Mountain States

Earthworks Brings ‘War on Fracking’ to Colorado Oil & Gas Task Force

Washington, D.C.-based Earthworks says it’s waging a “war on fracking.”

The activist group Earthworks has been invited to testify at today’s meeting of the Colorado oil and gas task force. Based on past experience with other activist organizations, Earthworks will likely present itself to the task force, news media and general public as a group that simply wants to improve the way oil and gas development is regulated. But the facts tell a very different story.

Earthworks has joined other national anti-energy groups like the Center for Western Priorities and  Environment America to pressure the task force into endorsing anti-energy policies. Safe Clean Colorado, a group funded by millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis to push two anti-energy ballot measures for the November 2014 ballot, is also deeply involved in the lobbying campaign.

By its own admission, Earthworks is engaged in a “war on fracking.” The group actively defends local energy bans in Colorado, which the courts have found to be unlawful. During the September 2013 floods, an Earthworks activist promoted a petition for an “immediate moratorium on fracking in Colorado,” even though state and federal regulators found the reckless claims of anti-energy groups during the crisis to be “unfounded.”

The same Earthworks activist who tried to exploit Colorado’s flood disaster to shut down oil and gas development across the state is also a staunch defender Al Armendariz, who was forced out of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for saying he liked to “crucify” oil and natural gas companies. Armendariz now works for the anti-energy group Sierra Club, which is also trying to lobby and mislead the members of the Colorado oil and gas task force by pushing a “compromise” that would shut down roughly two-thirds of drilling in the state.

Meanwhile, Earthworks organizer Josh Joswick has already sent two sets of public comments to the task force, without disclosing his affiliation with an anti-energy group. In his comments, Joswick identifies himself as a “three-term county commissioner” from La Plata County, and urges the task force to recommend the legalization of local energy bans.

In 2010, Joswick worked for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, an anti-energy group located just a few blocks from the Earthworks field office in Durango. At a conference of oil and gas opposition groups in Pittsburgh, Joswick called the campaign against the oil and gas industry a “street fight,” “bar fight” and a “back-alley fight. He endorsed “bans on drilling,” and urged other activist groups to “put up as many obstacles … to make it as difficult as possible to develop” oil and gas. Here is a video of his comments:

According to The Denver Post, Joswick “left the alliance to work with Earthworks about 18 months ago.” At Earthworks, Joswick has served as the group’s Front Range Organizer, a job which involves lobbying for local energy bans.

The lobbying campaign from Earthworks is all the more remarkable when you consider the group already has allies on the task force. They include co-chair Gwen Lachelt, whose biography on the task force website says she is “the founder and immediate past director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project” in addition to her current role as a La Plata County Commissioner.

As Energy In Depth has noted before, the issue here is not who should or should not testify before or provide public comment to the Colorado oil and gas task force. Petitioning the government is a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, right alongside freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly.

The issue is why “ban fracking” activists don’t want people to know who they really are and what they really want, whether it’s on the campaign trail or when trying to shape the outcome of an oil and gas task force. It’s no secret that energy industry representatives are pro-energy. The agenda of anti-energy activists shouldn’t be hidden from the public, either.


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