Denver Chamber Helps Jack Frack Setback Initiative

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

We’ve been monitoring the strange story of what appears to have been a multi-pronged insider effort to derail Initiative 97, the controversial ballot measure to dramatically increase setbacks between oil and gas wells and so-called “surface development”–that is, homes and schools built over somebody’s else’s mineral rights. After one petition gathering firm left the state with tens of thousands of signatures, another admitted on tape they were paid by an as-yet unknown entity to stop collecting signatures. Despite these hurdles, the campaign turned in over 170,000 signatures yesterday and still hopes to make the ballot.

In the meantime, the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports on still more shenanigans against the Initiative 97 campaign, again involving the petition contractor who was paid to abandon the effort, and this time involving the “respectable” Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:

Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough told The Independent Friday that when her group learned Petition Connection was also gathering signatures for Colorado Rising, it told FieldWorks to stop using Petition Connection to gather signatures for its proposed transportation measure. That measure seeks a 0.62 percent statewide sales tax to pay for transportation and transit.

“We try not to have our (petitions) carried along with issues we would not support,” Brough said, noting that her board has opposed the fracking limitation measure.

Asked if her members in the oil-and-gas industry pressed her to split with the company, she said no…

But that’s not what others are saying:

Sean Duffy, spokesman for the Chamber-affiliated transportation ballot measure campaign, acknowledged later Friday that the oil-and-gas industry “along with a number of other businesses” in the Chamber are very concerned about the setback measure getting on the ballot and were uncomfortable with signature collectors gathering petitions for it at the same time they were gathering petitions for the transportation measure.

“They said, ‘Yeah, that’s a conflict for us’,” Duffy said.

As for the still-unknown party responsible for paying Petition Connection to walk away from the Initiative 97 campaign?

Brough said her group had “nothing to do with that payment” to Fessler.

“Absolutely not,” she emphasized.

But given that Kelly Brough is being more or less directly refuted by Sean Duffy on the original question, we would call her denial unsatisfying at best. There is a lot more to know about what the oil and gas industry did to thwart this initiative, from paying off contractors to their intimidating and aggressive “Decline to Sign” campaign featuring belligerent young men sent to heckle individual petition gatherers. These unsavory tactics stretch, if not the law, at the very least the bounds of civility in politics. It is not behavior that should be honored or rewarded.

We can only say again that all of this can be true even if you don’t agree with the initiative in question, and we recognize that universal 2,500-foot setbacks between wells and homes are not universally supported even among Democrats. The point is that if such dirty deeds become the norm in Colorado politics, everybody is worse off.

Everybody but the bad guys, that is.

23 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Voyageur says:

    The problem with your peroration is that many Coloradans, moi included, think the sponsors of this very extreme and crassly deceptive measure ARE the bad guys!

    • FireAndFury says:

      We get it, you make money from O&G on your land, congrats. But I'd wager a guess than 99% of the farmers and ranchers selling their O&G rights have no idea what kind of health or environmental impact that activity has, and if they do, they're gambling to make money, yet risking all of their neighbors health too.

      That's where the greed and ignorance has gone too far and is about to be punished once 97 passes. No one wants that activity next to homes other than the people making money on it. 

  2. PKolbenschlag says:

    Anadarko investors: Disregard for safety, overworked inspectors, oil price drop factors in Firestone explosion

    The plaintiffs claim, with evidence laid out by nine anonymous former Anadarko employees and two anonymous former contractors, that it was a matter of time before a developer hit an unknown flowline in Weld County and caused dangerous gases to flood a home or neighborhood. The Colorado Independent also spoke to some of the same former employees for a May story.

    …Further, the plaintiffs allege, Anadarko executives flaunted Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules related to health and safety to decrease company losses after the oil market bottomed out in 2014.

    The Firestone well in question was drilled in 1993 and Anadarko acquired it and 1,500 other aging wells in a land swap with competitor Noble Energy in 2014, according to the complaint.

    "Anadarko initially authorized a budget of tens of millions of dollars in order to either abandon them or bring them into current State compliance … After oil prices collapsed, Anadarko reconsidered its commitment to safety," the plaintiffs allege. "It slashed the remediation budget. What was left of the budget was spent remediating Noble Wells that were either good producers or whose poor condition interfered with Anadarko's drilling schedule. Anadarko did not consider safety threats in determining which few Noble Wells to remediate, even though many of these wells were located near houses or schools," the suit continues.

