The chain of lies that makes ‘yes’ on Prop 112 a necessity

The oil and gas production platform that leaked toxic contamination right next to the little league fields of the Erie Recreation Center

As I have written in this space many times since 2014, there are numerous important reasons why the citizens of Colorado badly need increased setbacks between oil and gas operations and occupied buildings, schools, hospitals and water supplies. Fortunately, that is exactly what will be created provided the majority of us vote yes on Proposition 112.

The research is in. Hundreds of studies have now found evidence that living near oil and gas operations is dangerous to your health, dangerous as in increasing your chances of getting cancer, having birth defects, premature births, respitory problems, etc. In 2018, it’s fair to say the scientific and medical communities are now in full agreement that putting these heavy industrial operations near where people live and work is a serious health risk. And of course, we don’t need studies to tell us that when these operations are near homes and they cause explosions they are a serious risk. All we have to do is visit our local cemeteries to confirm that point. Unfortunately, the rate of such deadly explosions in Colorado is accelerating even as industry operations move further into our neighborhoods.

By now I hope most of us in Colorado are aware that scientists from around the world recently reported that if we don’t take radical and immediate action in nearly every area of our society — radical as in switching away from all fossil fuels to renewables and leaving the remaining oil, natural gas and coal reserves in the ground — we will pass global warming’s point of no return in just 11 years. As a result, we no longer have time to talk about natural gas as a bridge fuel or small but steady incremental decreases in greenhouse gas emissions or authoring slightly stricter air quality regulations on drill sites and production platforms. All these supposed solutions to global warming are too little too late and frankly, they are first and foremost designed to perpetuate the development and use of fossil fuels well into the future.

The science says if we continue to pursue such policies for even the length of two terms in the U.S. Senate, we will destroy the planet. That’s because once the chain reaction of warming begins, the melting of permafrost and glaciers will release so much greenhouse gas that no matter what we then do, the process of Earth’s continual warming cannot be stopped or reversed.

Speaking of chain reactions, here’s one you might not have considered: The chain reaction of lies that proves the arguments against Prop 112 by the oil industry are completely fraudulent.

I guess that’s not a shocking surprise. After all, when your actual position is that harmful contamination and explosive materials should be allowed closer to your kid’s bedroom window or school in order to increase the profit of each well,  you are pretty much left with having to lie and buy your way to electoral victory. The truth is no help to the oil industry when it comes to setbacks.

The chain reaction of lies starts here: The COGCC, the state of Colorado’s oil and gas regulatory entity, claims that if Prop 112 passes, 85 percent of the oil and gas reserves on non-federal land in the state can no longer be developed, making Prop 112 a virtual ban on drilling.

Based on this 85 percent claim, the oil and gas industry then developed the argument that 43,000 oil and gas jobs — plus many more jobs downstream of oil money such as waitresses and hotel employees — will be lost in the first year alone if Prop 112 passes. Also based on the 85 percent claim by the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, the industry claims Colorado will lose $258 million in state and local tax revenue.

So, there you have the industry’s argument against Prop 112. Here’s the problem.

When the COGCC made its 85 percent claim, it deliberately misled the public for the benefit of the industry it’s supposed to be regulating for the safety of the public. In order to arrive at its 85 percent number, the state regulators had to pretend that there’s no such thing as horizontal drilling, which just happens to be the only kind of drilling that can be used to frack and produce the tight shale formations in Colorado where all the drilling is taking place. The oil and gas industry can now drill horizontally up to 4 miles. To put it in laymen’s terms, if Prop 112 passes, the industry can still produce virtually all the oil and gas reserves in Colorado it could before. Oil companies would just have to drill further horizontally from a location that is less dangerous to nearby homes, etc., and that would make some wells more expensive to drill.

You don’t have to believe me, even though I’ve been telling you this for five years now. A recent Colorado School of Mines study just confirmed that most oil and gas could still be developed by just horizontally drilling up to 1 mile. Just imagine if the study had looked at 4 miles of horizontal drilling. 

And the industry knows its dire claims about Prop 112 are phony. A 39-page report by an oil and gas consultant asked to look at the impact of Prop 112 for the industry shows that it won’t be anywhere near as bad as what the industry and its political lapdogs are claiming. With just 10,000 feet of horizontal drilling (less than 2 miles) 61 percent of the state’s oil and gas reserves are accessible even if Prop 112 passes. And this is the industry’s own research. Again, just think if drilling 4 miles horizontally had been calculated into the estimate, virtually all such reserves would have been found to be accessible after Prop 112 passes.

Remember the chain reaction, folks. Since the 85-percent-lost-reserves claim is an intentionally misleading number, that means the 43,000-jobs-lost and $258-million-in-tax-revenue-lost claims based on the 85 percent number are also false. The industry’s own research shows that its entire argument is false and the industry knows it’s lying just as the state knew it was intentionally deceiving voters by pretending horizontal drilling wasn’t an important factor to consider when calculating Prop 112’s impact.

And what about that “independent” policy organization — The Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR) — that used the COGCC’s 85 percent claim to generate the equally inaccurate job and tax loss info that media organizations across the state have been mindlessly regurgitating to their readers and viewers?

As our previous investigative report (see “Behind the curtain,” Sept. 17, 2015) found, CSPR is an oil and gas industry front group that shares board members with other oil and gas industry front groups such as Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) and Vital for Colorado, which are funded by Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy. CSPR has also worked with Koch brothers’ funded organizations and is run by Republican fundraiser Kristin Strohm, who is married to oil and gas industry consultant and dirty trickster Josh Penry of EIS Solutions infamy. They have been called America’s first couple of fracking for a reason.

And CSPR is actually the license owner — or at least was last time I checked — of the REMI economic modeling software that is so often used to make unrealistic oil industry predictions such as the aforementioned jobs and tax revenue numbers being floated this election. As I’ve been reporting for years, the one thing you can count on from CSPR and its REMI software is that the oil and gas industry will always appear many times more important to our state than it actually is. I have no idea how any legitimate news organization could dispense CSPR data while referring to this oil and gas/Republican Party front group as an “independent” anything, yet it happens all the time. It’s simply irresponsible news reporting in the age of Google.

All of this is why the citizens of Colorado have no choice but to pass Proposition 112 and protect themselves from the hazards of producing oil and gas dangerously close to their homes, schools, hospitals and water supplies. It’s clear from their intentionally misleading numbers that state regulators consider promoting oil and gas profits as more important than protecting us from contamination, explosions, health threats, lost property values and environmental devastation.

Like I said, when your whole argument is that you want people to vote to put toxic contamination and explosive materials closer to where they live and work, you better be willing to tell a lot of lies and spread around a lot of money. And those are two things the oil industry has proven itself very willing to do.

So please, for your own sake, don’t be as ignorant and poorly informed as the oil industry is counting on you being — instead, vote yes on Proposition 112 to protect your family, friends, neighbors and your children’s future, aka the planet.