesy of David Schemel

Governor Hickenlooper had a few particularly cozy days with the oil and gas industry the other week. First, he appeared in industry-funded ads in newspapers and on radio stations across the state, proclaiming that no water in Colorado had been contaminated by fracking. After being forced to issue a weak mea culpa amid cries of ethics violations over his unabashed hawking of the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper then claimed that fracking fluids are edible: “You can eat this — the CEO of Halliburton took a big swig of this thing. And not to be outdone, I took a swig of it myself.”

Then, the governor issued an Executive Order to create an industry-dominated task force that will examine how to take local control away from communities across the state that don’t want drill rigs near homes or their children’s schools.

And now, satisfied with a job well done, Governor Hickenlooper jetted to Houston, Texas, to be the keynote speaker of an industry conference touting fracking.

If these antics have you thinking that Governor Hickenlooper no longer represents the people of Colorado and works full-time for the oil and gas industry, you’re not off base: Governor Hickenlooper took over $75,000 from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign.

Even so, the grassroots movement that opposes fracking in Colorado is starting to win. Up and down the Front Range — from Colorado Springs to El Paso County, from Erie to Longmont to Boulder County — communities are standing up to pass moratoria on fracking. Why? Because their air quality is 10 times worse than Houston, Texas, as a result of oil and gas drilling. Or because there is a fracking well being planned 350 feet from their children’s elementary school. Or because their home values have plummeted due to proposed fracking in their neighborhood.

Grassroots, community rights organizations across the state are emerging. LongmontROAR, Erie Rising, What the Frack?! Arapahoe County and several others are talking to their neighbors, asking questions and pressing their city council members and county commissioners to say “no” to fracking. These aren’t dyed-in-the-wool activists, they are everyday Coloradans who love their families, their mountain air and their clean water. The mothers, insurance agents, pharmacists and retired people who don’t want a drill rig in their backyard or next to their child’s school are leading a fracking rebellion that is sweeping the state. And with some brass-nosed organizing, we are winning.

So when El Paso County and Boulder County — arguably the most conservative and progressive parts of the state, respectively — both pass moratoria to stop fracking in their communities, Governor Hickenlooper has a problem on his hands. A big problem that won’t make his oil and gas pals very happy.

And I make this prediction: industry-sponsored ads, slick oil and gas talking points, threatening letters from Attorney General John Suthers and the huff and puff of the oil and gas industry will not stop concerned citizens from demanding their rights to protect their children, homes and water from the harmful impacts of fracking and from organizing in a smart, strategic way to win. They will actually tick us off more and encourage us to fight harder.

The recent defeat of Senate Bill 88, which would have stripped communities of their local control to protect their water and citizens from fracking, is Exhibit A of this burgeoning grassroots movement. After generating thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls, dozens of regular citizens crammed into an obscure committee meeting on a Thursday afternoon to defeat this industry-sponsored bill.

Governor John Hickenlooper

So I encourage all Coloradans to get involved with this movement to ban fracking. For a first step, email Governor Hickenloopertoday and ask him to pull his misleading industry ads. He’s done enough for the industry. It’s time he sticks up for Coloradans for a change.

This article was first published in Huffington Post and is republished with the permission of the author.

The curtains are sheers

Who is that man behind the curtain trying to fool?  I suppose it’s the “uninformed voter.”  Or perhaps it’s those who believe television and radio commercials. Or maybe it’s piggybacking on the groundwork that has been so tirelessly laid by Republicans to scare the bejesus out of the population.

We’re going to have gasoline that costs $10 a gallon.  My shower is going to run cold.  I’m going to need a half dozen blankets to stay warm in the winter.  I’m going to cook in my home in the hot summer.  No.  No.  NO NO NO NO NO!

Or maybe he doesn’t even care if we’re fooled.  Maybe it’s a matter of creating a political trail for additional campaign contributions.  Or maybe its groundwork for higher office.  Just think of the power of the presidency, especially if you have a like-minded, bought-and-paid-for Congress who won’t stand in your way.  Mighty stimulating, wouldn’t you say?

Heads-up, Governor Hickenlooper, there is enough of us out here in Colorado and along the Front Range who will make it a mission to see to it that you are not successful – regardless of your motive.  We value our rights to health, safety and welfare; and we intend to protect them.  Make no mistake, our call is clarion.

