Latino voters in Colorado care deeply about protecting water, air from potential oil shale development

Note: This post is a write up of a poll done by Latino Decisions

Colorado has become one of the most contested states in 2012, and Michael Bennet’s 2010 Senate win came by less than 30,000 votes.  Latino voters – at an estimated 12% of the electorate – have become one of the most crucial voting blocs. Today, Latino Decisions releases new poll results on behalf of Nuestro Rio regarding Latino voter attitudes towards environmental issues, including potential oil shale development, and protection of rivers and drinking water.

Potential oil shale development is a contentious issue in Colorado. Oil shale is not oil, but a rock containing kerogen which can be melted to 700 degrees over months or years to produce oil. No commercial oil shale operations currently exist in the United States. Little-to-no research has probed Latino voters’ attitudes on this complex issue. Advocates of oil shale have argued it represents an opportunity to develop domestic oil and create jobs. Opponents have countered that it is creates pollution and could damage the environment, including the Colorado River.  But where do Latino voters stand on this issue? Polls have shown that job-creation is a top issue of concern among Latinos.  However, the results released today suggest that for Colorado Latinos, protecting the environment is also an issue of significant concern.  When it comes to evaluating candidates, by a 3-1 margin, Latino voters say they prefer a candidate who will ensure environmental protections before oil shale production moves forward.

According to Nita Gonzalez, Nuestro Rio Coordinator for Colorado, “The health of the Colorado River depends on a smart approach to the conflict between energy and water demands. In our poll, we found that by an overwhelming majority – 70 percent to 17 percent – Colorado Latino’s favor a smart approach to oil shale that ensures the protection of western water.”

To get to this complex issue, and present both sides of the debate, Latino Decisions asked Latino voters in Colorado the following question: For 100 years in western states, oil companies have attempted to melt a rock known as oil shale into oil by superheating it to 700 degrees or more over a period of months or even years. Oil companies say this process will help lead us to energy independence and create jobs. Critics say oil shale mining could require enormous amounts of electricity and billions of gallons of water, create toxic pollution, and put western waters such as the Colorado River at serious risk. The federal government is considering a plan for oil shale development which would require companies to prove the economic viability of oil shale and that it can be produced in a way that will not harm water and air resources in Colorado and other states. 

Do you favor or oppose a plan that would require oil companies to complete successful research of oil shale technologies and know its viability and potential impacts to western water prior to commercial development on public lands?


Next, respondents were asked to evaluate two candidates who had competing views on the need for oil shale regulations, and then pick which candidate they would support.  Let’s say there are two candidates running for office, and one candidate supported a proposal to require oil companies to prove that oil shale is feasible and won’t harm western water before commercially occurs on public lands — and the other candidate said oil companies should be able to get started developing oil shale right away to create jobs and energy.  Which candidate are you more likely to support?

“Not only do Latinos agree in principle that we should put some safe guards on oil shale, but are Latinos have told us they are more likely to support a candidate that favors protection of our water versus a candidate that supports a headlong rush into oil shale speculation by an incredible margin of 40 percent,” added Nita Gonzalez.

While there are many important issues in 2012 including jobs and the economy, immigration reform, health care and education, this new polling shows that Latino voters in Colorado also care deeply about protecting the environment.  Even when told that some argue oil shale production could create jobs, a strong majority of Latino voters opted for more government regulations to ensure the environment is protected.

When asked how important the protection of rivers, mountains and air in Colorado was an election issue, given all the various important issues on the agenda this year a sizable share of Latino voters, 39% said it was one of the most important issues, and an additional 38% rated environmental protection as “fairly important.”  Only 2% of respondents said it was “not at all important” as an election issue this year.

Finally, Latino voters believe in candidates who will improve the economy and also ensure the protection of natural resources in Colorado. We presented respondents with the following proposition: Let’s say one of the candidates had a plan to improve the economy that you supported, and on the issue of energy and oil the candidate said, quote: “in the West, we know how important water is.  We must protect our waters like the Colorado river.  If an oil company wants to pursue oil shale, it’s just common sense to have them do their homework first, know the feasibility of oil shale, and prove they won’t ruin our beautiful rivers and streams here in Colorado” end quote. Would that statement make you more likely to support the candidate, less likely to support the candidate, or would you not care what they said about energy and oil if you agreed with their plan for the economy?

Full poll results posted here

Poll Details: A total of 400 Latino registered voters in Colorado were interviewed September 29-October 4, 2012 by Latino Decisions for Nuestro Rio. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, at the preference of the respondent, all conducted by bilingual interviewers at Latino Decisions calling center, Pacific Market Research. The survey has an overall margin of error of 4.9% on results that approach a 50/50 distribution. All respondents confirm that they are Hispanic or Latino and currently registered to vote.

