Mountain States

Top 10 Most Ridiculous Stunts Pulled Out West by “Ban Fracking” Activists in 2017

In Colorado and across the west, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for responsible oil and gas development. It’s no wonder, therefore, that “Keep It In the Ground” groups are left with only bad theater, political stunts, and threats to make their case in the west. As we close out 2017, here’s a quick recap of the 10 most outrageous “ban fracking” stunts ranked by most ridiculous to still pretty ridiculous.

#1 Boulder anti-fracking activists protest the “Wrong Door”

Knock knock. Who’s there? Not Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, because she doesn’t live here. That’s what happened earlier this year when anti-fracking activists staged a nearly hour-long protest at the wrong house in Boulder, Colo. This fiasco takes the cake as the top 2017 anti-fracking stunt that will never be lived down by these “Keep It in the Ground” groups. See videos and photos below for a quick refresher on what is likely the biggest anti-fracking PR disaster to-date.

Source: East Boulder County United Facebook. Click here for the full video.

Source: East Boulder County United Facebook. Click here for the full video.


Source: East Boulder County United Facebook. Click here for the full video.

Source: Denver Post

But no, wait there’s more from this group…

#2 Halloween came way too early this year for the “Wrong Door” Boulder anti-fracking activists

As if the “Wrong Door” protest wasn’t bad enough, the same group of activists staged a tone deaf “die-in” targeting –  yet again – the once-praised Jones, who has now found herself on the anti-fracking group’s political hit list. And, if you haven’t heard of a “die-in” before, as strange is it seems – this is actually a common protest tactic used by “Keep It in the Ground” groups.

The Daily Caller was the first to break the story about the tone deaf and untimely “die-in” protest, which was held less than two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Below are some details and photos of the “Wrong Door” anti-fracking activists’ theatrics. From the East Boulder County United (EBCU) press release:

“In order to visually illustrate the lethal nature of fracking and to emphasize the critical nature of the immediate fracking crisis, community members staged a ‘die-in’ form of protest.  People simulated the deaths caused by fracking pollution and oil/gas explosions by lying on the hearing room floor with cardboard tombstones.  The tombstones were painted with anti-fracking messages including:  R.I.P. Open Space, Fracking Killed Me, Died so Oil + Gas Execs Could Get Rich, R.I.P. Clean Air, COGCC Killed Me, R.I.P. Clean Water, Here Lies Polluted Open Space, Fracking Kills, Greedy Frackers Killed Me, etc.”

Source: East Boulder County United Facebook Page

#3 Then there was the Ohio Roadshow

Considering they have secured the top three spots on our top-10 list so far, it’s pretty clear that 2017 was all about “bad PR is good PR” for these Boulder fracktivists. Par for the course, Lafayette City Council Member Merrily Mazza (a press contact for EBCU) skipped what you would think is a more important city council meeting in favor of taking a 3,281-mile round trip to Ohio for a speaking tour to market her “success” in Colorado. As our EID team in Ohio discovered, she was actually touting the passage of Lafayette’s “Climate Bill of Rights.” Ironically, both Mazza and her son Cliff Willmeng were not exactly thrilled about the measure that passed earlier this year, calling it “toothless.” But that clearly didn’t hold Mazza back from her “Community Rising” speaking tour in Ohio where she shamelessly promoted her heralded victory of passing the “toothless,” “unenforceable” and “unconstitutional” “Climate Bill of Rights” she championed in Lafayette.

Source: Ohio Community Rights Network Facebook Page

Meanwhile, while Mazza was playing hooky in Ohio, the Boulder Daily Camera reported on a moratorium vote in Lafayette:

“Lafayette may be primed to halt new oil and gas development on the eve of wide scale fracking plans slated for Boulder County. Officials on Tuesday evening tabled a decision until later this month, citing the need for more communication and the presence of all the council members before any decision can be made. Councilwoman Merrily Mazza, who said she would vote “no” on a moratorium last week, was absent.”

Now something to keep in mind, when the Climate Bill of Rights first passed in early 2017, Mazza told the Boulder Daily Camera, “it technically bans fracking in the city limits as a violation to our fundamental rights, but it will be up to whatever local attorney to make some feeble attempt (to uphold it).”

With that said, what makes this a fracktivist fail is the fact that Mazza made her speaking tour in Ohio a top priority and left her anti-fracking supporters back in Lafayette with a false sense of security in the “symbolic” and “toothless” “Climate Bill of Rights.”

#4 That awkward moment when anti-fracking activist don’t have their facts straight

It was no surprise to see D.C.-based national anti-fracking group Food & Water Watch (F&WW) at basically all of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) meetings this year. Also not surprising was the outrageous performance given by the following F&WW operative during the November COGCC meeting in Denver.

