Category Archives: News

Phil Doe makes impassioned plea to pass HB-1310

A few weeks ago, Be The Change’s Environmental Director, Phil Doe, testified in support of Representative Joe Salazar’s bill – HB-1310 – which shifts the balance of rights in split estates from mineral owners to the surface owners. The bill holds oil and gas operators strictly liable for damage to the health of the surface owner, to the land, and to earthquake damage caused by deep well injection.  The bill has passed the Colorado House and now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.


We very much support HB 1310.  It is deeply needed.  It moves in the direction of sanity and supports our state constitution’s admonition in the Bill of Rights concerning political power and to whom it rightfully belongs:

“All political power is vested in and derived from the people,… originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”

The Oil and Gas Conservation Act is an abuse of this constitutional guiding principle, for it gives away the people’s right to self determination and bestows it ignominiously on the oil and gas industry.  If this were not true, if this had not been done, you would not have the growing rebellion by citizens in cities and towns threatened by fracking, and you would not have this bill before you today.

I spoke at the Greeley city council meeting the other night.  I was there to support the people’s right to determine what was best for the “good of the whole.”  The city council, by a 5-2 vote, voted for what was best for the property rights of a small fracking company headed by recent School of Mines graduates loaded down with speculative money from Wall Street.

The majority of the council, led by Mayor Tom Norton, asserted, tangentially, that the property rights of the few were superior to the rights of the many.  Individual speculative profits trumped citizen issues of public health and safety, or the good of the whole, if you will.

The growing contempt for government we find in this country derives from decisions like that seen in Greeley the other night.  The out of town speculator, pockets loaded down with out of town money got over two hours to make his case before the council.  The citizens, armed only with their concerns, were given 3 minutes apiece.

Finally, I implore you all to review a decision made by your legislative predecessors.  They gave the COGCC the right of preemption.  In so doing they took away the rights of the people to self-determination on all matter oil and gas. They acted unlawfully, unconstitutionally, in my opinion, for they effectively revoked the constitutional guaranteed right of Home Rule, Article V, the rights of citizens to determine what is best for their city and neighborhoods when the issue is of dominant local concern.  There is nothing more local than the threat of an oil well in your backyard, accompanied by the realization that the state has taken away your rights to petition the government.  Really, as it now stands, your only option is to move.  But who’d buy the property?


Phil Doe – Environmental Director, Bet The Change USA


O&G Task Force member slams COGCC rule-making

Jim Fitzgerald, a Bayfield rancher, activist, and member of Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force, sent the following letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in response to  their current rule-making regarding the Task Force recommendations.

The Task Force was formed last year as part of a back-room compromise between the governor and Jared Polis, who in turn withdrew two ballot measures that would have increased drilling setbacks and given local governments a veneer of control over O&G operations within their jurisdictions.  In February, the 21 member Task Force sent the Governor nine recommendations regarding O&G operations in Colorado, which many regarded as ineffectual.

Here is the text of Jim’s letter to the COGCC:



Consider this as comment on your current rulemaking about Task Force recommendations from a very disgruntled member of that Task Force. The issues you are currently considering are only a small portion of what you should be considering for adoption. The COGCC must consider all thirteen of the oil and gas task force proposals which received 11 or more votes from the 21 member task force.
Gwen Lachelt, the former chairwoman of the oil and gas task force told the Durango Herald (Oct 10) that the rules currently proposed by the COGCC “gut” the intent of the task force. Not only do they gut our intent, they simply disappeared 13 proposals which received positive votes from a majority of the task force. In order to understand how so many intelligent people could waste so much time in the production of something so useless, it’s important to describe the outrageous rigging of the process by the governor’s office.
The 21 members of the task force (including myself) were recruited and assembled under Executive Order B 2014 005. Section II E of that Order stated that: “Recommendations of the Task Force regarding new or amended legislation shall be made by a two-thirds vote of the membership.” It was understood by many , if not most of the members that any proposal that did not require new or amended legislation and which received a simple majority of support would be forwarded for consideration for a rulemaking by the COGCC. After several weeks of meetings, Mike King from the Department of Natural Resources informed our group that all proposals would need a two-thirds vote in order to be considered for adoption. There was no vote on this change. It was simply announced. Therefore when the Keystone Center issued the final report they made the bizarre decision to place 13 proposals which received 11 or more votes in the section of “Minority Report”. The result was that several important proposals to give local governments more standing have not been considered even when they had as many as 13 positive votes. Thirteen out of 21 is not a minority. (See recommendations #7, #12, 12a, and #2 for example.)There were several other important proposals with majpority votes which were excluded.
The governor has chosen to make a mockery of the entire Task Force purpose and process. There were many who chose to participate in that Task Force who did so with much skepticism about accomplishing a whole lot. But I believe that even the most cynical of us never thought that there would be such shameless manipulation to ensure an outcome that had been pre-decided. An outcome that did not reflect in any way the hard work and sincere effort that the majority of Task Force members put into this.


Jim Fitzgerald

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.