What You Should Know About the Sierra Club Endorsement of Polis
If you have seen Congressman Jared Polis on the campaign trail running for Governor of Colorado recently, you have no doubt heard him enthusiastically tout his endorsement from one of the biggest national anti-fracking groups in the country, the Sierra Club – and if you haven’t, he’ll be out and about with Sierra Club this weekend for a joint “GOTV rally & canvass launch.”
Here at EID, we find the endorsement rather telling, if not somewhat amusing. And with this week’s E&E News report about the next level support Sierra Club’s Colorado Chapter is extending to Polis by way of a $600,000 contribution to his campaign, it even made us belly laugh for a minute.
“Colorado Rep. Jared Polis will benefit from a new, large environmental investment in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“The state Sierra Club today announced a $600,000 campaign for the progressive Democrat, who has a reputation in Congress as a staunch environmentalist. The effort includes television ads and mailers, organizing and digital campaigning.” (emphasis added)
The new flood of big money coming in from the Sierra Club to support Polis only adds another layer to the Polis/Sierra Club onion we unpeel below. Recall that for the past several months, media in Colorado have been calling attention to his evolving stance on Colorado’s energy issues. Even the activist community is often wondering “which Jared will show up?”
Just How Extreme is the Sierra Club?
For starters, let’s take a closer look just how extreme the Sierra Club and their stances against domestic energy production are. On their site, they make absolutely clear:
“The Sierra Club opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing.”
Hydraulic fracturing in Colorado has been an economic boon to the state. Recent reports prove just how much of an economic driver the oil and gas industry has been for the state of Colorado over the past decade, providing $31 billion to the state’s economy annually while directly and indirectly providing north of 230,000 jobs. No wonder Colorado’s oil and gas industry enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support.
Yet the Sierra Club is one of the leading national organizations working to outright ban oil and gas development in Colorado. This year they are strong backers of an anti-energy ballot measure designed to shut down Colorado’s energy sector, which not even Conservation Colorado will support. That’s also true of their support of the Boulder climate lawsuit, which Democrats and green groups refuse to back.
A new study out this past month provides a little more background on where the Sierra Club gets its funding. The Sierra Club has ties to some of the wealthiest green group funders like Bloomberg, MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, Hewlett Foundation, and the Energy Foundation. These groups use Sierra Club as just one of many pass-through organizations to funnel dark money into the anti-oil and gas effort. The millions upon millions of dollars pumped into the Sierra Club are in turn is used to prop up anti-fracking ballot initiatives in Colorado, support frivolous lawsuits, and the latest venture, to support Polis for governor.
What about the 2014 Anti-Energy Ballot Measures?
And then there is the little matter of the 2014 anti-energy ballot measures that Congressman Polis backed, and then pulled, leaving many in the anti-fossil fuel community feeling a sense of betrayal.
The Boulder Weekly reports what happened with those anti-fracking ballot measures back in 2014.
“Petitions for the two 2014 ballot measures, one that would’ve increased setbacks to 2,000 feet, garnered more than enough signatures to put the issues before voters. But due to a last-minute compromise between Gov. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Jared Polis, who had bankrolled the signature-gathering effort, the measures were scrapped at the final hour, literally.
“Soon after the failure to turn in the more than a quarter-million signatures, Boulder Weekly received an email sent to supporters of the measures from Nick Passanante, the campaign director for Safe. Clean. Colorado., the group funded by Polis that controlled the measures. In the email, Passanante wrote, ‘We simply did not have the financial backing to make that happen. In fact, we were being actively blocked by three of the largest national enviro groups in the nation — Sierra Club, Environment America, and to a lesser extent LCV [League of Conservation Voters].” (emphasis added)
So this is interesting.
The Sierra Club national organization and the Sierra Club Colorado chapter have parted ways on the setback ballot initiative saga, with the national group throwing in the towel on this one.
In 2014, Sierra Club national made a sizable donation to the Colorado setback ballot initiative campaign before playing a major role in scrapping the ballot measures before they made it to Election Day.
