Mountain States

In Denver, ‘Ban Fracking’ Groups Stage Desperate Media Stunt

Sam Denver

Food & Water Watch’s Sam Schabacker demands a statewide energy ban at a Jan. 15 rally in Greeley (left), and a local ban at a Feb. 10 press conference in Denver.

A group of anti-energy activists launched a “full-court press” for a “Denver fracking moratorium” on the steps of City Hall yesterday, according to the Denver Post. It was a desperate media stunt by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch, which is running a losing campaign to ban oil and gas development across Colorado and nationally.

State records confirm no drilling is planned for the City and County of Denver. The activists are complaining about plans to drill outside the city limits, near Denver International Airport, in neighboring Adams County and the City of Aurora. But the activists didn’t hold their press conference in Adams County or Aurora yesterday.

That’s because Adams County and Aurora – where some drilling may actually happen – have resoundingly rejected the “ban fracking” agenda. Just in the past few months, the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously and the Aurora City Council voted 8-2 in favor of oil and gas development continuing under a combination of state and local regulations.

Faced with defeat in places where oil and gas development actually occurs, Food & Water Watch went back to the same desperate strategy it used last year to get the attention of Denver residents – hyping the potential for drilling in city neighborhoods.

Then, as now, a search of state records found no location assessments or drilling permits approved within Denver County for the past 12 months, and no pending applications for location assessments or drilling permits:


Officials at DIA have discussed the possibility of drilling new wells on airport property, which was part of Adams County before it was annexed by Denver. In fact, when the annexation took place, there were dozens of existing wells which continue to support the airport’s operating budget. In 2013, for example, those wells produced $5.5 million in revenue to “help offset the airlines’ cost of operating so the airport can remain globally competitive,” according to DIA.

To further alarm the public, Food & Water Watch is also hyping another so-called threat from well outside the city limits. According to the Post, the activists also claim to be worried about “potential plans to lease out hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land for fracking in the South Platte River watershed,” which is a major source of drinking water for the Denver metro area.

But here’s what Food & Water Watch leaves out: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is handling this issue exactly the way environmental groups want. The BLM has just started an exhaustive review process, called a Master Leasing Plan, which was demanded by environmental groups. No decision on leasing can be made until the MLP is completed, and according to the National Wildlife Federation, the BLM actually pulled back some proposed leases to make way for the MLP process.

The Colorado Wildlife Federation also weighed in:

“Park County has a unique opportunity to develop a master leasing plan for South Park with the BLM that will become a model for balancing world-class fish and wildlife resources and recreation with future energy development, while preserving the unique watershed that supplies more than 40 percent of drinking water to the Denver metro area.”

Even the activist group Clean Water Action, which has worked alongside Food & Water Watch to pressure the Colorado Oil & Gas Task Force into endorsing anti-energy proposals, endorsed the MLP process as “critical” and demanded BLM take its current course.

In other words, the BLM has taken the very action demanded by environmental activists to ensure Denver’s water supply is protected. But Food & Water Watch is so desperate for media attention, these facts were willfully ignored in order to sell the scariest possible story to the press and the public.

For those who really know Food & Water Watch, this comes as no surprise of course. According to The Colorado Statesman, this group played a “key role” organizing local “ban fracking” campaigns in Colorado, which were supposed to lay the groundwork for a statewide ban. During last year’s debate over statewide ballot measures against oil and gas development, Food & Water Watch even co-founded a group called Local Control Colorado, which insisted to Colorado media last year “[t]his isn’t about banning fracking,” while saying just the opposite to allies in other states.

While cloaking itself in the rhetoric of “local control” and campaigning mostly at the local level in Colorado, Food & Water Watch’s political agenda is anything but local. It wants to ban oil and gas development statewide in Colorado and is actively lobbying the federal government to impose a national ban – in other words, the complete opposite of “local control.”

Simply put, Food & Water Watch is a group that says whatever it needs to say to generate headlines and keep its fringe campaign against domestic energy production going as long as possible. Perhaps for this reason, the Denver Post editorial board concluded late yesterday: “Denver should ignore fractivists.”


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