High Noon: Denver fracking, Stewart-Williams, Ryan Call agonistes

Susan Greene: Hi all. Welcome to this February 11th edition of High Noon. We welcome High Nooners Dan Haley and Elliot Faden, both good sports for joining us on this springy winter morning.

Let’s start off with fracking v. Denver fractivists, which (my guess) might be the real showdown in the future of fracking. (If I were a fracking adviser, I’d tell them to stay the hell out of town, but, then, I’m not a fracking adviser.)

Dan Haley: Tell who to stay out of town? The fractivists? Amen.

Mike Littwin: It’s an interesting story, in that this one is mostly about politics. What the frackers can’t do is let this become a Denver story. If it does, then you’re going to see a much more likely possibility that an anti-fracking initiative could win at the polls. I think that’s what this is about – putting pressure on the oil and gas companies.

Elliot Fladen: As I said weeks ago, I think the real showdown is on the issue of property rights vs. local control.  Two competing principles, and how to balance them will set the parameters for this debate for years to come.

Haley: Putting pressure on oil and gas companies by spinning wild tales of contaminated water supplies. Meanwhile, the EPA has never found evidence of fracking fluid in any underground drinking water. I think the fractivists are emboldened by their victory in New York,  and want to make a stand in our state capital.

What do you mean by making it a Denver story?

Fladen: Yes, do tell Mike ;-)

Haley: And, I’ve said this before, but I do some consulting work for oil and gas interests. Full disclosure.

Fladen: You know I was really close to getting under contract for a new home in Green Valley Ranch, but it fell through. Now I saw something about the mineral rights for the development being possibly retained. I need to find myself a good piece of land where I can build a home, raise a family, and extract some useful oil by fracking.

Haley: I thought the Denver Post editorial this morning said it best. First, the headline was “Denver should ignore fractivists.” And the final paragraph was: By contrast, comprehensive opposition to fracking, the demonization of industry, and the trumpeting of a study that the state’s own health department felt obliged to repudiate are not a responsible contribution to the debate. Officials in Denver, whose downtown is home to a significant concentration of energy-related offices, would be wise to steer clear of this effort.

Littwin: I mean, that if you rouse the Denver population then the entire calculus changes. If Denver were to look like Weld County – which it won’t, of course — then any anti-fracking initiative would pass. So, there’s obviously a connection here in the timing. The commission has to make its recommendations soon. John Fielder has an op-ed in the Denver Post. The fracktivists make news. And no one expects the recommendations to go anywhere, except, I guess, for Michael Hancock, who says that before he wants to comment on this, he wants to see what the commission says.

Fladen: So what do you all think of the various fracking bills up this session.  Obviously it will be tough for any to pass, but what do you think about what they portend as to where this debate is heading?

Littwin: Nothing will be resolved in the legislature. Nothing will be resolved by the commission. And the New York decision, I think, will make a huge difference in the discussion.

Haley: One of the topics that has come up in the task force is local control.  But what does that mean? For some communities, like Boulder, local control  means banning fracking. But the state constitution, and the courts interpreting the document, have said you can’t do that. So, does it mean, having more say in how energy is developed in your community? Well, many local officials went before the task force to say they already have those tools, via Memorandums of Understanding, and they’re working well in their communities.

Fladen: I think it means that for there to be local control there needs to be some form of a state law that delegates the power back to the localities.  But that won’t pass unless respect for property rights and compensation for mineral rights holders is included. 

Haley: Some interesting proposals came up at the most recent task force meeting, and I think they’ll move forward, but again, if you want to ban fracking in your community, the recommendations won’t appease you.

Littwin: You’re right about (some of) that, Dan. Local control is complicated. Of course, if it goes to the ballot … 

Haley: If only oil deposits sat under municipalities that welcomed responsible development (and the economic benefits that come with it) but it doesn’t work  like that. Oil and gas development is of statewide interest. The courts and the law recognize that. But still, I understand how if you’re living near a development, and are getting tired of truck traffic, etc., you don’t care about case law.

Fladen: Mike, if it goes to the ballot, there are all sorts of things that matter.  Jobs.  Property rights. Say you take a version of SB93 and put it as an initiative and then couple in a more explicit local control provision.  Could be marketed as “responsible local control.”

Point is twofold: First, the fracktivists are overplaying their hand as there are all sorts of interesting initiatives one can draft.  Second is that the Fracktivists generally only want to play environmental hero if they can stick it to the mineral interest owner without paying him.  Change the latter and watch their desire to change the world whither on the vine. 

Haley: Regarding New York’s ban, I should point out that it was bolstered in part by research written and peer-reviewed by scientists with ties to the anti-fracking movement. Found this interesting…

New York Fracking Ban Throws Peer Review Under the Bus

Greene: Let’s move from frackers and fractivists to talking heads — specifically to Brian Williams and Jon Stewart, and how Williams (nearly) saved the news and how Stewart (clearly) changed it. What do you think about this week’s announcements?

