In yet another apparent example of big money infiltrating local elections, an individual who has reportedly become a frequent defender of “fracking” at recent Boulder City Council meetings has acknowledged that he is on the payroll of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).
Timothy Thomas recently challenged newly elected Boulder City Council member Sam Weaver about his claims regarding natural gas.
In a Nov. 3 email, Thomas challenged an idea that he attributed to Weaver from a recent candidate forum: that a Boulder municipal electrical utility could use natural gas that was “frack-free,” or not produced through hydraulic fracturing, one of the controversial oil and gas extraction processes that spawned the Front Range bans and moratoriums approved in this week’s elections.
Weaver defended himself via email, saying he wasn’t claiming there was already a “frack-free” source available, but instead advocating for best practices in a report from the International Energy Agency titled “Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Natural Gas.”
In a follow-up email, Weaver asked if Thomas was being paid by anyone in the oil and gas industry, and Thomas acknowledged via email that, indeed, he was being compensated, and that his support was coming from Boulder Citizens for Rational Energy Decisions, an organization funded by COGA.
It’s not the first time Thomas has acknowledged being paid to testify on behalf of the oil and gas industry. As Thomas admits in his own email, during a recent Boulder City Council meeting he told council member Macon Cowles — who was re-elected this week — that he was being compensated by the oil and gas industry after Cowles challenged his characterization of Weaver’s statements at the candidate forum.
Thomas did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
Weaver and Cowles told Boulder Weekly that the incident is yet another reason for city council to consider requiring paid lobbyists to disclose their affiliations before they testify during the council’s public comment periods, when they are discussing issues affecting their employers. They agree that the issue is not unrelated to the need for city council members to disclose their possible conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety when voting on matters that could affect their business interests, an issue that BW has shone light on in recent years.
Weaver adds that even though there may not currently be a viable means through which to obtain natural gas that was not fracked using horizontal drilling, the fact that there were decades when natural gas was obtained through conventional methods does not rule out the possibility that a Boulder utility couldn’t push for frack-free sources of such gas.
“Just because no one is doing it now doesn’t mean we couldn’t create that market,” he says.