A Washington D.C. trade publication obtained nearly 900 emails from the office of Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), which included correspondence in the wake of the Firestone tragedy. Although the publication, EnergyWire, framed these messages in the darkest terms on Thursday, the emails confirmed once again that in Colorado, collaboration and communication are keys to responsible energy development.
Below are four key facts to know about the EnergyWire article:
1) Greens Praise Colorado for Oil and Gas Oversight
The EnergyWire report comes just days after environmentalists highlighted the success of Colorado’s collaborative approach to energy development. According to an October 2017 scorecard from the Center for Western Priorities, Colorado was the top-ranked state in the West for outdoor recreation, responsible energy development, and access to public lands.
The Denver Post reported just last week:
“Colorado ranks first among eight Western states for access to public lands, responsible energy development and outdoor recreation in a scorecard released Tuesday by the Center for Western Priorities.”
The scorecard highlights some of the exemplary achievements by the oil and gas industry in Colorado:
“Colorado also ranks at the top of the list in the Intermountain West for responsible energy development, with the highest scores for public disclosure of fracking chemicals; spill reporting and transparency; baseline water testing; oil and gas methane reduction; and fair taxpayer return. Colorado’s online database of spills, rules requiring pre-drill and post-drill testing within a half mile of oil and gas wells, and industry-leading regulations requiring operators to capture methane and prevent leaks also scored the state at the top of the list.”
It’s well known across the country that Colorado is a pioneer on many different fronts, including its ability to balance energy development with conservation and public lands access.
2) Governor Hickenlooper Spoke With All Sides
Reporter Mike Lee covers quite a bit of ground in his 1,700 word article. Despite the headline, which reads “Colo.’s Hickenlooper sided with oil companies after meetings,” Lee reports that following the aftermath of the tragedy, Gov. Hickenlooper and his team met with both industry and environmental groups. As Lee reports, Hickenlooper met with Conservation Colorado, Western Resource Advocates and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Even an industry critic, State Rep. Mike Foote (D-Longmont), conceded in his comments that, “I wouldn’t say it’s been one-sided, but the industry certainly has an audience with the governor.”
Foote, whose district is in Boulder County, sponsored a controversial bill on pipeline mapping in the last legislative session, in response to the Firestone event. Colorado Politics reported on Rep. Foote’s knee-jerk bill that he tried to jam through at the end of session earlier this year.
“Foote and Lebsock said they have been in talks about the bill with Republican lawmakers, including Firestone Rep. Lori Saine and House Minority Leader Cole Wist. They have also consulted with oil and gas industry representatives, state regulators, local governments and the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper. ‘We want to get the language right,’ said Foote. ‘The timeline is obviously very challenged… We only just learned about the cause of explosion on Tuesday and we’ve had constituents all around the Front Range contacting us.’”
Foote “consulting” with “oil and gas industry representatives” on crafting legislation related to oil and gas development? Where have we heard that before?
3) Why 811 Makes Sense
As part of the collaborative process and hearing from all sides, stakeholders considered whether public mapping of all flowlines in the state was necessary, or whether to rely on the existing 811 system.
Making maps publically available raised some safety concerns, as many may rely on old or out of date information instead of contacting 811. Using the 811 system, however, ensures that the most recent, up to date information is utilized.
Importantly, the EnergyWire article notes that this is an ongoing discussion. In fact, a hearing is scheduled for December and all sides will have an opportunity to provide public comment. Rep. Foote is also likely to carry his bill again in the next legislative session.
4) Key EnergyWire Source is No Fan of Oil and Gas
As Energy in Depth has noted several times, Rep. Foote is no fan of fossil fuels. Foote has followed the anti-fracking activist playbook in proposing increased setbacks legislation as a means of banning fracking in Colorado.
His opposition is well stated not only by the anti-oil and gas bills he sponsors, but also with the company he keeps.
Rep. Foote is known for teaming up with other members in the anti-fracking wing of his party, like millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis, who put his own resources into ban-fracking ballot initiative campaigns that failed. Foote is also cozy with anti-fracking activists like Andrew J. O’Connor, who has made calls for violence against oil and natural gas workers in a letter published by the Boulder Daily Camera.
According to a recent press release by “wrong door” anti-fracking activist group East Boulder County United, Foote is working to bypass his usual path of setbacks for an all-out ban: “The Lafayette City Council initiated the moratorium in a meeting between city attorney David Williamson, Councilor Gustavo Reyna, and Colorado State Representative Mike Foote.”
None of these affiliations were mentioned in the EnergyWire story, depriving readers of information necessary to ascertain Rep. Foote’s credibility and possible biases.