Commentary by Marita Noon
If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline – sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” – were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.
Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 - scheduled to take place from May 3-15 – on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”
Did you hear about it? Probably not.
A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.
After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer – with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present – but only a few.
In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition – which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” – expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”
Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 – no later than 3:00 p.m.
In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)
Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”
On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” – not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.
By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in – most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”
On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that since you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” – though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.
Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”
Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.” Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 – which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.
Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
Colorado Supreme Court embraces the rule of law, not the fear mongering of the anti-fossil-fuel movement
Commentary by Marita Noon
On Monday, May 2 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on what the New York Times (NYT) called: “a lengthy battle for energy production.” The court’s unanimous decision to strike down two cities’ limits on fracking is a victory for oil-and-gas companies and a “disappointment” to anti-fossil-fuel activists. Several states, including Colorado’s neighbors, New Mexico and Texas, have faced similar anti-oil-and-gas initiatives that have also been shot down.
The Colorado Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as the lower court: the fracking bans put in place by Fort Collins and Longmont are “invalid and unenforceable” because state law trumps the local ordinances. A report from Colorado Public Radio states: “The ruling will have an impact on other Front Range communities – including Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder – that have approved restrictions on fracking. The court clearly said that these efforts are illegal.”
The consequences of the decision are “comparatively small,” according to NYT, as the land now opened up for exploration represents only a fraction of Colorado’s oil-and-gas development. “More significant, said experts on both sides of the conflict, is that the rulings shut down future efforts to stop fracking in local jurisdictions.” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that she fears the ruling will not end the divisive debate. “Instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues.”
The NYT points out: “Spurred by the rise of hydraulic fracturing, Colorado has become one of the nation’s largest producers of oil and gas. The state has more than 50,000 active oil and gas wells.”
According to a press release, the Colorado Petroleum Council “welcomed the decisions for upholding the state’s primacy in overseeing oil and natural gas permitting and curtailing ‘arbitrary bans’ on fracking that could cost local jobs, deprive state and local governments of tax revenue and limit access to energy resources.”
Upon hearing the news, I tweeted: “Great news! Colorado Supreme Court Strikes Down Local Fracking Bans.” Almost immediately, @AllNewSux responded: “@energyrabbit Hooray…now we can all drink poisoned water here in Colorado!”
What is @AllNewSux thinking? He is regurgitating outdated propaganda as study after study – though funders are disappointed with the results – determine, as did the three-year study by the University of Cincinnati released in February: “hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells … does not contaminate ground water.”
The University of Cincinnati study, reports the Free Press Standard: “aimed to measure methane and its sources in groundwater before, during and after the onset of fracking.” It concluded, “dissolved methane was detected in all sampled wells, however, no relationship was found between the methane concentration and proximity to natural gas wells.” The results of the study were released by Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, the lead researcher, during a February 4 meeting of the Carroll County Concerned Citizens in Carrollton, OH – part of a coalition of anti-fracking groups. Townsend-Small stated: “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.” Her revelations must have been a shock to the group whose pre-meeting promotion included this comment: “We saw the debate about fracking’s impact on groundwater methane in Pennsylvania and the results of failing to have predrilling or baseline data for comparisons. Dr. Townsend-Small’s study provides landowners with that baseline data and helps to differentiate shale sources from non-shale sources of methane.”
The Free Press Standard asked Townsend-Small about plans to “publicize the results.” She said there were “no plans to do so.” Why? “I am really sad to say this, but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping this data could lead to a reason to ban it.”
Just a few months earlier, October 2015, a Yale study, reported in Nature World News, came to the same conclusion: “Fracking does not contaminate drinking water.” The article, which ties in an earlier EPA report, states: “Yale researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing – also known as ‘fracking’ – does not contaminate drinking water. The process of extracting natural gas from deep underground wells using water has been given a bad reputation when it comes to the impact it has on water resources but Yale researchers recently disproved this myth in a new study that confirms a previous report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted earlier this year.”
Then there is the 2014 research from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment that found: “(The) gas data appear to rule out gas contamination by upward migration from depth through overlying geological strata triggered by horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing.” Addressing the study, Hoppy Kercheval, in the West Virginia MetroNews, said: “Fracking opponents should be held accountable as well, and this new research illustrates some of their alarmist proclamations are just wrong.”
