— Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe (@phwolfeDRC) October 6, 2014
The activist campaign to shut down drilling in Denton, Tex., receives most of its funding from a Washington, D.C.-based anti-fracking group, newly-released campaign finance reports show.
Earthworks — one of the most aggressive “ban fracking” groups nationwide — has provided about 60 percent of the funding for Frack Free Denton (FFD), according to a reporter at the Denton Record-Chronicle. FFD brags on its website that its board members “are all long time Denton residents.” An Earthworks logo appears at the bottom of FFD’s home page.
In July, an Earthworks organizer spoke at a Denton City Council meeting, presenting a short legal opinion that the group had requested, which suggested the proposed ban on drilling in the city was legally defensible. The opinion came from a law firm in Pennsylvania, and Earthworks assured the Council that if the city were sued for banning oil and gas development, deep-pocketed national environmental groups — including Earthworks — would devote their sizable resources to preserve the ban.
In its official campaign finance filing, the anti-drilling effort also recorded a donation from Kate Sinding Daly, an attorney with the anti-fracking Natural Resources Defense Council, headquartered in New York City. NRDC is one of the largest (its net assets exceed $180 million) and most influential environmental groups in the country, and it has supported a moratorium on fracking and drilling all across the country, from New York to California.
Despite the heavy reliance on funding and assistance from out of state environmental groups, the leadership of Frack Free Denton maintains that it’s a locally driven effort. In an interview with Al Jazeera earlier this year, FFD board member and University of North Texas professor of religion Adam Briggle said, “We’ve spent years trying to make fracking compatible with our city,” adding “you can have fracking, or you can have a healthy city — but you can’t have both.”
In an earlier, exclusive interview with Russia Today, Briggle emphasized the need for “more empowerment” of local residents in decisions about whether to ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing at the local level.
The use of east coast anti-fracking groups to help pass presumably “local” drilling bans is a common tactic in campaigns to shut down energy development. In Colorado, national groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club have funded and propped up activist groups with local-sounding names. New York resident Yoko Ono and other celebrities with the group Artists Against Fracking also helped establish “Frack Free Colorado” in order to push “local” campaigns to ban fracking and drilling in the state.
In another notable case, an organization called “Erie Rising,” named for the Colorado town the group supposedly represents, presented an anti-natural gas petition showing 21,000 citizens opposed to development. The group, which is actually a front for D.C.-based Food & Water Watch, had actually only gathered about 1,000 signatures from inside Colorado. Several thousand weren’t even from the United States.
The ballot measure in Denton, to be voted on next month, arose out of a petition and signature gathering effort spearheaded by Frack Free Denton earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, a local grassroots effort opposing the drilling ban, reported that 98 percent of its funding came from individuals and businesses who pay taxes in Denton.