Colorado’s home-grown “ban fracking,” anti-natural gas campaign had already alarmed Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper with its secretive out-of-state funding and activism – including Yoko Ono’s surreal New York City “Artists Against Fracking” – when things suddenly turned immeasurably worse.
Millionaire Congressman Jared Polis, Democrat representing the Boulder district, threatened to bankroll two anti-hydraulic fracturing measures for the statewide ballot in November. News reports said his initiatives would legalize local drilling bans and quadruple the minimum distance separating houses and oil and gas wells from 500 to 2,000 feet.
Hickenlooper quickly calculated the impact and called the measures thinly veiled bans that “would drive
oil and gas out of Colorado.” Polis’ threat mobilized a bipartisan coalition of business and industry groups, major environmental groups and the state’s Democratic political establishment to stop him.
The coalition ramped up pressure on Polis, who was ready to file 200,000 petitions to put his measures on the ballot, but he gave in at the last possible moment. He withdrew his initiatives in return for Hickenlooper’s agreement to create a task force of 18 members to discuss regulations to minimize conflicts over the siting of oil and gas facilities, allowing “local control.”
The task force instantly became a strategic battleground for Colorado “ban all fracking” groups, which had rebranded themselves as “local control” advocates.
Michael Sandoval, investigative reporter with Denver’s Independence Institute, obtained proof that the rebrand was a calculated lie: he received the audio of a national anti-fracking strategy conference call dubbed “Join the Call to Ban Fracking,” convened by Americans Against Fracking. On the audio, Kaye Fissinger, activist with Local Control Colorado, admits that the group is looking to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state.
Laura Fronckiewicz, a leader of Local Control Colorado, subsequently told the Denver Post, “This isn’t about banning fracking, it is about giving communities the ability to put some controls on development.”
Hickenlooper – knowingly or not – appointed an implacable foe of all fossil fuels as co-chair: Gwen Lachelt, a La Plata County commissioner who came straight from the No Dirty Oil and Gas (NoDOG) coalition of the rabidly anti-fossil fuel group, Earthworks.
Seattle software millionaire Paul Brainerd’s foundation (2013 assets $45.6 million) created Earthworks in 1988 by funding the merger of the Washington-based Mineral Policy Center with Lachelt’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project, which she founded in 1999. Brainerd, a founding member of anti-corporate Social Venture Partners, funded groups “focused on changing market conditions and dynamics” of the type that could destroy the fossil fuel industry.
Brainerd’s strategic wealth and power are dwarfed by the money behind an anti-fracking applicant for Colorado’s task force (from Ithaca, New York): Anthony Ingraffea, engineering professor at Cornell University. He’s an anti-fracking rock star – with speaking parts in Josh Fox’s two Gasland fake-a-thon anti-gas movies – because of big funding by Ithaca’s Park Foundation (2012 assets $366.4 million).
Ingraffea and Cornell ecology professor Robert Howarth co-authored a Park-funded study claiming that natural gas (methane) has a “greenhouse-gas footprint” from drill to end-user significantly higher even than coal-fired power.
Three Cornell professors in the university’s departments of earth and atmospheric sciences and chemical and biological engineering said, “Their analysis is seriously flawed.”
Ironically, another Park-funded green group, the Environmental Defense Fund, worked with the University of Texas on a fracking study with industry help to measure emissions directly at many of their well sites. The UT/EDF report – all data public and peer reviewed – concluded real emissions were much lower, and helpfully identified areas for improvement.