 ~

How often has your phone rung over the last five or six months?  And who was on the other end of those calls?  Let me guess.  Tisha Schuller (Executive Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association)?  Stan Dempsey (President of the Colorado Petroleum Association).  David Neslin (Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) or his newly-appointed clone.  Any number of CEO’s from the major oil and gas companies that are drilling and fracking throughout Colorado.

And just why might they have pressed the panic button?  Could it be that several Colorado counties, towns and cities have said, “Hold on now.  Wait just a @#$%^&* minute! We don’t want no damned drillin’ and frackin’ by our homes, our schools, our parks, our reservoirs.  Just who the hell do you guys think you are?”

 ~

Senator Ted Harvey’s bill (SB12-088) which would have removed all local control over oil and gas drilling fell flat on its hideous face in the Local Government Committee of the Senate with the help of a packed room full of Colorado citizens who were furious, disgusted and legitimately fearful.

Your buddies in the House—yes, the REPUBLICAN House and YOU a Democrat – slapped down local-control efforts and reaffirmations and even killed severance disclosure.  All this even though the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is already nothing more than a shill for the oil and gas industry.   That still wasn’t good enough.

You had to make damned sure that a rowdy public – growing in numbers by the hours, days and months –  didn’t get any traction, much less results.

 ~

Frackenlooper digs in against communities

So along comes your Executive Order, Governor John Hickenlooper, an order to create a “Task Force on Cooperative Strategies Regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development.”

You remind us in your order of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act and its authority, but never mention that the COGCC’s main mission is to facilitate oil and gas development in the state with barely an afterthought to the subservient portion of public health, safety and welfare.

You speak to case law as if we are to accept that matters of rulemaking are essentially settled law.  But you give away a secret.  The industry doesn’t want to go to court and litigate, on a case-by-case basis, what is or is not a local regulation that is in “operational conflict” with state regulations.  As you state, “Parties hesitate to pursue resolution in court because proving operational conflict is an adversarial, cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive process.” (Readers, take note where the burden lies in the above quote.)

So you want everyone to play nice on the playground and work “collaboratively.”  We know how to read that, Governor Hickenlooper.  You’re going to have the task force pretend to listen, pretend to accommodate the public, and to delay, delay, delay while the COGCC diddles around over process and the development of the role of the Local Government Designee until the operators get as many drills in the ground as they can and then the entire issue becomes MOOT.

 ~

And then there’s the matter of the make-up of your Task Force.  Kangaroo Court is the phrase that comes to mind.  It goes well beyond the balance, or rather imbalance, of the categories themselves to the biases of the actual appointees.  And I see a stacked jury.  I see two, maybe three, at the most four, of the chosen ones who actually will represent the people, local communities and the environment.  And here might be a good place to insert the comment made by Department of Natural Resources Director Mike King, the task force chair, that there is not enough time to work through everything and come to a consensus.  Translation:  The answers will be by majority and the majority is predetermined.

I’ll give you this much, Governor Hickenlooper, the scope of the task force as outlined in your Executive Order is admirable.  You’ve got Mission.  You’ve got Substance.  You’ve got Process.

Some pretty important stuff is delineated under the substance portion of the order.  Things like setbacks and other restrictions on location of oil and gas wells and production facilities.  Things like floodplain restrictions, noise abatement and dust management.  Things like protection of wildlife and livestock.  And air quality.  And then there are operational methods, perhaps like closed-loop systems.  And traffic.  And financial assurances.  And there’s also inspection and fees.

Oh, but there’s a hitch in this git-along.  We’ve already got jury instructions and they’ve pretty much skipped right over that substancy thing.  So, no, Governor Hickenlooper, it’s not working for us.

Mr. King, as with any good bureaucrat, is most interested in process not substance.  He’ll leave that stuff to the big boys over at COGCC.  He’s already predetermined that there will be two subcommittees:  one on “development of a process for local concerns to be brought to the COGCC through the Local Government Designee,” and the second on protocols and training for local inspectors (though not enforcers).

And then there’s King’s Part 3.  He admits that the reason the matter of oil and gas drilling has such visibility throughout Colorado is the issue of jurisdiction.  He admits that it is likely to be the most controversial.  Oh, but wait.  He says that “maybe it’s the least important.”  How can that be, you might ask.  Well you see, he’s already figured out that the first two will provide the itty bitty local governments an opportunity to request (not necessarily be granted) a VARIANCE from state standards.   These variance requests will be neatly, pat-on-the-head neatly, “considered” by the COGCC.

