Mountain States

A Reality Check for Anti-Fracking Activists on ‘Local Control’

Anti-energy activists in Colorado have tried to portray local governments as “powerless” when it comes to oil and gas development in our state. The anti-energy campaign backed by millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis even claims local communities are the victims of “roughshod fracking.”

But the reality is nothing like that, according to the Colorado Municipal League. The group’s general counsel, Geoff Wilson, told Denver Post editorial page editor Vincent Carroll earlier this year that local governments and the oil and gas industry are “doing better than we ever have.” From Carroll’s column:

Geoff Wilson, general counsel at the Colorado Municipal League, told me last month that contrary to popular impression, relations between local communities and the oil and gas industry are pretty solid.

“The idea that there is this seething cauldron of conflict between the industry and local governments, I just don’t buy it. Yes, you can find examples where things aren’t working out, and to me that’s just the noise of local government in operation. …

“I think we’re doing better than we ever have. You know, things were really awful in the early 1990s. The oil and gas companies weren’t very sophisticated in how they dealt with the local communities that were hosting their activity. And we in local government weren’t very knowledgeable about this industry. And both of those things have changed in the years since.”

Wilson is no apologist for state primacy in regulation, by the way. He wrote a brief on behalf of local control for the landmark 1992 case in which the state Supreme Court struck down Greeley’s ban on drilling.

“I got my [butt] handed to me,” he recalls.

So, if local governments and the oil and gas industry are “doing better than we ever have,” where did those “ban fracking” campaigns in Boulder and Larimer counties come from? According to the Colorado Statesman, the Washington, D.C.-based group Food & Water Watch is one of the “major players behind the anti-fracking movement” in Colorado and has “played a key role in supporting initiatives to ban or delay fracking in local communities.”

In fact, Food & Water Watch joined with Mark Ruffalo’s Water Defense and Yoko Ono’s Artists Against Fracking – two anti-energy groups from New York City – to form Frack Free Colorado, which helped set up local “ban fracking” campaigns across Northern Colorado. Many of the same players from Frack Free Colorado later rebooted their campaign under a new name, Local Control Colorado.

But if the slogans changed, the goals never did. Food & Water Watch continues to demand bans on oil and gas production across all of Colorado and the rest of the nation. Even Local Control Colorado admitted to activists in other states it was part of the national “ban fracking” campaign, while at the same time claiming to the Colorado news media “[t]his isn’t about banning fracking.”

As for Rep. Polis and Safe Clean Colorado, the Congressman has claimed his anti-energy campaign is actually meant to help the state’s oil and gas industry continue to grow. But as Energy In Depth revealed in early August, the Congressman has been working with “ban fracking” activists – including Gasland director Josh Fox – and promoting the agenda of “ban fracking” groups like Food & Water Watch for years. Rep. Polis has even praised Fox and Ruffalo for doing an “amazing job” spreading misinformation about the oil and gas industry.

Today, Safe Clean Colorado has pledged in an e-mail blast to supporters that it’s joining Food & Water Watch and other anti-energy groups to lobby the state’s new 21-member oil and gas task force. The task force was established under an agreement between Rep. Polis and Gov. John Hickenlooper that pulled down two anti-energy ballot initiatives sponsored by the Congressman for the statewide ballot in November.

Expect more of the same as the campaign shifts – local-sounding talking points that mask a fringe national agenda to completely shut down oil and gas development across Colorado and the rest of the country. Hopefully, the members of the task force will see through the charade and base their decisions on the facts, not the ideological talking points of groups that refuse to be truthful about who they really are and what they really want.


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