Category Archives: Fracking

Wes Wilson urges tighter control of fugitive methane

In testimony at an EPA public hearing this week, Wes Wilson of Be The Change USA urged regulators to tighten control over methane emissions from oil and gas wells. Below is Wes’s complete testimony at the hearing.


“I worked here — at EPA’s Regional Office in Denver — as an environmental engineer for over 35 years. I represent BE THE CHANGE, a Colorado non-profit organization dedicated to better government.

I’m here today as a concerned citizen to testify that these rules are inadequate as a remedy and not in time to be effective.

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Colorado is ever riper for oil and gas exploitation


By Phil Doe

It is a truth universal that when a politician establishes a task force to examine an explosive public issue, often an issue of his own making, said politician will term the task force’s recommendations remarkable in both their wisdom and farsightedness.

This truth was borne out on February 24th when Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Fracking issued its carefully vetted and resultantly sparse recommendations. He personally selected the 21 members, so of course it was fitting he label them Blue Ribbon and congratulate them on a job well done. The majority were oil executive cronies or political yesteryears friendly to him or the industry. Continue reading

Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Releases Final Report

The 21 member Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to “examine … issues surrounding oil and gas operations and provide recommendations” has released its official report, which can be read in it’s entirety here:

Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Final Report (5.7 MB).

The report includes nine recommendations, each approved by at least two-thirds of the task force members. Given that the task force was split between O&G representatives and other stakeholders, it’s not surprising that the recommendations address none of the big issues raised by Fractivists and others advocating for local control over O&G operations in their jurisdictions.

Here are the nine recommendations:



Fractivists Call For Co-Chair to Resign from Colorado Task Force

On Wednesday, January 31, a coalition of grassroots organizations asked for the resignation of

Randy Cleveland, co-chair of Governor Hickelooper’s Task Force

Co-Chair Randy Cleveland from Governor Hickenlooper’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on fracking.  This Task Force was established so U.S. Representative Jared Polis could gracefully strike from the 2014 state ballot two initiatives he had financed.  One would have required 2000-foot setbacks from homes, the other would have allowed towns and cities to determine for themselves whether they wanted fracking in their back yards.

The reasons for his requested resignation are several:

  1. Cleveland’s company, XTO, was recently fined $2.3 million for toxic dumping in West Virginia.  The estimated cleanup costs are another $3 million.  XTO is recognized as one of the worst polluters in Pennsylvania, having been fined more than $227,000 for toxic dumping into major rivers such as the Susquehanna.  A state grand jury has brought criminal charges against the company because of its reckless and illegal dumping.Phil Doe, Environmental Director for Be the Change said, “The governor’s appointment of Cleveland to a leadership role on his “blue ribbon” task force is bewildering. Cleveland has been given control of the task force even though his company has been repeatedly charged with significant regulatory violations. If any of us had done what Cleveland’s company has done, we’d probably be in the clinker. He’s not even a resident of this state. Yet, he is invited to jet in here, make decisions about our lives, our property, our safety and then jet back to his home in Texas. Colorado doesn’t need a law-breaking Texas CEO to tell us how to regulate our oil industry.”
  2. XTO’s activities in Colorado show a similar pattern. State oil and gas records show that XTO has self-reported 101 spills, with almost 800 thousand gallons of operational waste of unknown toxicity leaked into the environment, mostly from faulty disposal ponds and corroded pipes.  About 93 percent of the waste was never recovered, some of it reaching rivers and streams. For these infractions, the company has been fined once for $2000. Moreover, the company is wasting approximately 7 percent of all its gas production, either through flaring or leaks.  With a market value of roughly $68 million, the waste of this nonrenewable energy has cost Coloradoans reduced severance and royalty payments as well.

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Colorado grassroots groups snubbed by Hickenlooper’s ‘Blue Ribbon’ task force on fracking

Over a month ago, Be The Change USA and 27 other grass roots organizations wrote a letter inviting the members of Governor Hickenlooper’s ‘Blue Ribbon’ task force on fracking to tour several front range fracking sites. Due to a lack of response, Phil Doe of Be The Change USA wrote a follow-up request:


Subject: Open letter to Blue Ribbon Task Force. Please confirm receipt.

