Fracking sparks public relations battle | PostIndependent.com

Fracking sparks public relations battle

John Colson
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The public relations battle over oil and gas drilling in Colorado has long gone beyond the halls of government and onto the World Wide Web, and this week saw an escalation in the attacks from both sides of the issue of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

A group known as The Mother’s Project.orgColorado, formed last year in opposition to the use of fracking, is making its way into Garfield County.

At the same time, a coalition of business leaders from around the state issued a statement in praise of what they say is growing support among local elected officials for the policies of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is perceived by many as more a friend of the oil and gas industry than of the industry’s detractors.

On May 6, emails were sent out by Garfield County anti-fracking activists Mary Russell of Carbondale and Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs, urging local mothers to sign a pledge on The Mothers Project website (mothersforsustainabileenergy.com).

“The body of evidence … leaves no question about the dire impacts hydraulic fracturing poses to our health, safety, peace of mind, property values … and a healthy, sustainable future for our children.”
from The Mothers Project website

The pledge is both an indictment of fracking and a promise by signers to “join with others to engage in non-violent acts of protest, which may include demonstrations and non-violent direct action” against the practice of fracking, according to the group’s website.

“I’m not in charge of signing up new members,” emphasized Russell. “I’m not even a mother.”

But she acknowledged forwarding a sign-up email to “maybe 35 or 40 people” around Garfield County that she thought might be interested.

Fracking is a controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil from deeply buried rock formations, involving the injection of massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, to break up — or fracture — the rock and enable gas and oil to flow more freely.

Support for the governor

Also on May 6, an email went out from Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lobbying group, commending a group of 120 local elected officials for their support of the governor and his “efforts to pursue reasonable oil and gas solutions.”

Flanders’ message is packed with statements from a variety of business groups, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

The governor’s administration has sued the City of Longmont over that city’s efforts to regulate fracking within its municipal boundaries, and has gone on record in opposition to several pieces of proposed state legislation aimed at increasing regulation over the oil and gas industry.

Flanders’ email cited a Feb. 20 message from 98 local elected officials who congratulated Hickenlooper for his preference for “state-led regulation of Colorado’s energy Sector,” but he told the Post Independent on Tuesday that as of early May the support for Hickenlooper’s position had grown to a total of 120 elected officials from municipalities and counties around Colorado.

The only Garfield County component of the support came from the Town of Parachute’s town council, although letters and other expressions of support came from Grand Junction, Mesa County, Rio Blanco County and Moffat County.

The statement quotes Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction chamber, as saying, “I am proud of the elected officials in my area of the West Slope that are standing up for sensible energy policies. Oil and gas is a critical economic engine for this state and region and must be encouraged if we want to see our economy thrive.”

The Mothers Project, on the other hand, took the opposite view of the governor’s positions, and those of other state leaders.

“Governor Hickenlooper, former Governor Ritter, state legislators, state agencies and some state environmental leaders are misguided … about the benefits of natural gas and the safety of hydraulic fracturing,” the group states on their website.

In another part of the website, the group declares, “The body of evidence from scientists, economists, medical professionals and citizens who’ve been affected leaves no question about the dire impacts hydraulic fracturing poses to our health, safety, peace of mind, property values … and a healthy, sustainable future for our children.”

jcolson@postindependent.com


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