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Thursday, October 24,2013

Oil/gas rep: Anti-fracking groups are well-funded, too

By Jefferson Dodge
Courtesy photo
B.J. Nikkel

A spokesperson for the oil and gas industry is claiming that local anti-fracking groups benefit from just as much financial support as the industry when it comes to campaigning on the upcoming oil and gas ballot measures in Boulder and Lafayette.

The allegation has drawn laughter from activists.

Former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel has been hired as a consultant by iKue Strategies, thanks to funding from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), to serve as a spokesperson for the industry regarding several of the proposed bans and moratoriums on oil and gas exploration along the Front Range.

Nikkel told Boulder Weekly that concerns about the health risks associated with oil and gas operations like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have been vastly exaggerated, that the industry is effectively regulated by the government, that environmental activists have been resorting to “scare tactics” and that the local antifracking groups are the beneficiaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending from national nonprofit groups.

She says it’s not David versus Goliath, not the wealthy oil and gas industry and COGA bankrolling campaigns against the bans and moratoriums backed by meagerly funded activist groups.

“I think that’s really disingenuous for that perspective to be said by these local groups,” Nikkel says, noting that the “radical” Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund helped Lafayette’s activists with the language of Question 300 in that city. “Let’s look at these other organizations, these national organizations that came in and wrote these initiatives for them. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Frack Free Colorado, Clean Water Action, do you really think they aren’t spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on all of these efforts, beginning more than a year ago?”

When BW pointed out that municipal campaign finance disclosure reports show that, in Boulder for instance, COGA has donated $110,237 to Boulder Citizens for Rational Energy Decisions, compared to the $3,802 raised by the Yes on 2H committee, Nikkel claimed she was unclear on the specifics of the discrepancy.

“I don’t have the monetary, all that stuff, right here in front of me, I’m just an advisor to these organizations, so I don’t really get involved in the campaign finance end of it,” she told BW.

When asked whether she thinks that the playing field is even, Nikkel replies, “I think it’s even, yeah. But this is the difference, and I think this is worthy of mentioning, is that our side of it is transparent about where the money comes from, whereas theirs isn’t. They want to make these disingenuous claims that, ‘Oh, poor them, they get no funding and COGA’s this big, bad organization,’ but the fact is they are getting tons and hundreds of thousands of dollars of support.”

She says that because national groups like the Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch are nonprofit, 501(c)4 organizations, they don’t have to reveal their donors, and expenses can be hidden.

Local committees would still be required to disclose all contributions they received, of course, but Nikkel says even if national groups are not contributing directly to the campaign committees, they are still spending money on their behalf.

She says it’s misleading for local groups like East Boulder County United to “depict themselves as this meager group who is battling, you know, a corporation, when in fact they have their own nonprofit organizations that are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars in hidden support to write the initiatives, get the signatures, pay people to get the signatures, to go out and canvass, to pay for all the literature that’s been given out, and has been over a year. … It’s not the little guy against the big guy in this whole issue, it’s pretty even-steven out there.”

Area fractivists say they find Nikkel’s claims ludicrous.

“An obviously ridiculous claim,” Phil Doe, environmental issues director for Be the Change, said via email when asked to respond to Nikkel’s assertions. “It must come from the same nonsense factory where the oil boys coined the whopper that there has never been any groundwater contamination from fracking. Seems like the greater the lie, the higher the volume with which it is delivered. The resistance to fracking is from citizens, spending their own time and money to protect themselves, their property and their families from drilling in their neighborhoods. If now and then other citizens and citizen groups rise to their defense, that hardly constitutes a gusher of money. The gushers have always been on the other side.”

East Boulder County United (EBCU) Treasurer Merrily Mazza agreed, noting that all of her group’s signature-gatherers were local volunteers.

“The assertion that these groups are heavily funding local anti-fracking campaigns is laughable, but typical of oil and gas talking points,” she told BW, noting that of the $7,500 her group plans to spend on the campaign, they received $1,000 from MoveOn.org, $2,500 from the Sierra Club and about $150 worth of consulting from Food & Water Watch.

“That’s it — the sum total of what EBCU has received from environmental or other national groups,” Mazza said. “We’ve never received a contribution from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Clean Water Action or anyone else. All other contributions to EBCU have been local, individual donors. Oil and gas is indeed pouring money into the local anti-fracking campaigns — $67,000 in Lafayette alone, much more in Fort Collins and Broomfield. EBCU pales in comparison. We’ve been almost totally funded by local donors giving small amounts. That’s an ‘even playing field’?

“It’s also funny that the local group members — who actually live in the communities — bust their butts to organize speakers; walk turfs with community volunteers; get mailers and yard signs designed, printed and distributed; communicate via websites and email, and COGA outsources its efforts to a consulting firm in Denver,” she continues.

“There’s a real grassroots effort — buy it! At least COGA didn’t outsource the work to India — there’s that.”

Similarly, Neshama Abraham of Yes on 2H in Boulder told BW that her group has not received funding from the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund or Clean Water Action.

