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Home / Articles / News / News /  Heavy hitter to fight Longmont fracking ban
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Thursday, September 27,2012

Heavy hitter to fight Longmont fracking ban

Backers won’t divulge whether oil/gas is funding the effort

By Jefferson Dodge
The seven former Longmont mayors, all Republicans

A group has been formed to fight the city of Longmont’s proposed ban on fracking that is going to voters in November, and one of the state’s most prominent political consultants has been enlisted to lead the effort.

 

It may become a repeat of what Longmont saw in the 2009 and 2011 elections, when telecommunications companies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into efforts to defeat a measure allowing the city to use its own fiber-optic network. Corporate executives denied that their motivation was to deter a threat to their market share, and while they helped defeat the initiative in 2009, thanks in large part to an industry-backed “No Blank Check” campaign that was accused of dirty politics, citizens approved the measure in 2011.

A similar situation might be brewing among wealthy oil and gas companies and their trade organizations, which are expected to fight the hit to their pocketbooks that would be delivered by a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Longmont. That measure, known as the “Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act” and listed as Question 300 on the Nov. 6 ballot, would ban fracking and related waste disposal within city limits.

According to records in the Longmont city clerk’s office, a committee called “Longmont Taxpayers for Common Sense” filed its registration form on Aug. 13, then submitted a new filing on Sept. 11, changing its name to “Main Street Longmont.”

According to Longmont City Clerk Valeria Skitt, the group had to change its name because the original moniker was already taken by an organization in Washington, D.C. That group asked the Longmont committee to change its title, but agreed to allow the committee to use the money it had already collected under that name, as long as it began fundraising under the new name, Skitt said.

She added that she will have no information about how the organization is funded until the first filing deadline for declaring financial contributions, which is Oct. 16. Subsequent financial forms are due Oct. 23, Oct. 31 and Dec. 6.

The registered agent for “Main Street Longmont” is listed as Richard Evans, who works for Reiter & Associates, a Denver political consulting firm headed by Rick Reiter, who has gained prominence by leading a host of well-financed campaigns for and against ballot initiatives statewide.

For example, according to records from the secretary of state’s office, Reiter’s firm raised $86,350 in 2006 for the Adams County Sales Tax Extension Campaign, $72,203 in 2006 to defeat the labor-backed Amendment 38, and $64,302 in 2010 to defeat Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101.

Reiter & Associates was also involved in Coloradans for a Stable Economy, which in 2008 helped defeat Amendment 58, a measure that would have increased severance taxes assessed to oil and gas companies, and would have directed most of that money to college scholarships.

An Oct. 31, 2008, article in the Rocky Mountain News reported that Reiter collected $800,000 in management fees that year.

When reached by phone, Evans declined to discuss who is involved in Main Street Longmont, or what entities were funding the effort.

“I’m actually just the person handling the campaign finance, is all,” he said. “I have to have someone else call you if you want a press story.”

Bill Ray, a communications consultant hired to serve as spokesperson for the campaign, also declined to discuss the financial backing of the campaign. When asked whether oil and gas interests would be bankrolling Main Street Longmont to protect their profits, Ray said, “Obviously, that industry has an interest in this issue in Longmont, as it is a national issue impacting the industry, but I think, come mid-October, when the financial reports happen, it will paint a picture of who the campaign has evolved into and the backers of the campaign.”

Ray said seven former Longmont mayors have signed on to support Main Street Longmont: Bryan Baum, Julia Pirnack, Bill Swenson, Bob Askey, Leona Stoecker, Roger Lange and Al Sweney. (See www.voteno300.com.)

When asked whether those mayors will actually be financing the initiative, Ray said, “We don’t share strategy. In a campaign, we have a campaign finance report due in mid-October, and that’s when that information will become public.” Ray also failed to point out that all seven of the former mayors are Republicans, a fact that might say more about “Main Street Longmont” and its pro-fracking position than anything else.

He declined to comment on whether this would be a repeat of the corporate telecommunications campaigns to defeat Longmont’s efforts to use its own fiber-optic network.

Ray, who worked for the Longmont Times-Call for many years, including as its editorial page editor, says he is no stranger to the community and has many friends in the city.

He also acknowledges working on “many, many, many campaigns” with Rick Reiter over the years. Ray confirmed that Reiter is “probably the top ballot and issue campaign consultant in the state of Colorado, absolutely.”

Reiter’s LinkedIn profile says he has compiled a 107-19 won-loss record on the state and local ballot issue campaigns he has run.

When asked why a request for comment from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the state’s primary association for that industry, was directed to him, Ray said, “COGA is not directly involved in the campaign, so when COGA gets a press call about the campaign, which they do quite often, they know to pass that along to me.”