And with that, and only an hour into the meeting,  Mr. King set up weekly meetings for Thursdays, between 9 AM and Noon and postponed subcommittee selection until the next meeting on March 15.  Go figure.  All this foot-draggin’ and the the task force is supposed to report back to Governor Hickenlooper in a mere six weeks.

And then there’s this.  There may a glitch on audio streaming of the meetings.  If the full task force has to meet in a different room, it probably will have audio streaming.  But the same cannot be said of the subcommittee meetings.  Well, golly gee, isn’t that special.  Whatever guts and glory there might be in these proceedings may actually be conducted behind closed doors at least for those who are unable to trek all the way into Denver to sit and listen.

Governor Hickenlooper, you’re off to a very poor start.  But then you didn’t mean for this effort to be genuine in the first place.  Now did you?

Back door deal compromised clean water

Image courtesy of SXC.hu

Loopholes are supposed to be for defense, not offense.

If fracking is as safe as the oil and gas industry would like us to believe, then why in 2005 did Congress — at the behest of then Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of gas driller Halliburton — exempt fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act? If fracking doesn’t affect drinking water, why would an exemption be needed? Don’t believe me? Just google “Halliburton loophole.”

When Colorado Oil & Gas Association and Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission officials say we shouldn’t complain about the dangers of fracking if we use natural gas, it’s like saying, we shouldn’t worry about keeping our water supply safe if we drink water. Huh?

So, what can you do about it? Join LongmontROAR.org and take back your rights to clean water and clean air.

Oil & Gas “clowns” — hubris not humorous

It was a three-ring circus at the Longmont Planning and Zoning meeting on Wednesday, February 15. Industry clowns, COGCC Attorney, Jake Matter and COGA’s Schuller were juggling their corporate supremacy balls as they told us: 1) we are preempted as a City to do anything to regulate gas drilling — plus we “must” accept the COGCC rules; 2) we have “misperceptions” about how the oil and gas industry operates, and, by the way, “we need to be corrected.” Billion-dollar corporation, Anadarko, sent an emissary from Texas to assure us that they have our best interests in mind. However, this person was paid to fly out and feed propaganda to our Planning and Zoning Commission. Top Operating defended cleaning up the leaking Rider Well next to Trail Ridge Middle School. The Times-Call reported that Well had benzene levels 100 times the State level. With benzene levels that high, it doesn’t appear to be cleaned up.

COGCC says we can’t ban open pits. Do you understand the implications of living next to an open pit? It is described in Theo Colborn’s video, “What you need to know about Natural Gas Drilling.” The industry blows wastewater infused with toxic chemicals into the air to be evaporated — but you better watch out if you are downwind! Children are especially vulnerable when exposed to these toxins.

The P & Z decision to accept flawed regulations that won’t protect the health and well being of the citizens while voting to recommend a moratorium extension seems contradictory. What I heard at this meeting was a repeat performance of arrogant industry insiders who wish to put us under their big thumbs.

Our rights as citizens are being trampled by corporate supremacists and by our corporate municipality. We should be exploring ways to ban fracking and stop this three-ring circus once and for all.

Super Advisory Committee to hear about drilling

Oil and gas drilling at Fairview and SH 119

An informational meeting will be held on December 7th (Wednesday) from 6 PM to 9 PM at the City Council Chambers (350 Kimbark Street) to to provide information on oil and gas issues to the members of the Board of Environmental Affairs, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Water Board . Members from the Planning and Zoning Commission will not be attending the meeting. Presentations will be given by city staff and outside agencies and organizations. The presentations will be similar to those provided at the November 15th City Council meeting. In addition to the previous speakers, Mr. Wes Wilson, an ex-EPA staffer who has information on the environmental effects of oil and gas operations, has been invited to give a presentation.

This meeting will be educational only. Board members will have the opportunity to ask questions of staff and the presenters as they relate to the presentations. While this is a public meeting and the public is invited to observe the presentations, there will not be any public participation or a Public Invited to be Heard period at the meeting.

For those who would like to preview the presentations or for those not able to attend the meeting, the video of the presentations at the November 15th Council meeting is available here.