    Additionally, Anadarko allegedly did not know the location of the flowlines for the wells it had acquired from Noble. Plus, many of the mineral rights leases in the Weld County Wattenberg field area were negotiated years ago with a clause that said the company had to turn on and produce the wells to keep the lease.

    According to one of the anonymous employees cited in the suit, "maintaining these old leases was a high priority for Anadarko. To maintain these lucrative leases, Anadarko had to turn on and produce with many of the wells it received from Noble in the Land Swap, even if these wells were in desperate need of repairs."

    … "Because Anadarko wouldn't know where to look to see if its flowlines and pipelines were severed and didn't check to see if they were, an explosion was inevitable," plaintiffs wrote. "Senior Colorado Anadarko executives were well aware of these safety issues. By November 2016, they had held several meetings specifically to discuss whether it was appropriate to ignore safety and focus on supporting drilling."

    • Voyageur says:

      Minor point.  I am very glad Anadarko flaunts the rules, which means basically that it calls attention to them.

      Hey, if you've got rules, flaunt the m.

      I'd only be upset if somebody flouted the rules.

    • Duke Cox says:

      Well, well.

      Who could imagine an oil and gas company putting profits ahead of public safety?

      Thanks for the post, Pete

      • Voyageur says:

        Of course, nobody on the left wants paid for their work.  I guess Bill Gates is a pauper.  And I'm sure you work for free.



        • JohnInDenver says:

          Just think of the jobs impacted by Anadarko …

          Dispatchers, EMT and hospital emergency room workers; Morgue employees; Mortuary attendants; religious leaders leading funeral services; medical rehab specialists; PR and crisis communication advisors; well inspectors; mapping company employees; attorneys and paralegals; accountants calculating payouts for deaths and injuries.

          All well paid, I'm certain.

          And yes, V, I drive a car and heat my home with gas — and have often been glad of the lower prices for fuel that resulted from fracking. I benefit from some investments in drilling supply companies.  I don't know that 500 feet or 2500 feet is a good measurement for set backs — one measurement "solutions" seem silly to me, as it doesn't take local conditions into account.

          But if the trial indicates the lack of safety resulted from an effort to maintain leases without prudent investment for safety, those responsible should have any governmental or professional licenses or certifications yanked, and the “corporate person” of Anadarko should be “jailed” for some time.

          • Voyageur says:

            Hundreds of people die in auto wrecks every year.  So, we should ban all privately owned motor vehicles.  We should also prohibit the sale of alcohol.  Ohh, we did that and it didn't work?

            Well, two people died in a gas explossion, so we should shut the industry down and go live in yurts heated by buffalo dung.


            Seriously, don't take every word written by tort lawyers as gospel.   There was undoubtly negligence in this case, but these wells were abandoned decades before Anadarko took them over.

            Yes, when you buy property, you assuming liability for the sins of your forebears.  But that does not make Anadarko monsters.  A jury will have to determine damages.  But, no, Anadarko should not be put out of business.  Nor will it be.

            • PKolbenschlag says:

              In fact, drivers that through negligence kill innocent people are in fact punished. 

              The "word" is coming from former executives turned whistle-blower not tort attorneys. I expect a bit more diligence from you V.  I find it disappointing. 

              • Voyageur says:

                Bullshit, PK, you are quoting from the lawsuit.  I expect a bit more honesty from you. 

                • PKolbenschlag says:

                  Weak weak sauce V. Way, to continue the parlance. 

                  And I think you mean, bullshit from me and numerous of your former colleagues that have been reporting this story out. I think you also have a paralegal background? Anyway, you probably have a better source on hand yourself, but this will do

                  So, again, the (amended) complaint is based on the statements of former Anadarko employees – cum -whistle-blowers, in response to a lawsuit filed by union pensioners who are now vulnerable for the liability likely to be incurred from this alleged (another key word) malfeasance. This has been reported by numerous members of the media. But sure, focus on the lawyer.

                  The "crime" here is that this is a shareholder action, and not (yet) a more serious offense. Although I suppose dollars are what some people care most about. 

