Policy: Environment & Energy

'Fractivists' caught in flood of Colorado lies

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Ron Arnold,Columnists,Colorado,Analysis,Energy and Environment,Fracking

First of two parts

Massive storms dumped “biblical rainfall amounts” across nearly 2,000 square miles of Colorado last month, according to the National Weather Service.

The raging floods that followed killed at least eight people, damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, and wrecked more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges.

The Denver Post ran a front page aerial photo headlined, “Front Range Flooding: Oil spilling into mix,” showing a trashed stream bed with brown stains near a “damaged tank” that “leaks crude.”

Opportunistic flocks of Big Green eco-vultures already embroiled in five local anti-fracking ballot measures pounced on the tragedy as a propaganda vehicle.

Their basic strategy was to pose as "mom-and-pop victims with no money to stop this spilling, but Big Bad Oil is putting zillions into the campaign.”

In fact, the opposite was true. In a Denver Post report, for example, spokesmen for the Washington-based Clean Water Action and Earthworks groups blasted oil and gas drillers for allegedly being responsible for 45,000 gallons of flood-caused oil spills.

Shane Davis, oil & gas research manager for the Sierra Club's Rocky Mountain chapter, guided CNN, CBS and NPR on media tours in a small plane belonging to EcoFlight, an aerial snooper for great Images of anything resembling environmental damage. The media got horrifying Images of stained water demolishing all in its path.

Davis is something of a fracking-obsessed one-man army: he coined the term “fractivist,” is regional campaign director of Gasland – Josh Fox’s anti-fracking movie crusade – and works closely with Colorado’s local anti-drilling ballot initiatives.

Noted Colorado author Laura Pritchett wrote an impassioned diatribe, “Fracking Fluids in the Flood,” that was featured in OnEarth, an online publication of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council. That insured the Colorado ballot issues reached a national made-for-mobilization audience.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado held a post-flood benefit – for itself – with singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt. For a donation of just $2,500, you got dinner, concert, and a backstage photo opportunity with Raitt.

Umbrella group Frack Free Colorado boasted members that most never heard of, including Water Defense, Food and Water Watch, Erie Rising, eTown, The Mother's Project, Angel Organic, Fractivist, and Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

They “coordinated the delivery of thousands of post cards, e-mails, phone calls and public testimony to the Boulder County commissioners,” but their effort doesn’t show up on campaign finance records.

Get used to that, because this campaign isn’t about the few measly bucks from local moms and pops that get into the record.

Take that obscure group known as Water Defense. It consists of New York C-List actor Mark Ruffalo and a few friends. It's not even recognized by the IRS.

But Water Defense does have a “fiscal sponsor” - IRS jargon for “money funnel” - the New York-based Sustainable Markets Foundation, which also funnels funding for Bill McKibben's anti-fracking 350.org, which is also supported by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.

The Sustainable Markets Foundation got $8.5 million from more than 30 Big Green foundations interested in stopping fossil fuel development and uses — i.e. powering your car, heating your home, recharging your laptop — thus giving Water Defense a high-clout network.

Food and Water Watch? That' s another Washington-based Big Green outfit that got $34 million from more than 25 Big Green foundations, including $11 million in 2011. This is beginning to look not very local.

No, the locals don’t get the money, they get the benefits of distant big money for activists to do more than a local little money could ever accomplish.

But something happened this time around. During flood recovery, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sampled water from eight rivers and found "no evidence of pollutants from oil and gas spills in rivers and streams affected by flooding."

Then why was the water stained brown in those aerial photos CNN and the Denver Post published? Matthew Allen of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said, “The total reported amount of oil spills is small compared to the solid waste.”

It was human feces, “20 million gallons, just so we're clear, of raw sewage,” said Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. In fact, the statewide 45,000 gallons of spilled oil would just wet the bottom of an Olympic-size swimming pool's 660,000 gallons.

The Denver Post was outraged. Editorial page editor Vincent Carroll wrote, “the shameless use of Colorado's floods to attack drilling,” a long piece ripping the unethical tactics of the fracktivists.

But who paid for all that unethical fractivism? Find out tomorrow in this same space in part two.

RON ARNOLD, a Washington Examiner columnist, is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.
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