Fladen: Wasn’t Brian Williams in Lord of the Rings when he told the Balrog “you shall not pass”?  If so, I have a hard time thinking anything negative about him, especially after he saved us from an alien invasion in Independence Day.

Haley: I posted on Facebook yesterday that, not to spoil the ending, but Brian Williams isn’t coming back after six months. This is like a family telling their kids that their dog has gone to play on a beautiful farm far away.

Littwin: I don’t know which story is bigger. The Brian Williams thing is about lost credibility in journalism, and the Jon Stewart thing is about how a comedian came to represent journalistic credibility. Both stories are fascinating. Ronald Reagan — or Hillary Clinton, if you like – can tell long tells that exaggerate their heroics, but no one expects any better of them. The guy who reads the news is supposed to be telling the truth. It’s not really an option. When you lie, you get fired. Or if you make $10 million, you get a six-month penalty, which means he’ll never come back.

Fladen: Whether he comes back depends on what happens to ratings in his absence, don’t you think?

Littwin: Dan, my mom told me about that farm. You mean it … wasn’t … true? Duke. Oh, Duke.

Haley: Without credibility, a TV anchor has nothing but good hair and whitened smile. That’s why NBC cut him loose – for six months anyway.

No. He’s sunk. The hilarious memes that bolted across the interwebs were like shovels of dirt on his “real” journalism career. He could end up back on TV, but not as an anchor for a network.

Fladen: I’d Rather remember the good journalists, not the bad. So I’ll think fondly about Jon Stewart who my wife and I love to watch.

Haley: Don’t worry, Mike. That farm was for real. My dog is there too.

Littwin: The six months means they don’t have to fire him, and they’ve got six months to work out a deal. He won’t be back. But he’ll probably turn up somewhere else. One the of the best parts of this story I saw is that Williams once said he wanted to succeed Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.

Haley: What’s been really interesting to me in all of this is that, now, suddenly, everyone cares about the nightly news. When, for years, no one has cared. That’s the bigger problem here. I don’t even know what time it comes on, and I love the news.

If only Brian Williams had succeeded Leno he’d already have his TBS show.

Littwin: Jon Stewart changed everything. It’s not too much to say that. It wasn’t just that he somehow became the funny heir to Walter Cronkite. Williams became an entertainer. Stewart became a multimedia oracle. It was the Internet. It was YouTube (which, I read, wasn’t even born until six years into the Daily Show). The morning clips of Jon Stewart became as important as the show. He became the opposite of Fox News. MSNBC may be failing – in the same way that liberal talk radio failed — but Jon Stewart or Hannity, what do you think? Colbert or O’Reilly? Yes, Stewart changed everything.

Fladen: Hey – I haven’t watched the news in years so this topic isn’t all that interesting to me. Can somebody tell me what is going on in the Sabados/Palacio contest for head of the Dems in CO?

Namely – is this a legit challenge to Palacio? Is it a signal of some deeper discord among the Dems?

Haley: Not it!

I agree that Stewart changed everything. I remember feeling so disheartened when, as a journalist at The Post, I’d read how many people were getting their news from an entertainer. I don’t think that’s a great place for our country to be, but I understand it. I also think journalism, in all its staid and boring glory, created a vacuum that he filled.

Haley: I don’t have a clue. But I do know after every election, particularly if your party loses, party activists get fired up over ousting the state party chair and it really never amounts to anything. Heck, I remember back in 2004, when the Dems won control of the statehouse for the first time in 40 years and captured a US Senate seat and party activists tossed aside the state party chair in favor of Pat Waak.

Fladen: Man, this silence on Sabados/Palacio is like the silence coming from the Ryan Call supporters after the Douglas County results were announced….

Seriously, still silence??? Is everybody on the left afraid to weigh in who will win state chair for the Dems? I’ll tell you right now that I think Steve House is going to win for GOP Chair. Why can’t somebody on the other side step up to the plate and make a prediction? It isn’t like anything bad will happen if you guess wrong. Or is it?

Littwin: Elliot, the silence on Sabados/Palacio may be because no one is talking about it. I haven’t heard a word about it, which should tell you something.

Haley: My silence comes from my utter lack of interest in who leads the state parties. I don’t know Palacio but his team held back the red wave a bit this year, retaining the state House and winning the gov’s mansion. I do like Ryan Call quite a bit, and his team can claim its victories as well, taking back the state Senate and winning a US Senate seat.

Littwin: It will be less interesting who replaces Stewart than what replaces Stewart. He didn’t invent satire on TV. There was a great news show called That Was the Week That Was that only I am only old enough to remember. The great SNL stuff. Now, John Oliver has his HBO show, but I think we’ll move on to something different because there won’t be another Jon Stewart.

Haley: I imagine they’ll try to keep the franchise going. That show spun off a lot of creative people, including Steve Carrell. There are alums who can take the anchor’s chair.

