Mountain States

‘Compromise’ Means Ban Drilling, Sierra Club Tells Colorado Task Force

The anti-energy campaign funded by Congressman Jared Polis is getting more help from national activist groups to lobby Colorado’s new oil and gas task force, which holds its second public meeting in Durango today. San Francisco-based Sierra Club is pushing the task force to endorse a “compromise” measure that would ban almost two-thirds of drilling activity in Colorado.

Sierra Club has joined other national activist groups like the Center for Western Priorities,  Environment America and Earthworks to pressure the task force into endorsing anti-energy policies. The lobbying campaign is led by Safe Clean Colorado, a group funded by millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis.

Safe Clean Colorado was established to campaign for two statewide ballot measures that would legalize local energy bans and quadruple the minimum distance between houses and oil and gas wells from 500 to 2,000 feet. Congressman Polis and “ban fracking” activists tried to rally support for the ballot initiatives under the banner of “local control,” but a broad bipartisan coalition – including Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – called the Polis measures “radical” and “extreme measures that would drive oil and gas out of Colorado.”

In August, Congressman Polis agreed to drop the ballot measures in exchange for the creation of the new oil and gas task force, which is charged with developing policy recommendations for the state legislature. It’s now clear that the Polis-backed campaign and other activist groups like the Sierra Club are trying to mislead and pressure the task force into endorsing the same anti-energy agenda they wanted on the ballot in November.

Sierra Club’s involvement is only just coming to light because one of the group’s Colorado operatives, Lauren Swain, did not mention her affiliation in testimony before the task force Sept. 25 in Denver. Swain leads the “Beyond Oil and Gas” campaign of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter and is a member of the group’s national “hydrofracking grassroots team.” During her testimony, Swain called on the task force to “adopt a compromise” with the following conditions:

“I am asking you to begin your work with a show of good faith by immediately recommending that Colorado stop issuing permits, only for new drilling, only in the nine non-compliant counties and only until the panel completes its work. That would not be too bad, would it?”

Yes, actually, it would.

The nine counties Swain is talking about are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld in Northern Colorado. According to data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, about 63% of all drilling activity in 2013 took place in this region, mostly in Weld County.

COGCC 2013 drilling permits

Don’t believe for a moment that the Sierra Club wants a temporary drilling ban, either. The “ban fracking” playbook was written in New York, where a temporary pause on permitting has been stretched out seven years thanks to intense lobbying from groups like Food & Water Watch, which want statewide, national and global bans on oil and gas development. Sierra Club has partnered with Food & Water Watch in court action to defend unlawful local energy bans in Colorado and this weekend, the two groups are making even more misleading claims to scare up a crowd of Denver residents to participate in the 2014 “Global Frackdown.”

So the “compromise” offered by the Sierra Club calls for banning oil and gas development in the region where almost two thirds of drilling in Colorado takes place. For the activists at Sierra Club, at least, that “would not be too bad.” But it would cripple one of Colorado’s mainstay industries, supporting almost $30 billion in economic activity, $1.6 billion in state and local revenue, more than 110,000 jobs, and household energy bills 23 percent lower than the national average.

In other words, the Sierra Club “compromise” is just as bad as the Polis-backed ballot measures that Gov. Hickenlooper warned would “drive oil and gas out of Colorado,” and in the process, “kill jobs and damage our state’s economy.” In a close race for governor this year, Hickenlooper and his Republican opponent Bob Beauprez disagree about many things, but they have each called out the anti-energy agenda of the Polis-backed campaign and other groups for being “radical.”

As Energy In Depth has noted before, let’s hope the task force members are ready, willing and able to sort fact from fiction under some intense political pressure, because these anti-energy campaigners – backed by millionaires and billionaires – clearly see the task force as a potential platform for promoting their fringe agenda in Colorado.


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