Talking Out of Both Sides of Their Oily Mouths

Industry has change of attack—not heart—over "fracking"

This page was published 14 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

What a difference a year makes! Or maybe not.

Last year, the oil and gas industry and its supporters were spending tens of thousands of dollars in Colorado to attack some modest proposals to protect the state’s property owners and public health from the natural gas boom that was consuming the western part of the state.

They hired lobbyists. They papered the state with glossy mailers. They bused in oil field workers to talk about their families. They said the regulations would kill jobs and cause the industry to flee to… um, somewhere else. Maybe someplace where the politicians cared less about about healthy families, property rights, clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat.

And even after the regulations were repeatedly watered down to address the industry’s concerns, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) sued to overturn the rule, calling them "the most costly and burdensome" in the nation. (Earthjustice is representing groups helping the state defend the rule.)

Fast forward to this summer, when COGA flack Kathy Hall began surprisingly singing the state rule’s praises—and citing Earthjustice’s support as the ultimate seal of approval—in an op-ed that was reprinted last month all over Colorado’s oil patch.

A sudden change of heart from industry, heralding an Age of Aquarius in which Colorado’s drillers lie down with regulators? Nope. Just stunning hypocrisy, nicely skewered by Denver Post colmunist Susan Greene in a recent column.

You see, COGA was praising the "strict oversight" from Colorado’s rule because it wants to undermine a proposed national rule to protect us from the dubious industry practice known as "fracking" or "fraccing" (in which chemicals are injected into the ground to fracture geologic formations to release natural gas). 

Some critics of fracking fear the chemicals industry is poisoning groundwater. But it’s hard to tell since industry won’t even disclose what’s in the soup going down-hole. Since they won’t tell us, we can only assume it’s probably not safe to drink.

Responding to these concerns, Rep. Dianne DeGette of Denver has introduced a bill to regulate fracking.

Apparently, COGA’s best argument for opposing DeGette’s bill is that Colorado is already taking care of the problem. Except that if COGA has anything to say about it (out of the other side of its mouth), Colorado won’t be doing anything about fracking either.  

Ted was an attorney in the Rocky Mountain regional office from 2003–2018. He protected wilderness, roadless areas and the planet's climate on behalf of conservation groups in the Four Corners' states.