In 2013, the “highlights” of a study on the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas announced: “No relationship between methane and salinity in groundwater and shale-gas wells.”
A year earlier, an EPA study that sampled well water at 61 homes in the famed Dimock, PA area, and “found health concerns in only five of them.” According to the Washington Times, “drilling is not the root of the problems in Dimock” as “the substances found include arsenic, barium and manganese, all of which are naturally occurring.”
The aforementioned studies don’t include myriad comments from public officials stating the same thing.
Perhaps, this preponderance of evidence is what caused so-called expert Anthony Ingraffea to base his recent testimony at the federal trial regarding whether Cabot Oil & Gas was a “nuisance to two families” on “speculation.” In its coverage of the “sparsely attended” February 2016 trial, Philly.com points out: the plaintiffs were “unable to establish that chemicals from hydraulic fracturing got into their water, or that the drilling caused illness.” Coverage at the conclusion of the trial added: the plaintiffs “maintained that the methane contamination disrupted their lives and deprived them of the enjoyment of their property.”
During the trial, the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, both known anti-drilling activists, each acknowledged that they had no direct proof of claims they were there to support. Under cross-examination, hydrogeologist Paul Rubin admitted that he had not identified a specific pathway from any of Cabot’s natural gas wells to the plaintiff’s water supply. Regarding his “theory” about causation of the plaintiff’s allegedly impacted water, Ingraffea, was asked: “In fact, you’re going to tell me I think or I’ll ask you that’s speculation on your part, it is not?” He responded: “You can call it that, sure.” The questioning continued: “You don’t have any direct proof of that, right?” Ingraffea agreed that he didn’t have direct proof and said his theory was “most likely” the cause.
Additionally, the trial discovered that the plaintiff’s water troubles actually began months before Cabot began drilling nearby. The judge repeatedly called out the plaintiff’s attorney for going “over the line.” U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson dismissed the property damage claim against Cabot, because as Philly.com reports: “the plaintiffs introduced no evidence that their property values had been affected.” Additionally, one of the plaintiffs, Scott Ely, “spent $700,000 to build his 7,000-square-foot home – after the water went bad.” Carlson, however, ruled that the plaintiffs had “elicited enough evidence that Cabot had been a nuisance.” A jury awarded $4.24 million to the two families based on nuisance.
Anti-fracking activists, like @AllNewSux, likely point to the award (which is being appealed) and see it as proof that fracking contaminates ground water. Though, a careful read reveals that no such evidence was found – only the “most likely,” theory, and speculation common among anti-fossil fuel claims.
One has to wonder how many more studies and court cases have to be carried out before the fear mongering and activist community finally stop wasting public money to kill jobs and raise energy costs.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy – which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
I leave the actual news reporting to other outlets, but once I heard about this Colorado incident it jogged my memory about a somewhat similar incident in Denver. The stakes are a little higher this time, though.
Back in 2009 there was another act of vandalism at the state’s Democratic headquarters, where nearly a dozen windows were shattered. Originally blamed on “the other side,” as the state Democratic chair at the time said, it turned out one of the key suspects was Maurice Schwenkler, a Democratic volunteer in the 2008 election. Is it below them to try a similar tactic this time around in a swing state?
Needless to say I don’t condone vandalism, whether it’s stealing or defacing yard signs, spraypainting a business because you disagree with their political stance, or firing weapons through windows. And I understand there can be heated rhetoric from both sides, such as the Frank Kratovil noose incident I condemned in 2009.
But it seems to me the majority of these vandalism incidents come from the Left, with perhaps the most classic recent examples being the Occupy movement and the protests against Scott Walker in the spring of 2011. Compared to that, TEA Party protests are quite clean, a fact I can attest to. Generally there is one side which is more restrained while the other is boorish, rude, and impatiently interrupts like an 8-year-old when it can’t get a word in edgewise or hears something it doesn’t like.
Yet I don’t think an 8-year-old fired that shot into Obama headquarters, and after all Colorado has been through with crazed people wielding guns in so-called “gun-free zones” thank goodness no one was hit.
Update: Linked at The Tunnel Wall – thanks Bill! He adds more to the story as well.