In response to a question about what it might cost a group to hire Reiter and himself for a campaign, he declined to comment.

And when asked whether the Main Street Longmont campaign would be a true grassroots effort, Ray said, “I think the committee is going to be a combination of grassroots and seasoned campaign veterans who know how to effectively communicate on issues, so a little bit of everything. But there will be plenty of grassroots, and there will be plenty of other people working on the campaign to help communicate the message, whether that’s through grassroots work, if that’s through media, through mail pieces and the Internet, and all the other tools used in campaigns right now.”

In response to an inquiry about how big of a blow the passage of the ban would be to the industry, Ray said it’s not his role to discuss public policy.

“Right now, this issue is fueled by pure emotion,” he said. “There’s not a lot of science behind the arguments being made against fracking.”

Ray also said that his campaign “needs to get back to putting out some facts about oil and gas production, about fracking, about the health and safety concerns out there. … You have seven former mayors standing up for their city, standing up for the health and safety of their city, standing up for the economic environment of Longmont, and wanting to make sure the city charter is not filled with all kinds of special-interest initiatives.”

At least one Longmont City Council member, Bonnie Finley, has suggested that the city will be sued if the fracking ban passes. When asked whether the ban would withstand the scrutiny of the courts if approved, Ray said, “I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t practice law without a license.”

Question 300 proponent and Longmont-area native Sam Schabacker, Food & Water Watch’s mountain west director, says he expects oil and gas interests to spend more than $1 million to defeat the proposed fracking ban. He adds that the hiring of a heavy hitter like Reiter is a sign of how serious the industry is taking this threat.

“This guy is not small potatoes; he knows what he’s doing,” Schabacker said.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Interesting that the pro-gas billboard can find seven people to support their cause while the people on record against fracking in Longmont is over 8200. Maybe they could change their slogan to read, "Seven people can't be wrong!"

 

Unlike liberals who can spend their government subsidized week playing anarchists, the rest of us have to work a full time job.

 

webo, I would only be an anarchist if I wanted to dissolve government. In this case I am with the majority of people that favor making the gas industry respect our hard-fought environmental regulations. So it is Encana and Andarko that favor less government here, obviously because dumping the products of their drilling makes their stockholders more money. I am not in favor of this.

 

IC
Webo, I have to admit, saying everyone who doesn't agree with the tea party view is a "liberal" is getting old. We simply don't want corporations putting their interests above those of the community, such as real estate values, clean water, and a safe environment. We do not want our neighborhoods industrialized. Am I a liberal? No, I am a centrist. I am a veteran, and yes, I also work for a living as well. Get out and speak to people about this issue, on all sides and you will see that the only people who make real money, are the gas company executives and a few large land owners. They are using guys like you to push their agenda. And a little advice...For those current and former public officials who are against a ban and in support of drilling, I recommend you look at their mineral rights. I bet they have leased their mineral rights or have a vested interest in oil and gas. They are not working on behalf of your community.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Idiotic, to think that anyone who wants clean air and water is an anarchist, and doesn't work.  

In regards to fracking, it has been proven to be harmful...it's a fact.  We just don't want it here in town....why don't we have any rights over our own community?  Why  do we let the oil and gas companies profits take precedence over the health and welfare of our families and environment?  Why?  

See Gasland, or Just google  "fracking",  and get a clue...and some integrity.

 

 

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"Many states have imposed restrictions on fracking operations.  In May, Vermont became the first state to to ban the practice outright.  In signing the law, Gov. Peter Shumlin stated, "The science on fracking is uncertain at best.  Let the other states be the guinnea pigs."" - I read that in 'The Week'

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/nyregion/with-new-delays-a-growing-sense-that-gov-andrew-cuomo-will-not-approve-gas-drilling.html

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

We need swift action and not diplomatic discussions on how to solve the problem! Let's get real here! NOW!!! If fracking DOES cause earthquakes, what will happen? Better safe than sorry, don't you agree? Ban fracking! And NO, the government does NOT know what is best. You people who back political bureaucrats should feel GUILT for supporting them and not realizing what the consequences on variable levels could be!!! I support green clean energy like wind and solar energy? Does it always have to come to this with the oil revenue? Do you fancy a dive on a large magnitude earthquake, Colorado? That's certainly the case if you don't care for doing testing before drilling as is evidence in Williston, ND with a magnitude 3.3M just 11mi southeast of the town! Consider your options, consesquences, behavior, attitudes and balance them. There is a time of action, and there is a time of words! Mine is both but I admit only I can do so much! Support the research on fracking. It has to stop. We will not tolerate any more poltical loafing around!

 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Support the ban on fracking and prevent something we don't want to happen. An earthquake.

 

 
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