Gov. Cuomo: Will you pledge to accept no money from the oil and gas industry for your political campaigns?

The following is a letter from 11 groups calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding his decision on fracking.  The only way to be sure that Gov. Cuomo is not making a decision based on politics, is for him to sign the following pledge:

I, Governor Andrew Cuomo, pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race I undertake in the next 10 years. This pledge includes a re-­election run for my current office as governor and any presidential run I might make.

I will also order New York state universities to turn away gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-­for-­play to them.

By signing, Gov. Cuomo can demonstrate to the citizens of New York that his decisions have not been based on corporate influence from big‐moneyed interests. If he doesn’t, how can we be certain?
Below is the letter to the Governor:

July 25, 2012

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Late last year, you said, “Let the science and the facts make the determination, not emotion and not politics” regarding fracking in New York.1

We applaud you in setting this great standard. Furthermore, we want to help you live by it as you make a final decision on fracking in and around New York State’s water supplies. We imagine this must be very difficult, especially considering the enormous amount of influence Chesapeake Energy and other gas industry lobbyists have in the state. As countless organizations such as New Yorkers Against Fracking and the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group, have documented, the gas industry has caused considerable damage in nearby Pennsylvania, including the contamination of drinking water supplies, threats to private property rights and human health, and other negative impacts in communities state-­‐wide.2 3 4 Because of this, we want to suggest a way to instill the maximum amount of public trust in any decisions made in New York State involving hydraulic fracking.

Before you decide to move forward with any decisions pertaining to hydrofracking and shale gas drilling, and before you consider permitting the gas industry an opportunity to damage New York as they have done in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and other states, will you pledge to accept no money from the gas industry for any political race you undertake in the next 10 years? This would include a re-­‐election run for your current office, or a future presidential campaign.

Will you also order New York state universities to turn away oil and gas industry money of any kind so that any “studies” produced to promote fracking as somehow safe or benign will not have the taint of pay-­‐for-­‐play to them?

Please sign the pledge and demonstrate to the citizens of New York that any decisions around hydrofracking have not been based on undue persuasion created by corporate influence from big-­‐moneyed interests. If you don’t, how can we be certain?

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Advocates for Morris
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Friends of Butternuts
NYH2O
Plymouth Friends of Clean Water
Sharon Springs Against Hydrofracking
Stephanie Low Artists, Inc.
Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED)
The Checks and Balances Project
The Green Umbrella
University at Buffalo Coalition for Leading Ethically in Academic Research (UB CLEAR)

 
1 New York Times, Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/nyregion/hydrofracking-­‐debate-­‐spurs-­‐huge-­‐spending-­‐by-­‐ industry.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
2 New Yorkers Against Fracking On Explosion At PA Natural Gas Compressor Station. http://nyagainstfracking.org/new-­‐yorkers-­‐against-­‐fracking-­‐speaks-­‐out-­‐on-­‐explosion-­‐at-­‐pa-­‐national-­‐ gas-­‐compressor-­‐station/
 
3 Checks & Balances Project, Shut out and bought out. http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2011/05/02/shut-­‐out-­‐and-­‐bought-­‐out/
4 Checks & Balances Project, Gas patch scientists explain how fracking can permanently contaminate public water supplies. http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2011/05/06/gas-­‐patch-­‐scientists-­‐ explain-­‐how-­‐hydraulic-­‐fracturing-­‐can-­‐permanently-­‐contaminate-­‐public-­‐water-­‐supplies/

Colorado House GOP pander for more oil and gas lobby dollars

Matt Garrington, Co-Director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding the introduction of Colorado House Republicans’ three bills to give away more of the West to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.

“Colorado House Republicans clearly know who is in charge of the U.S. House – Big Oil. It’s painful to watch members of Congress so blatantly pander for oil and gas lobby dollars.

“Instead of pushing legislation that amounts to nothing more than cheap gimmicks and handouts to industry, Rep. Lamborn, Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton should offer real solutions to high gas prices.

“If we want to get serious about gas prices, we should end tax breaks to oil and gas companies and reinvest those funds in American energy solutions such as high tech vehicles, the next generation of renewable fuels, and transportation solutions. We should also crackdown on Wall Street oil speculators that artificially increase the price of gas.”

FACTS ABOUT AMERICAN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2011 at 28,577,562 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 38.4 millionacres leased and in production.
  • Drilling permits on federal public lands approved in FY11 was 4,244, outpacing the number of new wells spudded on federal public lands which was 3,260
  • As of January 25, 2012, the oil and gas industry had 6,500 unused drilling permits for western federal lands.
  • Drilling activity reached its highest level under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.

FACTS ABOUT COLORADO ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2010 at 1,589,664 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 4.38 million acres compared to just 1.47 million acres leased and in production.