Littwin: Good point, Dan. Only real insiders care. What I find interesting is another point Dan made — that when parties lose, they need someone’s head. But Ryan Call could lose — I don’t really know the odds on this — after a huge win. It looks like a purity thing. And if that’s what it is, it will be another example of lessons not learned. Republicans (and Democrats) can only win if they win the middle. You can take a lot of what is happening in the state Senate this session and show that Republicans there have been made dizzy by their moderate success. Suddenly, they’re pro measles. I’m waiting for someone to chime in on the Crusades.

Haley: You mean, beyond the President? By the way, as a Christian, I feel I should condemn the Crusades now. Since apparently they’re relevant again in world affairs.

Littwin: I guess the question on everyone’s mind is which Crusade is your personal favorite. I remember as a kid having my Children’s Crusade trading cards.

Haley: That made me laugh out loud. For real.

Fladen: Speaking of pro-measles:

“Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado) both told 9NEWS they didn’t think the law should require parents to vaccinate.”


An issue that crosses all partisan lines!

Greene: Laughing here, too.

We’re close to the end of the lunch hour… It’s that time of High Noon when, each week, we offer up a musical pick. In honor of Valentines Day Saturday, our choice this week is a classic, and all-too-forgotten love song of sorts by the late, great Allan Sherman. “Harvey and Sheila” is a longtime favorite in the Colo Indy newsroom. Make sure not to miss the part where “Harvey took the elevator” and “Sheila got in two floors later.” This is the stuff true romance is made of.

Before we sign off, we send our love and support to Jessica Peck, an inaugural, card-carrying High Nooner who’s recovering from surgery. We’re thinking about you, Jess.

Haley: Yes, much love to Jessica – a true warrior in many ways. We’re thinking of you.

Fladen: Jessica is a warrior. ‘nuf said.

Littwin: We are all thinking of you, Jess, who is not only a High Nooner but also my partner in travel debates, in political wackiness, in A1C readings and in all good thoughts. The good news is that she’ll be back very soon.

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litwin hnMike Littwin has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow. A rapier wit.

dan haley Dan Haley is vice president of communications at EIS Solutions, a Colorado public relations firm and was Editorial Page Editor at the Denver Post, after being an editorial writer, assistant city editor and news reporter.

fladen hnElliot Fladen is a former Department of Justice trial attorney and a 2005 graduate of Stanford Law School. He specializes in commercial litigation, government transparency, and construction litigation. Besides testifying on major state ethics legislation before the Colorado State House, stories regarding his work have appeared in the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, The Colorado Independent, the Colorado Observer, and the Colorado Statesman. He is also an occasional guest columnist and/or contributor to the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Colorado Independent.

sgreeneSusan Greene is moderator today. She is a longtime Colorado journalist, a former Denver Post columnist and the editor of the Colorado Independent.

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.


  1. The dangers of fracking are very real. Go out to Weld county in the rural areas and take an air quality reading. It will AMAZE you.

    My brother used to live out there, over by Ault. He and his wife had some property she had inherited, and he built them a house to live in on the property. This last year, he started having seizures and attacks of various kinds. Some of them were potentially life threatening. He was tested for all sorts of allergens, and came up negative for ALL of them.

    He and his wife moved over to Fort Collins, out of the fracking area, and the seizures have stopped, UNLESS the wind is blowing from the east, when they return with a vengeance. Funny, when I was a kid, they used to tell you to go out to the country because the air was better, and life would be better. NOT ANY MORE!

    Not to mention, HOW does the EPA know they haven’t found fracking chemicals in ground water? The industry WON’T TELL what they are using, so how can it be KNOWN that they aren’t in there?

    TYhis is the same kind of issue as the KXL pipeline. If they put that in place across the Ogallala aquifer, ONE leak (and there WILL be leaks, it’s a GIVEN in the industry) can take out the water supply for the ENTIRE Midwest. And for what? So a bunch of Canadians can make money while we die of thirst? NOT a smart move. Not to even mention that the tar sands they want to send through that pipeline is MUCH more like liquid sandpaper than oil. It’s GUARANTEED to cause problems. Why do you think the Canadians WON’T LET this thing go across THEIR country? They don’t want the damage and destruction that WILL go along with this thing, but WE are apparently stupid enough in large parts to take it and say “GREAT!”. And the biggest stupidity of this is that NONE of that gas or oil will be coming to this country at all. It’s not going to help US out AT ALL. And this TOO is known.

    We need to be smarter than we are when it comes to energy. We have all kinds of options rather than going with the 19th century fuel, we need to put just as much subsidy into alternative and especially renewable energy. Time to start using our BRAINS for a change.

  2. Umm…Fracking is a big subject on the western slope…there was a large meeting with BLM and local folks at our local high school the other night…there was not one supporter for drilling and fracking…The Fight is on…

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