Activist groups are ramping-up a misinformation campaign in advance of the Colorado state legislature taking up debate on a so-called “local control” proposal. But the claims being pushed by these groups stand in stark contrast to expert testimony on the proposal and a recent editorial from the Denver Post.
The latest example of activist misinformation comes from an organization called Conservation Colorado, a group that has recently been forging close ties with controversial billionaire activist Tom Steyer. In an email blast to its supporters, the group urges Coloradans to lobby their legislators in support of the proposal by saying:
“Every community is different and has its own needs — local governments need a say on oil and gas!”
From there, the group provides a sample letter that says in-part:
“Also, it just doesn’t make sense to me that one industry is regulated differently from all others. Why should oil and gas be given special treatment?”
Flooding policy makers with form letters is a tactic that fringe environmental groups use regularly in Washington, DC. While heavy-handed, these tactics are less concerning than the misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric from Conservation Colorado and other groups that for years have been attempting to portray Colorado’s local governments as “powerless” when it comes to oil and gas development. And while EID has pointed out many times that those claims simply do not hold up, the latest rebuke comes from the Denver Post editorial board. From the Denver Post:
“While officials in most Colorado cities and towns would seek responsible accommodation with the energy industry if they had final say in all siting decisions — indeed, most already do this — a few clearly would not choose such a course.” (Emphasis added)
The editorial goes on:
“They would instead either ban energy extraction outright or impose so many conditions and rules on permits as to make them impossible to obtain.”
In addition to acknowledging the fact that many local governments are already working with oil and gas developers, the editorial also shines a light on the motivation behind activist organizations that have been cloaking their campaign to ban all oil and gas development as a fight for “local control.” Also from the editorial:
“In giving such crucial authority over oil and gas facilities to local governments, it turns on a green light to regulation driven not only by legitimate concern over local impacts — noise, transportation and a variety of other above-ground issues — but also a fervent anti-drilling ideology.”
The Denver Post is not alone in recognizing that local governments have a say on oil and gas development within their jurisdictions. Matt Lepore, Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the chief regulatory body overseeing oil and gas development in the state, was asked about Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and the “leverage” local governments have during his testimony on the proposal at a recent legislative hearing:
“I’ll respond to the first criticism that local governments have no leverage. That was raised by some of the local governments at the task force as well. And yet, I have seen local governments negotiate extensive MOUs. Arapahoe County did so, Broomfield did so, Erie has done so. These are MOUs that solve local concerns, specific local concerns. They can be tailored anyway they want. It has been a successful tool. Now, we will take those MOU provisions and put them into the operator’s permit and the state can enforce those provision.” (1:16-1:18)
Also throwing cold water on the idea pushed by Conservation Colorado that “one industry is regulated differently from all others,” was testimony from David Neslin, a former COGCC Director and attorney who testified on-behalf of the Colorado Petroleum Council. From Neslin’s remarks:
“When vital state interests are at stake, Colorado has frequently given the state regulatory primacy, for example, the Public Utilities Commission is authorized to override local land use decisions concerning the siting of major electrical or natural gas facilities. The legislature has also limited local authority over group homes, manufactured housing, rent control, pesticide, firearms and wages, so this type of state primacy is by no means unique to oil and gas development.” (2:24-2:25)
With activists lining up behind this proposal in the legislature while simultaneously pushing a “local control” initiative for the state’s ballot in 2016, Coloradans should expect more of the same. Talking points about “local control” are designed to mask a fringe national agenda to completely shut down oil and gas development across Colorado and the rest of the country. Fortunately, Colorado regulators, media and citizens have seen through this charade.