Source: Energy in Depth

During the November meeting, the above pictured F&WW operative passed around medical masks and instructed other activists to decorate their masks with anti-fracking rhetoric meant to symbolize the “toxic” air in Colorado caused by what one reporter called “oil fracking,” whatever that is.

Source: CBS4 Denver

Decorating masks and wearing them at a public meeting and expecting to be taken seriously is odd, but what was even more embarrassing for these activists is the fact that they cited several debunked studies and misinterpreted reports during public comment. See below for a few examples.

Example #1:

One activist referenced the American Lung Association’s (ALA) annual air quality reports, which have long been debunked not only by Energy In Depth, but by state air regulatorsEPA officials and the local news media.

In fact, back in 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) warned that the ALA’s air quality report card was “both inaccurate and misrepresents air quality in Colorado.”

In a 2015 follow-up interview with Energy In Depth, CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division Director Will Allison revealed that the ALA report card ignored a full year of air quality data from 2014, which shows ozone levels getting better, not worse. For then-ALA of Colorado vice president Cindy Liverance to claim there’s higher ozone now than back in the 1970s also ignores decades of air quality data that show “it’s gotten a lot better,” according to Allison.

This clap back at ALA isn’t unique to Colorado. Widespread criticism of the ALA reports has poured in from across the country in recent years from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board, as well as government agencies and regulators like EPA Region 7, the Indiana Department of Environmental ManagementMaryland Department of the EnvironmentTexas Commission on Environmental Quality and Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services. Consensus shows that ALA is misleading the public by misrepresenting information in an effort to advance its agenda. Nevertheless, anti-fracking activists continue to rely on these reports, despite the fact that ALA’s data is faulty and inaccurately aggregated.

Example #2:

Fracktivists exploited a conveniently timed National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) report. The morning of the November COGCC meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reported just 35 minutes before the meeting started that a “new air quality report” had been released that same day by Boulder’s NCAR. Coincidentally, news of the “new report” came out around the same time that nearly 60 anti-fracking elected officials and activists were lining up at the doors and signing up to give public comment for the 9 a.m. COGCC meeting.

The $3.5 million NCAR study ($2 million of which came courtesy of the state of Colorado) was used by several anti-fracking activists to line their comments with citable “facts” during COGCC’s public comment period. But despite the last ditch effort to sprinkle in “facts” they found in the Monday morning Boulder Daily Camera NCAR study article, activists failed to include a couple of key nuggets of information while referencing the NCAR study. First of all, it was actually released in July. And there was also no mention of background ozone — which is discussed extensively in the NCAR report — during the public comment period. Background ozone is a very important factor impacting the Front Range, as the Denver Business Journal accurately reported:

“Denver has a background ozone level of about 40-50 parts per billion (ppb) that is generated by numerous sources outside of the region, according to the NCAR report.”

To the Boulder Daily Camera’s credit, it did end up adding this essential information on background ozone to Monday morning’s story on the NCAR report following the meeting:

“Rebecca Simons, a writer for the blog Energy in Depth, launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that the industry has made strides in reducing emissions. ‘We certainly face unique challenges due to background ozone, which is the single largest contributor to ground-level ozone overall,’ Simons wrote in a statement. ‘Nevertheless, as a result of state and federal regulations already on the books, and the innovations taking place in the field, ozone has dramatically decreased, even as oil and gas production has soared in Colorado.’”

#5 Anti-fracking activists are multi-faceted. Not only can they put on lively theatrical performances, but some of them can sing!

You’ve been warned, watching this video may result in this song being stuck in your head, as it is quite catchy.

Source: Energy in Depth Youtube Channel

#6 You could say 2017 was “lit” for some anti-fracking activists

Anti-fracking activists over in Boulder County hosted a press conference in front of the Boulder County Courthouse regarding a recent incident in which activists tried to show people “the light” as it pertains to fracking, but instead one of the anti-fracking protesters ended up lit with litigation instead.

Source: Erie Protectors Facebook Page

#7 Not a good look. National “ban fracking” activists hide behind kids in lawsuit

Sometimes, politics start in the courtroom. Earlier this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with youth environmentalists in a lawsuit against the state’s chief oil and gas regulators, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). To be more specific (something the media failed to do) the court sided with youth environmentalists backed by national activist groups that have a track record of using kids to get press attention and lobby the state legislature.

In this case, the petitioners sued the COGCC after the state regulatory agency denied their request to suspend approving oil and natural gas development unless it can be demonstrated that drilling “does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.” On the onset of this saga, the media described the petitioners in the case, aged 13 to 16, as “a group of teenagers,” “six underage plaintiffs,” and “some Colorado children.”