Dear Committee Members:

A little over a month ago, 28 grassroots groups representing citizen interests from across the state sent you a letter asking that you consider several options for the upcoming public meeting in Greeley on the 15th of this month. We have received no official reply.

We asked that you make committee members available for a bus tour of the Greeley area. Collectively, we have extensive knowledge of the area and the fracking process itself. Unofficially, we’ve been told by one of your committee, Sarah Barwinski, that Clean Water Action will conduct a tour. CWA is not a member of our group, they are a national environmental organization, and neither, obviously, is Ms Barwinski.

So, given the resulting haze and the nearness of the Greeley event itself, we wish to inform you that we will still conduct our tour. If any of the committee would like to participate, we would welcome them. If none wish to participate, we will go ahead with a busload of citizens, press, and public officials. Either situation promises to be eventful. Please give us some idea of how many committee members will attend our tour so we can plan accordingly.

We’ve also suggested on several occasions that you listen to at least one panel of health experts on the consequences of fracking. We think this only fair since the takings threats from the industry and lease and royalty holders have been roundly discussed on panels at practically every hearing so far.

Surely public health impacts from fracking can be given at least equal treatment. Yet, heretofore, our sense is that the public health issues have been limited to the public comment period at the end of your hearings where citizens are limited to 2 minutes of fame. This is shameful. But here again we have heard nothing about this suggestion.

What is more, the prospective agenda for Greeley is of little value to us on this issue since as of this morning it had not yet been published. So in this vacuum, allow us to give you some preliminary suggestions of physicians and scientists whom you should recognize and seek out for their expertise. These voices would be in addition to Doctors Robert Green and L. Steele and PhD Karl Ford, all of whom in their two minutes at Rifle supported the state of New York’s recent ban on horizontal fracking, suggesting the same course of action for Colorado:

  • Dr Anthony Gerber, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, National Jewish Hospital
  • Dr John Adgate, PhD, MSPH, Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health and the Environment, Colorado School of Public Health
  • Dr Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH, Research Associate, Department of Public Health and the Environment, Colorado School of Public Health
  • Carol Kwiatkowski, PhD, Executive Director, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange
  • Dr. Scott Denning, PhD, Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science, CSU
  • Dr. Chelsea R. Thompson, PhD, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado
  • Dr. James Danforth, family practice, Loveland, CO

Finally we asked that citizens in Greeley and the surrounding area be given an opportunity to participate on a panel and be questioned by panel members. Here again we have heard nothing, but would be glad to give you names of citizens should you all decide to proceed with this request.

We would also suggest that at the Greeley meeting and those scheduled for Denver following, that citizens commenting to the committee first identify themselves as beneficiaries of oil and gas development, either as employees, mineral owners, or as service industry employees. It is our evaluation that these public testimonies are being hijacked to an unhealthy degree by the industry and its direct beneficiaries. To be sure they too are part of the public, but not the disinterested public. And there is a difference as I’m sure you will agree.


Phil Doe on behalf of the 28 grassroots organizations identified on our original letter.

Thomas Linzey issues call to “revolt” against rigged legal system

SONY DSC“Everything is F*cked “, Thomas Linzey remarked at the start of his talk – “it’s cooked from top to bottom.” Linzey, Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), spoke to a crowd of about 100 people at the Lakewood Cultural Events Center on Saturday night.

“It takes 5 minutes for a state to issue an [extraction] permit and 10 years for citizens to ‘burn’ it,” said Linzey, in describing the fight between the citizens of Nottingham,  New Hampshire, and USA Springs Corp.,  which obtained a permit to build a 176,000-square-foot factory and extract over 300,000 gallons of water a day from the city’s aquifer. After 6 years of legal battles and more than $500,000, the  residents fought their way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which sided with the corporation and ruled that the citizens of Nottingham had no legal standing to oppose the corporation’s “right” to extract water.  The state of New Hampshire joined the suite – filing a brief in support of the corporation. The tide finally turned when CELDF helped the residents draft a local self-governance ordinance that asserted their right as a community to prohibit corporations from extracting water.

