Oil shale industry front group misleads public on support for radical oil shale plan

The industry front group, Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale (ECCOS) deliberately misled the public and trumped up support for a radical plan that puts our water and communities at risk from oil shale speculation. The group’s Executive Director Brad McCloud purposefully misrepresented stakeholder comments submitted on the Interior Department’s draft proposals for the research and development of oil shale. Today, the Checks and Balances Project released our factual analysis of the comments, which tells a far different story than what ECCOS claimed.

Earlier this month, Brad McCloud, Executive Director of ECCOS, stated that most of the stakeholder comments were in favor of the radical Bush-era plan at a press conference in Grand Junction, Colo. Unfortunately, it seems that Mesa County Commissioner Meis and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce were used as props in an effort to put out more misinformation about oil shale. McCloud wrongly characterized the controversial plan developed under the Bush administration has having received the most support.

Our comprehensive audit of stakeholder comments to the Interior Department found:

    • 72 comments – or 51 percent – don’t support the Bush oil shale plan;
    • 52 comments – or 37 percent – support the Bush oil shale plan; and
    • 77 comments – or 55 percent – support the BLM’s approach, the BLM plan, a stronger conservation approach, or a “research and development” approach.

Ironically, it appears that ECCOS actually undercounted the number of supporters for the Bush-era plan while completely ignoring the fact that the majority of stakeholders actually don’t support it.

A closer look at ECCOS explains why McCloud so badly misrepresented the survey results.

The nonpartisan group SourceWatch has identified ECCOS, as a front group created by the Grand Junction-based energy lobbying firm EIS Solutions. Since ECCOS files with the I.R.S. as a 501(C)(4) organization, ECCOS doesn’t have to disclose its donors. However, its leadership and public record show strong ties to the oil industry.

For instance, Executive Director McCloud is also a project Manager for EIS Solutions, as was former Executive Director Curtis Moore. And, when Moore first set up ECCOS, he used his EIS email address to register the ECCOS website, as well as EIS Solutions corporate phone number and street address.

EIS Solutions is a significant player in Western oil and gas issues. Earlier this year, they released a report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute with trumped-up charges that public lands and water protections were too onerous for the oil and gas industry.

ECCOS spokespeople tend to follow oil shale’s century-old tradition of varying the story they tell about oil shale based on their audience. In their brochure, ECCOS claims oil shale is on the verge of economic viability right now, and the cost of oil shale production is approaching parity with conventional oil at today’s oil prices.

Yet in an open letter in late 2010, former Executive Director Curtis Moore wrote, “No one is proposing massive oil shale development today. That time — if it ever comes — is decades away.” And, on a separate occasion Mr. Moore admitted, “Oil shale may not yet be ready for prime time.”

McCloud also can’t keep the story straight on what ECCOS actually does.

ECCOS’s 2010 tax return – which McCloud was responsible for filing – listed among its itemized expenses $79,465 to attend, “local trade shows, service clubs, and classrooms to advocate environmentally responsible development of oil shale reserves.” (emphasis added) This seems disingenuous, since McCloud testified twice to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources that ECCOS is not an advocacy group.

Given their disregard for the truth, it would be interesting to know what kind of classroom ‘education’ on oil shale ECCOS has brought to Colorado schools.

That’s ECCOS’s staff leadership’s industry connections. Moving on to its board of directors we find Laura Nelson, the current Vice President of Energy and Environmental Development of Red Leaf Resources, an oil shale company based in Utah.

Families and business owners in the West are aware of the dangers that oil shale development could pose to our water. They want a responsible, common sense approach to determining whether or not oil shale will ever be a viable energy source. Since it is their water supplies, air and land that could be affected, their input should be thoughtfully considered, not spun by groups like ECCOS to try and help industry’s agenda.

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