Hickenlooper vs. Elise Jones: Fracking Debate Showdown!

Anyone following the contentious debate over hydraulic fracture drilling, or "fracking" under Front Range communities will find today's announcement in the Boulder Daily Camera to be most interesting.

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones is set to debate Gov. John Hickenlooper on natural gas hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on April 1 in Denver.

The goal of the 45-minute session is to provide a state-versus-local perspective on the effects of fracking, including public health concerns, the environmental impacts and local economic considerations.

"Oil and gas is a really, really important issue to the residents of Boulder County," Jones said Monday. "It's important that their concerns be made known to the state and to the governor directly. It's critical that he understand that Coloradans don't want to sacrifice air and water quality and public health to produce energy."

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones is the former executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, and highly knowledgeable on the subject of "fracking." She is definitely on the opposite side of avowed industry cheerleader Gov. John Hickenlooper in the debate over the expanding use of fracking to gain access to energy resources in areas not previously subject to drilling–like residential Front Range cities in Boulder County.

This forum will be the first time we know of that Gov. Hickenlooper will publicly defend his over-the-top pro-energy industry rhetoric since taking office in 2011. This is the same Gov. Hickenlooper who has told constituents that fracking "is inherently safe," "carries literally no risk," and that "you can eat this stuff"–referring to the trade-secret brew of chemicals used in fracking operations. Hickenlooper was forced to admit after making this claim in a U.S. Senate hearing that "I don’t think there’s any frack fluid right now that I’m aware of that people are using commercially that you want to drink," a wholesale contradiction of what he directly implied to Senators, and has repeatedly and explicitly told the public. Despite the wide distribution Hickenlooper's claims to have "drank frack fluid" have received, Hickenlooper's admission that this was basically a lie has gone largely unreported.

Today's story notes correctly that Commissioner Jones is friends with Hickenlooper, and that Hickenlooper chose to debate Jones on the issue because the debate would be "respectful."

And we hope it is, with the caveat that on this issue, Gov. Hickenlooper has a lot of explaining to do.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ClubTwitty says:

    Back in the day, CEC use to share office space with Wynkoop Brewing, before the building became the Alliance Center.  I'm sure it will be respectful, but the Gov better get his game on!

  2. Gray in Mountains says:

    I want to see Hick change his position for local govt even if he doesn't change it on fracking generally. I hope to learn something. If Hick makes a really convincing case for fracking safety it would not change my mind about local control. But, if he can convince that fracking doesn't endanger water and that water can be reclaimed and reused I'll be assuaged. Water is my biggest concern. Millions of gallons are used and made unavailable for any other use for each well, How long before those millions of gallons can be used and what has to be done to it to make that happen.

    1 hour is not enough. It ought be 3 1 hr sessions

    • The realistThe realist says:

      The fact that there is an uncontrolled spill right now of many tens of thousands of gallons of oil/hydrocarbons/who-knows-what just 50 feet from Parachute Creek in Garfield County, should add an interesting element to the debate.

      And I agree, need multiple debates.

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

       if he can convince that fracking doesn't endanger water and that water can be reclaimed and reused I'll be assuaged.

      That is, of course, Hicks' great challenge. Once water is used for fracking, it is useless for any other purpose, other than killing livestock and wildlife, that is. You can't even reuse it for drilling new wells. In order reuse fracking water, it must be cleaned..period. That is a very expensive process.

      Typically it is taken to a pond where it is allowed to evaporate or, quite commonly, reinjected in the ground, the latter belying the industries claim that they reduce pollution by pumping the poisoned water back out of the ground after fracking. They actually only recover about 70% and when they choose to reinject it to stimulate production in adjacent wells, it is then available to seep back into groundwater through the hundreds of well bores that will leak when their cement bonds eventually fail…and they will.

      Elise is a very knowledgeable and articulate person. I wouldn't be happy about debating her on this subject if I were Hick. Perhaps he is counting on his personal friendship with Elise, hoping she will take it easy on him. I hope she doesn't. Hick deserves to have his mendacity uncovered for all to see. Leave the gloves at home, Elise. Take Governor Frackenlooper to the woodshed…I know you can. I sure wish I could be there. Maybe someone will post the video here…please.

      Ban Fracking…only you can prevent faucet fires!



