Big dollars fueling fracking fight for November

The downturn in energy prices isn’t stopping big energy companies from pouring in millions of dollars to fight two anti-fracking ballot measures and the petition drive to put them on the November ballot.

The two ballot measures are Initiative 75, which would allow local governments to regulate fracking in their communities; and Initiative 78, which would create a 2,500-foot distance between fracking rigs and homes, schools, hospitals and water sources. Petitions are due to the Secretary of State next week.

As of Aug.1, three energy industry-funded committees fighting the anti-fracking measures have collected slightly more than $15 million, most of which was raised this year. The two committees backed by anti-fracking activists have raised $424,000. 

The campaign with the most in the bank to fight those measures is Protect Colorado, which has raked in more than $13 million in contributions, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. Six million of that came in just the last month.

Unlike candidate contributions, there’s no limit on the amount a company or individual can contribute to a committee working on a ballot measure.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence – Protect Colorado for short – is run by energy giants Anadarko and Noble Energy. Last week, each kicked in $2.5 million to the campaign, according to reports. That brings Anadarko’s contributions in the past year to $6.5 million, and Noble’s to $5 million.

Other major contributors include Bayswater Exploration & Production, at $1 million; PDC Energy, at $1.25 million; Synergy Resources, at $700,000, and Whiting Energy,y at $550,000.

Anadarko and Noble are also the major funders of Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), which has been running ads promoting fracking for the past three years.

Protect Colorado has spent $3.72 million to combat the two ballot measures in the past 60 days. All but $200,000 has gone to the Oregon-based communications firm, Pac/West, which has made a lot of money in Colorado in the past two years.

The company is showing up more and more on Colorado campaign finance reports, earning more than $13 million since 2014. But Protect Colorado has been the campaign’s biggest client. In the two years since the energy industry front-group was formed, it has paid Pac/West almost $9.3 million. The company boasts that it has worked on 240 campaigns since its founding in 1997, with a 90-percent success rate.

Another group working to defeat the two anti-fracking ballot measures is Coloradans for Responsible Reform (CFRR), a committee that has a history of defeating anti-business ballot proposals. The committee has raised just $128,150, but its track record in previous campaigns indicates it will raise much more.

In 2000, CFRR raised more than $6 million to successfully defeat a ballot measure that called for voter approval for development and growth. In 2014, the committee jumped into the fracking fray, opposing Initiative #72, the first of a number of initiatives that intended to give local governments the authority make their own decisions about fracking. That initiative never made it to the ballot after Gov. John Hickenlooper negotiated a compromise with anti-fracking proponents, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder. Polis was funding efforts to put two other initiatives on the ballot. But the committee spent $2.3 million in advertising to advocate against the measure, and raised about $3.2 million, with $2.3 million coming from the American Petroleum Institute in just one donation.

The American Petroleum Institute is a big player this year and has kicked in more than $1 million to Vote No on 75/78, a committee run by Tracee Bentley, formerly Hickenlooper’s lobbyist and now the Institute’s head. About $400,000 of that went to Rick Reiter & Associates, which also runs Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

Groups attempting to put two anti-fracking measures on the ballot are trailing, badly, in the fundraising race.

Yes for Local Control Over Oil and Gas was created just a few weeks ago, and reports $55,000 in fundraising. The contributions came from just a handful of donors: $25,000 each from multi-millionaire Congressman Polis and his father, Stephen Schutz, and $5,000 from Conservation Colorado.

Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking reports donations of just under $369,000, with contributions from Lush Cosmetics, Food and Water Watch and Greenpeace. Its largest donation, of $50,000, came from Boulder philanthropist Christopher Hormel.

Both committees are run by Tricia Olson of Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED).

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012, Creative Commons, Flickr 


  1. Big money from out of state comes in to trash our state and degrade our environment, right up to the doorstep of our homes, and of course, conservatives will support it.
    Fossil fuels is a dying industry, and there are many more jobs and new industries to be created in alternate forms of energy.

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