The San Francisco-based Sierra Club has escalated its campaign to pressure and mislead Colorado’s oil and gas task force by spamming the panel with almost 1,500 comments. The e-mails, which were sent directly from the group’s national website, account for more than 96 percent of the written comments received by the task force thus far.
According to materials published on the task force website, 1,473 e-mails were a “mass comment mailing from the Sierra Club.” Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins were the top three Colorado cities where the mass comments came from, based on the addresses provided by the activist group. Only 140 e-mails contained “unique comments,” according to task force records. The rest appear to be duplicates of the boilerplate language provided on the group’s website.
Flooding regulatory agencies with duplicate comments is a routine Washington, D.C. tactic from the Sierra Club and other fringe environmental groups. Likewise, anti-energy activists have deployed similar strategies in other states. But these heavy-handed national tactics are less concerning than the misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric contained in the Sierra Club’s online solicitation for the mass-comment campaign:
“It’s simple. Fracking is a dirty and dangerous industrial process that should not be built within spitting distance of our backyards, playgrounds, or hospitals.”
Spitting distance? Colorado’s minimum setback requirements for oil and gas operations are 500 feet between new wells and homes and a 1000 foot buffer between high occupancy buildings such as schools and hospitals. That’s roughly the length of 1.5 football fields and three football fields. For playgrounds and other public spaces designated “outside activity areas,” the minimum setback is roughly the length of one football field.
It’s one thing to turn a phrase to make a point, but to call these minimum setbacks “spitting distance” is simply dishonest. But the attempts to mislead the task force do not stop there.
The Sierra Club also repeats the false claim that local governments have little to no power to regulate the industry within their borders. To that effect, the Sierra Club states:
“Our city and county governments should be able to go beyond minimum state regulations and craft rules that protect the health of their residents.”
Anti-energy activists have repeatedly portrayed Colorado’s local governments as “powerless,” when it comes to regulating oil and gas development within their jurisdiction. Yet this view is not shared by Geoff Wilson, general counsel at the Colorado Municipal League, who previously told the Denver Post:
“I think we’re doing better than we ever have. You know, things were really awful in the early 1990s. The oil and gas companies weren’t very sophisticated in how they dealt with the local communities that were hosting their activity. And we in local government weren’t very knowledgeable about this industry. And both of those things have changed in the years since.”
The Sierra Club’s efforts have been escalating in the wake of Colorado operative, Lauren Swain’s, testimony before the task force Sept. 25 in Denver. Swain who leads the “Beyond Oil and Gas” campaign of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter and is a member of the group’s national “hydrofracking grassroots team,” called on the task force to “adopt a compromise” that would ban almost two thirds of drilling in Colorado.
With the intensity of these lobbying efforts steadily increasing, the task force members will need to be ready to sort fact from fiction, as anti-energy activists – backed by millionaires and billionaires – clearly see the task force as an important piece of their campaign to ban oil and gas development.