      • Gray in Mountains says:

        @ Duke Everything I have reviewed corresponds with what you say. But, Hick has said, more than once, that "we need to agree on the facts". So, I am going to give him a chance to convince me that what I believe to be true is in fact not true

        • ClubTwitty says:

          It's going to be interesting to hear him argue that local jurisdictions have no right to permit this one particular industrial use.  I wouldn't want to have to argue anything against Elise, really, because she usually gets her facts right and has a good sense on which ones to bring.  I wonder if Hick has a debate coach?  

          (PS – Don't talk about the good old days sippin' frack fluid with the Halliburton Boys).   

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        Duke.  My daughter is an environmental engineer with degrees in chemincal and environmental engineering.  She lives in Longmont and has researched the issue.  Her opinion is that it is better than relying on coal or oil and there are new technologies being developed that will address the issue of recycling the water.  She recognizes that she is something of a heretic among her environmental friends but she has the scientific chops to make me rethink my blind opposition to it.

        • Gray in Mountains says:

          I recently attended a presentation by an engineer from Stanford (sorry, can't remember his name) who said that all this water ought come from saline aquifers which are much deeper and hence more expensive to get water from

        • Gray in Mountains says:

          @GG I'm very interested in getting power plants off coal and on natural gas. But, I am also very concerned with increased water demands.

        • ClubTwitty says:

          I adhere to informed opposition, rather than blind.  And, not questioning your daughter's credibility or chops but, there are very informed people who have different informed opinions on the matter.  I am not necessarily opposed.  I do think that communities (and not primary industry which is currently the case) should have more input into where, when, and how resources in their midst and proximity are developed.  I believe that split-estate is a philosophical farce, and a FU'd situation, and that surface owners should most certainly have more rights and control over what happens on their property.  I think the current public (not some archaic 'public' from 30-years previous) should have more say in where, when and how public lands and public minerals are developed.  That's not blind opposition, but that is how it gets labeled by industry which regularly claims any is both blind and total. 

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            Can't disagree at all with your points CT.  For me living in Gilpin it would be like Shell coming in and wanting to log the forests for biomass and not have any safeguards for caring for the land after the resource has been removed.  Natural gas is stopgap at best but it represents an opportunity if it can be done correctly.  Hopefully Hickenlooper and Jones can have a spirited discussion about what exactly correct drilling would entail.

        • Tom says:

          It may very well take local communities keeping fracking out to stimulate the research needed to develop water recycling technology. As it stands, it's so much cheaper and easier to pump and dump that companies can afford to flout regulations. If the price of admission to access the area at all is a demonstrably safe process, then O&G companies will eventually have to put in the work. 

  3. ClubTwitty says:

    By latest accounts (and hinted at in earlier articles by those that read between lines) it is 'natural gas liquids' — propane and butane and the like, leaking from a pipeline servicing the gas processing plant built, of course, right in the river bottom along the main fork of Parachute Creek. 

    It’s all private land owned by energy companies so they are able to keep reporters away and make the state have to ask to come look themselves.  That said, just last week was the first time that COGCC actually took its own water sample, so the week and a half of the agency assuring us everything was fine, should probably been stated as 'the energy company tells us that everything is OK.'  Because that is more of the truth based on the reporting from today. 

    (The reason it is all private land can be found by learning of the Great Oil Shale Giveaway which includes some familiar names…)

    On a side note: somewhat related, the BLM is finishing up its scoping on the re-write for the 'Roan Plateau plan'.  Last year the BLM lost the court case over its leasing the Roan in the last months of the Bush administration, on three of four counts on which it was challenged  (i.e. decisively).

    Roan Plateau (which for the purposes here if not in the grand geographic sense), is the lands above and east of main fork Parachute Creek people who want to submit comments by Friday can go here, to CEC's successor group:





    One of Colorado's tallest falls, the East Fork of Parachute Creek tumbles over the edge of the Roan Cliffs from on top of the Roan Plateau.

    • ClubTwitty says:

      I believe that some diaries have slipped away, perhaps, or maybe this really was Twitty’s first…  But all the way in the back of the wayback machine, although the diary has vaporized into databases unknown, a poll remains…  from August 26, 2007 at 9:12 PM MDT

      Sen. Allard…clueless in Loveland? + Roan Plateau poll


      Can Colorado afford to protect our most senstive and special public lands?

