Anti-Fracking Groups Relaunch Costly Campaign in Colorado After Years of Failure
Last week, Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED) announced a series of ballot initiatives targeting the oil and natural gas industry – including a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing. CREED’s candidness – that it is seeking a ban on fracking, and by extension oil and gas development in Colorado – is new and refreshing, in a way. Previous ban efforts by CREED and others were cloaked as simply calls for more regulation and greater “local control.” Most Colorado residents were able to see through the deception, and thus “ban fracking” initiatives in Colorado – run by national organizations with a national agenda – have been repeatedly rejected by Colorado politicians, local elected officials, and voters across the political spectrum.
As we saw in 2012 and 2014, “ban fracking” activist groups operating in Colorado frequently attempted to downplay their real agenda – fighting for statewide and national oil and gas bans – by rebranding themselves as “local control” advocates. The activists even told the Denver Post:
“This isn’t about banning fracking, it is about giving communities the ability to put some controls on development.” (emphasis added)
Notably, millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis claimed that two anti-energy ballot measures he pushed during the last election cycle were meant to “ensure the continued growth and development of the energy industry.” But as EID has pointed out again and again and again, these activist groups were compelled to disguise their objectives because their “ban fracking” agenda is just too extreme for Colorado.
This time around, the activists have finally disclosed that their agenda is, in fact, to ban fracking in Colorado. In announcing the ballot initiatives, a CREED spokesperson said, “Our beautiful state should not be overwhelmed by wells, pads, and other industrial oil and gas operations…” The Colorado Statesman reports that “CREED says it will be moving forward with ballot questions” that include “an outright fracking ban statewide” (emphasis added). And a CREED Facebook post implores supporters to “[p]lease donate to support the new CREED 2013 [sic] ballot initiatives to protect Colorado communities from fracking.”
As EID has previously explained, CREED is the latest “Colorado” incarnation of Food & Water Watch’s national “ban fracking” campaign, which The Colorado Statesman has described as one of the “major players behind the anti-fracking movement” that has “played a key role in supporting initiatives to ban or delay fracking in local communities.” In 2012, Food & Water Watch declared Erie as “ground zero” for the group’s national campaign to ban fracking. In 2014, Food & Water Watch was a key player in the creation of Frack Free Colorado, Protect Our Colorado and Local Control Colorado as part of its attempts to put a local face on its national political campaign against U.S. energy development.
The latest ballot initiative drive is part of a much broader advocacy effort, marked by increasingly desperate tactics ranging from lobbying Denver officials with signatures from New Zealand and Canada, to protesting drilling in areas where there is no drilling, to roping high-school students into waving signs at a protest.
The campaign in Colorado, however, has largely failed to attract much support. Last month, the activists failed to show up when the eyes of the country were trained on Colorado for the Republican presidential debate in Boulder – when even the New York Times reported that “anti-fracking activists are organizing a march that they hope will draw thousands of people.” This came after an activist group was forced to cancel an anti-fracking rally earlier this year when just one person RSVPed. Unsurprisingly, the Denver Post wrote an editorial titled “Denver should ignore fractivists.”
According to recent surveys, a majority of Coloradans overwhelmingly supports oil and gas development. A recent poll commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute and the Colorado Petroleum Council found that, in Colorado, 95 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 69 percent of Democrats consider “producing more oil and natural gas here in the U.S.” important to them.
The officials elected by Coloradans agree: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) called previous anti-energy ballot initiatives “extreme measures that would drive oil and gas out of Colorado” and “kill jobs and damage our state’s economy.”
These “ban fracking” campaigns have been similarly rejected and dismissed by environmentalists and regulators all over the country. For example, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has called fracking bans “the wrong way to go.” Former White House advisor John Podesta – who is now the chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – called fracking bans “completely impractical.” Even California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is considered a hero to the environmental movement and who has clashed many times with the oil and gas industry throughout his long political career, has said that anti-fracking activists “don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
At the end of the day, even though these groups have gone through several wardrobe changes, there is no hiding from the fact that the fracking bans they are peddling threaten working families, jeopardize the state economy, and ultimately are not welcome in Colorado.