Nikkel also downplays the possible health risks associated with oil and gas extraction activities.

“There have been study after study, dozens and dozens of studies, and independent studies, and studies even by the EPA, that show that hydraulic fracturing is done safely, and they can’t show any kind of ill health effects,” she says.

When asked if she thinks there are no risks associated with oil and gas extraction, she replies, “I’m not saying that, I’m just saying it’s so strictly regulated, that I think scare tactics are being used to freak people out and make them think that they are at risk, when I don’t believe that they are. … I see no real information that shows me definitively that there are cases cited, legitimate cases cited, as issues with any health effects. I really believe it’s hype.”

When asked about the May 2012 University of Colorado study showing elevated risks of cancer and other health problems among those living within a half-mile of wells, and the 2011 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing increased levels of propane and other emissions in Erie’s air, Nikkel replied, “I haven’t read the studies that you’re talking about, so I’m not sure what exactly they say.”

When asked to respond to Nikkel’s claims, Doe notes that there has not been enough research on the fairly new method of horizontal drilling.

“There have been no national studies, and those that have been undertaken by the EPA have either been shut down or denuded as the result of industry pressure,” he says. “And those that have been completed, such as that by our [CU] School of Public Health, are simply ignored.

“In a very real sense, there is no regulation, there is only a book of rules that the state, using basically an honor system, hopes the industry observes,” Doe continues. “How would that approach work with traffic signs and speed limits? I don’t think the oil and gas boys are necessarily a better class of citizen than your average driver, and without severe penalties for traffic violations and a large police force for enforcement, the highways would be chaos. What do you think that means for the oil patch if we allow our worst impulses, such as greed and self-dealing, to reign supreme?”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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There is a big problem with fracking the truth will not be told , watch gasland the movie 



In response to former state Rep. B.J. Nikkel statement about fracking:  Over the past year two years, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly shut down its own fracking-related water contamination investigations after being pressured by the oil and gas industry.

1. Parker County, TX – The EPA began an investigation after a homeowner reported that his drinking water was bubbling like champagne. But after fracking company Range Resources threatened not to participate in another study in March 2012, the EPA set aside the “smoking gun” report connecting methane migration to fracking.

2. Dimock, PA – The mid-Atlantic EPA began testing water in Dimock, PA after residents complained that their drinking water was contaminated from nearby fracking operations. But the federal EPA closed the investigation in July 2012 even after the staff members who had been testing the water warned of methane, manganese and arsenic contamination.

3. Pavilion, WY – The EPA released a draft report in 2011 linking fracking to contamination of an underground aquifer. After drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry, the EPA handed the investigation over to the state of Wyoming in June 2013 to be completed with funding from EnCana, the drilling company charged with contaminating the water wells in the first place.

The EPA is supposed to protect American citizens from threats like fracking, not bow to the oil and gas industry.



Too funny. The investigations were shut down because they didn't find anything. The Pavilion, WY sample collection done by the EPA bordered on scientific fraud. An independent review of the original EPA data and additional collection was done by the U.S. Geological Survey. The raw data were turned over to both sides. No industry pressure.


My response to "ANONYMOUS" and his comment where the EPA fracking studies are "scientific fraud" is this report just released by the USGS that warns us when drilling came to Oklahoma, so did an unbelievable increase in earthquakes. There is USGS a link below. Will "ANONYMOUS" also call this scientific study by the USGS "scientific fraud"? If so he/she needs to step up and identify who they really are. [NOTE: Methinks "ANONYMOUS" is a paid-ringer for the drilling industry.] "Earthquake Swarm Continues in Central Oklahoma" Released: 10/22/2013 1:07:59 PM Contact Information: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Office of Communications and Publishing 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119 Reston, VA 20192USGS, Okla. warn of more drilling-related quakes in state Federal and Oklahoma authorities are warning that people in and around Oklahoma City are at much greater risk from earthquakes than they were four years ago, possibly because of oil and gas drilling-related activities including injection wells for fracking fluids used in drilling for natural gas. "They're more at risk than they were four years ago," said seismologist Bill Leith of the U.S. Geological Survey. "These don't look like normal earthquake sequences." Earthquakes are now six times more likely in central Oklahoma , said Leith , the agency's senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards. USGS, along with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, issued a warning this week that called the increase in central Oklahoma an "earthquake swarm." The involvement of the state Geological Survey represents the closest any state official has come to saying earthquakes have been "induced" by deep injection of wastewater from fracking and drilling operations. "The whole community realizes some of them are induced," Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Randy Keller said yesterday. "It's a question of which ones." More than 200 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger have rattled central Oklahoma since 2009, according to USGS. That's about 40 a year. Before that, there were usually one to three a year. see this link: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3710&from=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A USGSNewsroomPartial %28Newsroom - Partial Descriptions%29#.UmlZChBdAic


Mr. McWilliams, trying to label someone who disagrees with you as an industry shill does not strengthen your argument. In fact, your response to Anonymous changes the subject from water contamination to seismic activity. From what I've read, EPA pulled out of the investigations because they were baseless. Do you really believe that an EPA under President Obama would be heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry?