                  If the COGCC is not too busy approving permits I hope they are conducting an in-depth investigation into the matter, if our AG is not already doing so. People are dead, just like people die everyday I guess (per your statements on car wrecks). 

                  Former Anadarko brass slam company for safety risks, callousness



                  • PKolbenschlag says:

                    The ballot proposal to be worried about is the one by oil and gas, 108, which is a Constitutional amendment. 

                    And if the response is that industry 'had' to do it because of crazed fractivists, consider the converse. That 97 is a response itself, to Firestone and all the other incidents and experiences and mishaps and issues people and towns and landowners have had with this industry in Colorado.

                    Perhaps the industry so quick to criticize, sue, and cry victim might look–for once–in the mirror instead? Then it could direct its millions being spent hoping to change perspectives and behavior toward where it could actually make a difference: itself. 

            • JohnInDenver says:

              V —

              when there has been an auto manufacturer who neglected safety measures, there have been legal and financial consequences. When a professional driver is negligent in operation OR maintenance of a vehicle, there are consequences, including loss of license. School bus and trucking operations who overlook safety concerns have had their contracts and permits revoked.

              When a bar employee serves obviously inebriated individuals, there are consequences to the employee AND the owner, including suspension of liquor licenses.

              Nothing I've written says we should shut the industry down. I still haven't seen ANYTHING saying that already existing wells would be impacted by the new initiative, only that future drilling would require a set-back. And that would impact … 31 drills last year. If each rig drills 2 wells each month, that's 700 or so wells a year, and some (most?) of those would be drilled on property that would not be impacted.  So, operations may be hampered and individual corporations may be impacted. The industry as a whole would not be.

              • Duke Cox says:

                Good luck convincing V.

                The 85% figure he throws around includes all the private land that is already off limits, doesn't it, V.?

                • MichaelBowman says:

                  CoPols, question:  so I just composed a fairly lengthy response in this thread (it probably had a half-dozen links).  I made the mistake of not copying it before I hit post and it disappeared.  Is there a limit on the number of links in a posting?  If there isn't a way to recover it I'll probably turn it into a diary when I have time.  Thx. 

                • Voyageur says:

                  Probably, Duke, but that's insignificant, since your ban increases 2,500 percent, or 25 fold.

                  Go back to high school geometry and remember that the area of a circle is pi times the radius square.  Going from a 500 foot ban to a 2500 foot ban increases the ban 25 fold — five squared .

                  Of course the sponsors of this.misleading ban don't mention that.  The state analysid notes you go from an 18 acre prohibition to 4500 acres — from each and every dwelling

                  Park or other space mentioned.

                  In short, the current ban puts maybe 4 percent off li mits, which the extremist plan ups to 85 percent.

              • Voyageur says:

                Yes, it's new drilling only.  But 85 pe rcent of p rivate land is off limits to that new drilling, according to the state.  (I haven't seen numbers for public land — probably lessimpact.

                The paucity of drilling in recent years reflects the over supply of gas caused by fracking in this boom and bust industry.  But eventually, new wells will have to be drilled — and of coursr putting 85 percent of private land off limits strangles the industry.  

                It  is supposed to strangle the industry.  So, wellcome to the wonderful world of takings lawsuits.

                But don't worry, we'll beat your sorry asses with a negative campaign of $20 milllion plus, whatever it takes.

                But having sown the wind, the far left will reap the whirlwind.  All this negative advertising generates a vote no on everything atmosphere.  Forget about new taxes for roads and schools.  Forget about knocking off Buck or Tipton,  since democrats who endorse 97 will be crushed while those who oppose 97 will be deserted by the left and betrayed by Arn Menconi type Jilliots.

                It's your funeral, and you can cry if you want to.

                But you can't slander tens of thousands of honest, hard-working Coloradans and expect them not to fight back.

    • Genghis says:

      The class-action suit was filed Friday in federal court, in the southern Texas district, by Robert Edgar on behalf of all Anadarko investors who held stock in the company between Feb. 8, 2016, and May 2, 2017, including Iron Workers District Counsel Philadelphia & Vicinity Union. (Emphasis added.)

      Now THAT'S the stuff. These days, people give zero fucks about flesh and blood victims of criminally negligent homicide. But investors who got screwed out of $$ alleging causes of action under the federal Securities Exchange Act? That'll raise an eyebrow or two, even in our current mass sociopathy environment.

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