Anadarko Petroleum said on Tuesday that it is permanently disconnecting several oil and gas pipelines around the Firestone area, where a home exploded in late April killing two people and seriously injuring two others. But as a staggering new report from the International Business Times details today, Anadarko is spending obscene amounts of money to ensure that Colorado Republican lawmakers disrupt legislative attempts at regulating the oil and gas industry in Colorado:
Days after a gas line linked to an Anadarko Petroleum well ignited a deadly home blast in Colorado, the company’s chief executive said the “terrible tragedy has left all of us with heavy hearts.” But even asinvestigators were picking through the wreckage, the company moved to fight a new bill that would have forced it to tell Colorado homeowners how close they live to oil and gas operations.
State records show that while CEO Al Walker said “the families and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers,” Anadarko was deploying its lobbyists to press Colorado lawmakers to block a transparency measure as it pursued plans for hundreds of new wells in the northeastern part of the state.
After Anadarko’s lobbying blitz, Republican legislators filibustered the bill, which would have required energy companies to disclose maps documenting the locations of their gas lines and wells. The GOP lawmakers killed the legislation a few months after Anadarko donated to a group backing their election campaigns. [Pols emphasis]
The sequence of events that unfolded after the Colorado explosion demonstrates the political power of the Texas-based company, which is Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer and has flooded Colorado politics with campaign cash. An International Business Times/MapLight review of campaign finance records found the firm gave more than $7.2 million to political groups operating in the state during the 2016 election cycle — an average of roughly $10,000 every day for two years. [Pols emphasis]
The April 17 explosion in Firestone created a new urgency to debates over drilling safety in Colorado — even longtime fracking advocates like Gov. John Hickenlooper demanded changes. Republican lawmakers killed off a proposal earlier in the 2017 session intended to increase minimum setback requirements for drilling locations, but the Firestone tragedy prompted a late-session bill (HB-1372) to provide more public disclosure of “flowlines” in and around residential areas. Despite the public outcry, Republicans were able to successfully filibuster that bill to its death.
Before the “flowlines” legislation was squashed, we noted in this space the disgusting indifference to transparency suggestions from Firestone Republican Rep. Lori Saine. Given the extraordinary amount of money that Anadarko and the O&G industry are directing toward Colorado Republicans, it’s hard not to be cynical about Saine and her upper-chamber counterpart, Sen. Vicki Marble. Let’s go back to today’s story from the International Business Times:
On the surface, state records suggest Anadarko’s contributions to Senate Republicans have been relatively modest. In 2016, the company gave only $50,000 to the Senate Majority Fund, the primary fundraising apparatus of the Senate GOP. But those records do not detail Anadarko cash that has flowed to “dark money” organizations, or nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors. [Pols emphasis]
For example, the Colorado Economic Leadership Fund (CELF) played a pivotal role in helping Senate Republicans retain their majority in the 2016 election — and little-noticed corporate filings reviewed by IBT/MapLight show Anadarko gave generously to CELF…
…CELF spent more than $372,000 to help re-elect Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and elect Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. The two senators represent swing districts seen as critical to preserving the Senate Republican majority that provided the votes to kill the regulatory bills. The fund also spent $37,500 to help State Sen. Randy Baumgardner in his 2016 re-election race. Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, is the vice chairman of the specific Senate panel that quashed the setback bill, which lost in committee by a single vote.
While it is impossible to know how much of CELF’s total operating money came from oil and gas companies, Anadarko and Noble Energy in 2016 together gave the group $535,000 — or 75 percent of the total amount that CELF spent on Colorado elections in 2016. [Pols emphasis]
Colorado Republicans would almost certainly not have a one-seat majority in the State Senate without these massive financial commitments. Money from the O&G industry isn’t just a piece of the pie for Colorado Republicans; without this cash infusion, there is no pie.
Every election cycle, tens of millions of dollars are spent by various groups with their own agendas — benefitting both Republicans and Democrats. But as the International Business Times demonstrates today, no other industry in Colorado so thoroughly dominates political spending on one side of the aisle like the the oil and gas lobby. The industry may have every right to exert such financial influence on the state legislature…but Colorado voters have every right to wonder whose interests Republican lawmakers are truly protecting.