      • No-we need to let the energy companies decide
      • Yes-Places like Roan Plateau should be protected
      • What is the Roan Plateau?

      I note that although Spell Check didn’t help me then, I still wish we had it here now. 

      In any case, it’s been an issue near to heart for near a decade-and-a-half.  I may have to come out of semi-retirement and write a diary giving the latest and the low-down…but it is an unique and wonderful place and it is nearing the season to get up there and visit, especially if you have never been. 

      • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

        We are looking into this. Any such missing content, and we have exhaustively been through this (we thought, anyway) with our tech help, will be restored once we know it's missing.

        • ClubTwitty says:

          I'm not sure about anything previous, don't recall dates so well…

          But clearly the diary itself is missing.  I was doing a little poking around, thinking of writing one, and that's the earliest Roan diary I can find.  Thanks

      • The realistThe realist says:

        Agree, Club T – Anyone who has not been on the Roan should make a trip there.  There is no way to anticipate what it is like when viewing it from the Rifle area or from I-70.  It's a wonderful, natural resource-rich place.


        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          I need to add a caveat to my earlier post and to comment on a couple of things presented in the discussion above. I was having fun with the slogan above, which I saw on a teeshirt Iast time I was in GJ. But I think the practice of hydraulic fracturing and the production of natural gas is a dead end street, best abandoned sooner rather than later… unless…Governor Hickenlooper requires the industry to use CleanStim in all operations in the state.

          I have tried to be a little less hyperbolic on this subject, but the anticipation of this debate has me getting a little excited.

          Let's get this straight…I use fossil fuels…and I pay for them, just like everybody else. But for the sake of my mothers' carbunkle, when do we start to take this shit seriously? When do we expect the oil and gas industry to cut their prices significantly by sparing us the hundreds of millions of dollars they routinely spend on advertising to convince us how much they love us, and to pay for a literal army of lawyers, the better with which to bleed us dry. If oil and natural gas can't be produced here without poisoning things, then why don't we figure out and accomplish a way to do it as soon as possible? Well, you know the answer to that.

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            "" is better than relying on coal or oil and there are new technologies being developed that will address the issue of recycling the water."

            It is my fondest hope that your daughter is right about new technologies, but I can tell you that a cheap process to clean water would have already made several fortunes instead of filling the pockets of those who dispose of it. I would love to have some industry people come on this site and offer up some technical info to convince us all that their science is all good and ours is all bad. Barring that, I will stick with what I know and what I have seen. I realize that  (I hope I can speak for a larger group) we could be proven wrong… I 'm just wondering why they won't choose to do so.

            This is Governor Hickenloopers' chance to get it right.

            ps. I certainly mean no disrespect to your daughter, GG, with my comments above. There are many unresolved questions and much room for honest debate.



          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            By the expression, "do it" above, I am talking about seriously recognizing (and acting upon that awareness), when we support fossil fuel more than clean energy, we do so at our peril.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:


          I couldn't agree more with your assessment. My wife and I took a National Geographic photographer named Joel Sartori for a day trip up on the Roan several years back. Joel has traveled extensively (his next assignment was snapping photos of Rhino in Borneo or Java or someplace like that), and yet, Anvil Points in the springtime kinda blew him away. It IS a special place. drilling rigs are NOT compatable. If you haven't been there, you should go. The town of Rifle would love to relieve you of dinner and a drink or two. I have many friends there…and quite a few enemies, as well.

           Use the JQS trail on a dry day (only) if you're feeling adventurous, otherwise, the road up Cow Creek is for you.

  4. wade norris says:

    The time for debates on Fracking ended 2 to 4 years ago, as Josh Fox proved in Gasland.

    Think about this Colorado Democrats – Hickenlooper talked about drinking 'fracking' fluid with his associates at Halliburton.

    That's Dick Cheney's company – the same Dick Cheney that re-wrote the energy policy of the US in 2005 to allow fracking.

    Why are Democrats supporting a buddy of Cheney/Halliburton?

    If a Republican Governor like Bill Owens was threatening to sue Longmont and Fort Collins to force them to embrace Dick Cheney/Halliburton's process that destroys and wastes Colorado's precious water supply,

    what do you think Democrats would say?

    Wolf in Sheep's clothing…

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