For the past several years, CELDF has been helping communities across the country draft similar ordinances. In 2013, CELDF worked with anti-fracking activists in Lafayette, CO,  to draft a community rights city charter that bans all oil and gas activity in the city. In the November 2013 election, Lafayette residents passed the ban via a ballot initiative by 60-40 margin. Following the election, the oil and gas industry promptly sued the city and successfully overturned the ban in district court, where judge D.D. Mallard last week ruled that Lafayette residents do not “have the authority to prohibit what the state authorizes and permits.” The case has since been appealed and is working its way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

In his talk, Linzey described his initial experience as a lawyer defending communities from corporate extraction, when he realized the U.S. legal system was stacked against local government’s right to self governance. He discovered that existing laws prohibit communities from banning ‘legal uses’ – all of which are defined at the state level. So in mounting challenges to existing regulations, his defense of municipalities only “helped corporations draft better permits.”

Once Linzey recognized that the root of the problem was a lack of democracy, he shifted from fighting symptoms to tackling the structural foundation of U.S. laws. Linzey pointed out that corporations rely on governments to get power and rights, so “it’s your own government that’s the problem.” The law of preemption, which enables state governments to trump or ‘preempt’ local laws, “takes power from greater numbers of citizens and transfers it to a few people distant from the municipality.” To counter this rigged system, Linsey urges a “full scale revolt” among citizens that is “not championed by anyone important,” and challenges local governments to pass ordinances that elevate the rights of those communities over rights claimed by corporations.

Lafayette files class action suit to protect self-governance and community rights

Residents of Lafayette, Colorado filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state of Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) from taking away the town’s right to ban the practice.

Colorado citizens want the right to decide for themselves whether drilling sites like this one should be allowed in their communities.

Photo credit: The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Citizens in Lafayette, which is a Home Rule Community under Colorado law, voted last November to pass a Community Bill of Rights under its Home Rule Charter that banned fracking and established the right of citizens to a healthy environment. In December COGA sued the city to overturn its Bill of Rights, claiming that while citizens don’t have a right to clean air and water or self-governance, COGA has a constitutional right to frack under the state’s Oil and Gas Act.

Citizens responded by filing a first-of-its-kind class action suit in June, arguing that parts of the Oil and Gas Act violate the right to local self-governance. The preliminary injunction, filed yesterday in the Boulder County District County, would prevent COGA’s lawsuit from moving forward until its own is decided and declare parts of the Oil and Gas Act unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs are part of the Colorado Community Rights Network, a group founded late last year to protect the rights of communities to make decisions locally on issues like fracking. They are represented by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based group that provides affordable representation to communities clashing with deep-pockets corporations. CELDF executive director Thomas Linzey said of the Lafayette lawsuit:

The right to local, community self-government serves as the foundation for the American system of law. Yet the people’s right to self-governance has been routinely ignored by our elected representatives and overridden by the courts in favor of corporate rights. This class action lawsuit is merely the first of many by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to self-govern are routinely violated by state governments working in concert with the corporations that they ostensibly regulate. The people of Lafayette will not stand idly by as their rights are negotiated away by oil and gas corporations, and by their state government.

The lawsuit follows a recent deal between Gov. Hickenlooper and Colorado congressman Jared Polis to remove four contentious pro- and anti-fracking measures from this November’s state ballot in favor of an 18-member commission, with both citizens and oil and gas industry representatives, to work out an agreement on the issues to submit to the legislature for approval.

Many environmentalists took a dim view of this compromise, despite the likelihood that the industry would spend tens of millions of dollars to buy itself another ballot victory.

Colorado Initiative #103 winds through review process

Colorado Initiative #103, written by Phil Doe of Be The Change U.S.A., is winding through the legal review process. Once that process is complete, the petition will be ready for gathering petitions to get it on the 2014 state-wide ballot.

The establishment of a public trust for natural and environmental resources

Statement of Principle:

The people of Colorado have an inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and the preservation of the environment and natural resources.