And again in 2016, the Sierra Club threw money and rallied the troops to get behind taking another swing at trying to pass the initiative that cycle. As mentioned, this attempt was also unsuccessful, falling flat when ban-fracking activists delivered “half-empty” boxes during the signature-gathering portion of the ballot approval process, which ultimately led to the measure never making the ballot. Let’s not forget, not only were empty boxes part of the story here, but later, forged signatures became a huge part of the conversation leading up to the campaigns failure to make the ballot. Clearly, the ban-fracking ballot initiative history is fraught with embarrassing failures. But even after failing to win statewide support in 2012, 2014, and again in 2016 despite the support and resources of national “Keep it In the Ground” groups, anti-fracking activists are back for more.
But in 2018, the national group has decided to give a hard pass on the setback fight in the state, which is rather odd given the fact that the Colorado Sierra Club chapter officially endorsed the 2018 setback ballot initiative campaign.
The Boulder Weekly reached out to the national group to find out what’s up with the split on positions – here’s what the national group had to say about the Colorado setback ballot initiative:
“The Sierra Club supports Colorado Sierra Club’s endorsement of Ballot Initiative 97. As Coloradans know firsthand, there is no manner to make oil and gas operations safe, so at absolute minimum, we must prevent them from threatening our schools, our homes, and our families.”
The Boulder Weekly goes on to clarify:
“That’s not an endorsement of the initiative, it’s an endorsement of the state chapter’s right to endorse the initiative.”
Congressman Polis’ enthusiastic embrace of the Sierra Club endorsement and hundreds of thousands of dollars reveals his cozy relationship with the group on multiple issues that are even too extreme for Colorado’s environmental community. For example, we’ve heard crickets from Conservation Colorado, a well-funded group with ties to California billionaire Tom Steyer.
According to a recent report from the Denver Post, Steyer, who holds the strings to the coin purse for many of the large national environmental groups, indicated the following in his interview with the Post:
“Colorado’s open governor’s race is barely on his radar. He considered a potential state ballot measure to limit oil and gas drilling, but he decided to pass.”
Could it be the consecutive failures of the efforts have dimmed the appeal for many of the large national groups? The organization running the ballot initiative this year, Colorado Rising, put out this statement regarding the Sierra Club/Polis situation.
It’s clear we aren’t the only ones who smell something fishy given Polis’ recent distancing from his hardline extremist position on banning fracking in the state. Case in point – on the campaign trail in Greeley in February 2018, Polis was quoted in a Greeley Tribune news report as saying the following regarding the 2018 setback ballot initiative:
“’Health and safety should come first,’ he said, ‘but there needs to be flexibility for landowners who want to permit oil and gas production closer than a rigid setback might allow.’”
With that said, it’s confusing that Polis apparently does not endorse the 2018 ballot setback campaign but on the other hand accepts the endorsement from the Sierra Club Colorado chapter – a group that does endorse the 2018 ballot setback campaign. Furthermore, the Sierra Club Colorado chapter endorsement press release even cites several of the usual ban-fracking talking points.
These two positions juxtaposed begs the question: does Polis’ embrace of the Colorado chapter Sierra Club endorsement (and the $600,000 contribution) fill the void in his gubernatorial campaign platform when it comes to his wobbly position on banning fracking in the state? He talks a mean talk about 100 percent renewables, but what about the present energy development happening in the state – where does he really stand? Is he trying to have it both ways?
Let’s just say, birds of a feather flock together. There’s definitely something telling about Polis’ affiliation with the Sierra Club Colorado chapter, a chapter that in the same month, endorsed Polis for governor and also endorsed the 2018 setback ballot initiative, and has even convinced the gubernatorial candidate to accept their support.
What we know is that –
“Four years ago, the Democratic congressman backed an effort that put forward nine ballot measures to prohibit or limit oil and gas operations in the state — including one to increase setbacks to 2,640 feet. This year, he opposes an effort to increase the distance between drilling rigs and communities to 2,500 feet.
The difference between then and now, political observers say: Polis is running for governor of Colorado.” (emphasis added)