Bloomberg BNA reported that the “Colorado Appeals Court Sides With Teens Seeking to Block Fracking,” while the Daily Camera headlined its editorial, “The kids win in court.”

Despite those headlines, the parties involved and the attorneys arguing the plaintiffs’ case clearly showed who the real players are: 350 ColoradoSierra ClubEarthworksFood & Water Watch (F&WW) and F&WW-affiliate Frack Free Colorado – the same national groups that have tried to masquerade their national political campaign as anything but a national political campaign in Colorado, one failed media stunt at a time.

Just as this lawsuit is part of the same old “ban fracking” campaign, these same old groups involved are using familiar attorneys to argue their case.

For instance, attorney Julia Olson founded Our Children’s Trust based on “[t]he idea of having children front the campaign” against climate change and “the idea of signing up multiple children to be plaintiffs in the various lawsuits,” according to E&E News. The group partners with Greenpeace and Sierra Club. Sierra Club, Earthworks, and F&WW have already taken their “ban fracking” agenda to the courts in Colorado – and lostTwice. Last summer, 350.orgF&WWGreenpeaceSierra Club, and a host of other national “ban fracking” groups failed to collect enough signatures to put anti-fracking measures onto the state ballot.

For national activist groups, “signing up multiple children to be plaintiffs in the various lawsuits” is consistent with their age-old tactic of deploying children as visual aids and training children to lobby their agenda. For instance, a Sierra Club handout designed to prepare activists to provide comment at public hearings reads:

“Some examples of great visuals from past hearings include … Holding your baby with you at the podium, or pushing them in strollers, baby car seats, baby-bjorns. Older children also welcome.”

This lawsuit pitted Governor John Hickenlooper (D) and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) against each other when Coffman announced that she will, over the governor’s objections, appeal the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling. Following Coffman’s decision, the Denver Business Journal reported:

“Coffman, in her letter to Hickenlooper, said the state’s highest court needs to weigh in on the case because ‘In Martinez, a group of litigants has called into question an interpretation of the law that has governed the commission’s functions for nearly 25 years. Whether the Colorado Supreme Court agrees or disagrees with that interpretation, the case should be heard and decided by our highest court to ensure consistency with its own case law and to confirm that the law, as enacted and intended by the General Assembly, is given effect,’ she said.”

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether or not to take this case up for review.

#8 Then there was the curious case of anti-fracking activity in Nevada, including California billionaire anti-fracking activists Tom Steyer

Anti-fracking activists had a bit of an odd obsession with Nevada this year, considering the state has barely any oil and gas production and relatively few prospects for future production.

Nonetheless, the first “Keep It In the Ground” operative to swoop into Nevada this year was billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who sponsored a “ban fracking” bill during Nevada’s legislative session. Steyer’s efforts were met with demise when the “ban fracking” bill failed to pass out of committee in the state senate.

With the Nevada legislature out until 2019, the usual anti-fossil fuel suspects, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), were on a “search for water in the desert” over the summer when they filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) June sale of oil and gas leases in Nevada.

The basis of their lawsuit, they claim BLM was “sidestepping” the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) because according to the anti-fracking groups, BLM didn’t “adequately evaluate the effects of fracking in and near Nevada’s rare wetlands.”

CBD claims in its press release that:

“BLM failed to consider the consequences of oil drilling in the area, from contamination of critical desert water sources to emission of climate-altering greenhouse gases.”

Several studies have concluded that fracking is not a major threat to drinking water. After five years of research, the U.S. EPA released its final study earlier this year on fracking and groundwater and found no evidence of widespread contamination. As for greenhouse gases, EPA released its 2017 final Greenhouse Gas Inventory and the data clearly shows that methane emissions from both natural gas and petroleum systems have declined significantly since 1990. These emissions also decreased from 2014 to 2015 – at a time when natural gas production hit record highs. U.S. carbon emissions have fallen 14 percent since 2005, reductions expert after expert have largely credited to increased natural gas use. But despite these facts, these “Keep It In the Ground” groups keep on flat out denying science.

#9 Anti-fracking activists heckle and badger local elected officials

Well that never solves anything.

#10 Let’s not forget the threats issued by anti-fracking activists. Those are bad.

As recently reported by Colorado Peak Politics:

Source: Colorado Peak Politics

In lieu of the facts

It’s no surprise that activists have had to use gimmicks and extreme rhetoric in their crusade against fracking, given the long list of regulators and energy experts who have repeatedly backed the safety of the process. In spite of anti-fracking theatrics, the fact remains that fracking is reducing emissions and driving economic growth.

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