How these rights will be protected:

  • The state, as trustee, shall conserve these public resources using the best science available to protect them against substantial impairment.
  • Previous rights and agreements on the use of resources are subject to the substantial impairment test, and could be revoked.
  • The state shall seek monetary damages from anyone impairing these resources and the recovered value shall be used for remediation.
  • Colorado citizens may file enforcement actions on their own behalf in court.
  • Anyone proposing an action using public resources must prove the action will not substantially impair the resource.
  • The manipulation of scientific information for private gain in the use of public resources shall be deemed a criminal offense.

Colorado State Ballot Initiative 75, the Right to Local Government, Clears Final Hurdle at Colorado Supreme Court

Legal council and organizers from the Colorado Community Rights Network
received notice today from the Colorado Supreme Court that ballot initiative
# 75, the Right to Local Self Government, has cleared its final legal
challenge, and is now headed toward signature gathering to place it onto the
2014 ballot. The ballot initiative, the first of its kind, succeeded in
clearing all phases of State approval as well as two corporate legal
challenges designed to keep the initiative from a democratic vote of
Colorado citizens.

The ballot initiative asserts, “People have an inherent and inalienable
right to local self-government.” It goes on to say that the power to enact
local laws protecting the health, safety, and welfare of individuals,
communities, and nature will not be subject to preemption by higher levels
of government, and that local governments will have the power to restrict
the ability of corporations to interfere with such laws. Preemption has been
used by the Colorado Mining Association to overturn a five-county ban on the
industrial use of cyanide in gold mining, and is currently being employed
against the communities of Longmont, Lafayette, and Fort Collins in their
efforts to protect their people and cities from the harmful effects of
modern oil and gas extraction.

The Colorado Community Rights Network will now begin to print petitions and
organize volunteer signature gatherers throughout the state. The current
volunteer structure spans over 30 Colorado cities and will grow through
statewide presentations and ongoing organizing efforts.

The Colorado Community Rights Network supports the view that our fundamental
rights are universal, and that the current legal framework that favors
corporations over people and communities threatens the essence of democracy.
Ballot initiative #75 addresses the inherent problems of corporate-centered
law. It is part of the larger national community rights movement to bring
full democratic rights and protections to communities across Colorado and
the United States.

The Colorado Community Rights Network is the umbrella organization advancing
ballot measure #75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, and helping
local communities create their own protections against corporate activities
that interfere with the rights of local communities and of individuals.
Founded in January 2014, the Colorado Community Rights Network now is
working on both the state and local level.

Cliff Willmeng 303 478 6613 Lotus 719 337 0029
Merrily Mazza 720 556 1286

Youths’ Anti-Fracking Petition To Be Heard Before The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Last fall, Colorado youth hand-delivered a petition for rulemaking to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The petition was signed by eight youth activists, who are members of the Boulder-based organization, Earth Guardians. The youth are petitioning the Commission to promulgate a rule to suspend the issuance of permits that allow hydraulic fracturing until it can be done without adversely impacting human health and safety and without impairing Colorado’s atmospheric resources and climate system, water, soil, wildlife, and other biological resources.

WHAT: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing to consider youths’ anti-fracking petition.

WHEN: Monday, April 28, 2014, 1:00 p.m. MST

WHERE: Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 1120 Lincoln St, Suite 801 Denver, CO 80203

The youths’ petition was filed with the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon- based nonprofit orchestrating a global game-changing, youth driven legal campaign. The legal effort advances the fundamental duty of government today: to address the climate crisis based on scientific baselines and benchmarks, and to do so within timeframes determined by scientific analysis.!

Short documentary films of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and other young people taking legal action can be seen at

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Earth Guardians, 303-946-9347, 

Nate Bellinger, Our Children’s Trust, 413-687-1668, 

Earth Guardians is a Colorado-based nonprofit organization with youth chapters on five continents, and multiple groups in the United States with more than 1,000 members working together to protect the Earth, the water, the air, and the atmosphere, creating healthy sustainable communities globally. We inspire and empower young leaders, families, schools, organizations, cities, and government officials to make positive change locally, nationally, and globally to address the critical state of the Earth.

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit focused on protecting earth’s natural systems for current and future generations. We are supporting youth in the coordinated Atmospheric Trust Litigation effort. We are here to empower youth as they stand up for their lawful inheritance: a healthy planet. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers. We are adults, part of the ruling generation, and we care about the future of our children–and their children’s children.