Oh, and by the way, I can't speak for the other Anonymous, but the reason I choose to remain anonymous is the safety of me and my family. There are far too many kooks on the Internet.


Dear Mr./Mrs. Anonymous: You are correct, I did jump from EPA to USGS and from your perspective that was inappropriate. My desire was to convey to the readers of BOULDER WEEKLY the recent USGS study documenting the irrefutable scientific data that quantifies a significant increase in seismic events (earthquakes) when deep well injections of fracking fluids are present in the same seismic area. This USGS report was mentioned to give the BOULDER WEEKLY readers a "heads-up" in order for them to make an informed decision when they vote on those fracking bans and moratoriums on Tuesday November 5. Regarding the EPA and the FRACKING STUDIES; SEE THIS LINK ABOUT EPA WHISTLEBLOWERS and the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION COVER-UP- IT WAS ALL OVER THE INTERNET: http://fromthestyx.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/epa-covered-up-fracking-studies-under-political-pressure/ As far as Anonymous and his family's safety; allowing fracking and drilling operations near your home or the school where your children attend; is much more dangerous to your family's safety and health than "kooks on the internet".




I'd be happy to answer Mr./Mrs Anonymous, question below about the Obama Administration being influenced by oil and gas. Why yes, yes they are! Now that's hard for me to say, considering the many, many, many volunteers hours spent to elect our President. However, the facts are the facts, despite being a tough nut to swallow. When it comes to fracking, it seems the only thing both sides can agree on is increasing extraction and transport for export. In the meantime, let's not be naive. This is our state, and it's worth protecting from interests that pillage, poison, and pollute for profit. The EPA is nothing more than the reflection of the leadership that guides it. Further, it's hard to enforce rules on an industry that is exempt from the major environmental protection statutes.



Shame on this woman!






I worked for the EPA for over 11 years in underground injection control. Every study done by the EPA on hydraulic fracturing showed little danger to underground drinking water sources from it. People need to realize that frac treatments are a one time, short term completion technique. It does not last for the lifetime of the well, which could be some 30 years or more. 

I have worked in industry & with the government, and with the Enviros. I have degress in chemistry, environmental science and engineering. 

I agree with Ms. Nikkel that the Enviros have a large private funding source, so they should not claim that they are out-spent by so-called big oil. 

If you ban fracing you essentially ban drilling as about 90% of all wells are hydraulic fracture treated. Plus when you have less oil & gas production domestically, its moved to places where the environmental protections are much less; therefore you're increasing pollution on a global scale. 

The biggest polluter of groundwater in the US is agriculture, but you dont see the enviros going after them do you. Gravity works and whatever is applied to the surface migrates down to the drinking water zones.

These environmental groups are green, but the green is the dollars and political power they wield. They have to manufacture a new "problem" every so often to keep donations, money and power. The environmental movement used to use good science, but now it seems its become like a religion and thou shalt not do this here seems to prevail.



Hello Roger Hall: Who do you work for now? The O&G industry? With degrees in chemistry, environmental science and engineering you probably don't spend much time on a CH4 well pad as I did in 2008-2009. I worked on a swabbing rig and wire-line rig in Garfield County, Colorado and I witnessed first hand the destruction to quality of life by allowing heavy industrial use adjacent to homes and farms and the destruction to the public roads and the illegal dumping of toxic fracking fluids by unethical and unregulated fracking/drilling companies and their well service contractors. I don't buy your claptrap Roger Hall and that is why I am proud to be part of this: http://fromthestyx.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/class-action-moves-forward-with-notice-of-intent/ Carl L. McWilliams, Silt, Colorado


The person with degrees in "chemistry, environmental science and engineering" misspelled "degrees"


Mr. Roger Hall: I read you have degrees in chemistry, environmental science and engineering. Well sir, I hold a BA from the University of California in sociology, (UCR 1975). As a formally trained social scientist I believe it is imperative that the readers of BOULDER WEEKLY understand that when the drilling rigs come to town, so does METH. The O&G Industry and Governor Hickenlooper boast about the number of jobs their industry brings to town, but they fail to mention that the workers on these drilling rigs work 12 hour shifts, 24/7, on two weeks-off two weeks. These workers are "hot-bunked" in "man-camps" on the drilling site and METH is prevalent and easily available. Beginning in 2005 Rifle, Colorado suffered the invasion of METH because of the drilling industry and numerous families and lives were destroyed. Only now, because the temporary boom of the drilling industry has left, is Rifle on the road to recovery.



If Rep. Nikkel wants to be a lobbying spokesperson for a private industry that pillages, poisons, and pollutes the public for profit, why doesn't she resign from her position, and let the industry pay her salary instead of the public. However, what Nikkel offers is a question we should all be asking, "Should private industries be writing public policy on our dime?" When public health and safety - a human right - is in conflict with "private rights to pollute", public health and safety should always prevail. The public needs representatives to protect public welfare. Shame on Nikkel for being another petroleum promoting prosititute.