Bush administration average: 67
Obama administration average: 60

A LOOK AT THE BILLS

H.R. 4382, Sponsored by Rep. Coffman (CO-06) – $174,800 in oil and gas contributions

  • Increases oil and gas company speculation on public lands by requiring the Interior Department lease at least 25 percent of lands nominated for leasing by the oil and gas industry each year.
  • Ignores the fact that 57% of oil and gas leases – covering 21.6 million acres – lay idle
  • Prohibits Interior Department from making common sense decisions about whether leasing decisions should move forward when conflicts arise with other values such as water, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.
  • Eliminates oil and gas leasing reforms which have reduced conflicts and litigation over drilling, ensured stronger conservation measures are implemented alongside responsible energy development, and provided a seat at the table for local government, outdoor recreation businesses, and the community.

H.R. 4381, Sponsored by Rep. Tipton (CO-03) – $111,600 in oil and gas contributions

  • Mandates the Interior Department to develop a new energy development plan every four years – but sets the table against renewable energy from consideration.
  • Ignores market forces by requiring arbitrary “necessary actions” to facilitate energy development on the public lands.

H.R. 4383, Sponsored by Rep. Lamborn (CO-05) – $137,962 in oil and gas contributions

  • Puts arbitrary deadlines on the permit approval process, especially given the fact that BLM continually issues far more drilling permits than the number of new wells industry drills on federal lands.
  • Establishes a $5,000 administrative fee for protests to leases, permits, and right-of-ways as well as creating arbitrary barriers to judicial review when the public, state and local governments, and others wish to challenge unwise leasing and development decisions.
  • Ignores the fact that industry has failed to develop more than 6,500 drilling permits.

Checks and Balances Project launches accountability campaign for supporters of Rep. Lamborn’s oil shale boondoggle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 22, 2012

Denver – Today, the Checks and Balances Project launched a regional ad campaign to hold members of Congress accountable for their support of Rep. Doug Lamborn’s oil shale legislation, H.R. 3408. The ads link to online videos about Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Colo.) and Rep. Scott Tipton’s (R-Colo.) support of the failed energy resource known as oil shale.

Rep. Coffman and Rep.Tipton each twice voted in favor of the oil shale boondoggle. It gives millions of acres of public land to oil companies for oil shale speculation in exchange zero energy, zero revenue and zero jobs.

Prior to the votes, the Congressional Budget Office estimated oil shale would generate zero revenue between 2012 and 2022.

Advertisements will appear on the websites for 13 media outlets such as the Denver Post, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Aurora Sentinel, and 9news.com. (Full list included below.)

“We respectfully request Reps. Tipton and Coffman to explain how they voted for legislation that was supposed to fund transportation repairs, but which the Congressional Budget Office found would provide zero revenues,” said Colorado-based Checks and Balances Project Co-Director Matt Garrington. “Oil shale is a failed resource, and the legislation which both Coffman and Tipton supported will provide zero funding to fix our nation’s crumbling roads, highways, and bridges. That is irresponsible.”

Oil companies have tried for over a century to generate energy from oil shale, a misnamed rock that contains zero oil. Despite billions in taxpayer subsidies and private investments, the oil industry has failed to create a commercial oil shale industry.

Ironically, the legislation actually creates a new subsidy for oil companies by setting “bargain basement” royalty rates for oil shale, which means less revenue for local governments to address the associated costs of energy speculation such as roads, schools, police, and firefighters.

Many groups have been expressed their concern about Reps. Tipton and Coffman’s support of oil shale:

  • In a radio campaign, Colorado Wildlife Federation raised concerns over Tipton’s opposition to a common sense study of the potential impacts of oil shale development: http://bit.ly/An2A21
  • The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union launched a regional ad campaign in Colorado newspapers to question Tipton’s support of water-intensive oil shale development: http://bit.ly/AESzYl
  • Activists delivered a blank check to Tipton’s Grand Junction office following the introduction of HR 3408: http://bit.ly/x8yYd4
  • Local activists have publicly voiced their concerns over Tipton’s refusal to require a water study prior to oil shale development: http://bit.ly/AA8HNC
  • Local governments voiced concern about how the Lamborn bill locks-in lower royalty revenues which would be used to offset the local impacts of oil shale speculation: http://bit.ly/xE79fN
  • Veterans called on Coffman to support proven clean energy jobs instead of oil shale speculation: http://bit.ly/x3iBAQ

Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton voted against an amendment filed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), which would have struck the oil shale speculation legislation from the highway bill.

The two later voted in favor of the oil shale bill, which hands over two million acres of public land to oil companies for speculation. The bill goes also mandates commercial leasing on 125,000 acres even though a commercial oil shale industry does not exist.

“These ads are part of our ongoing efforts to educate the public on where their members of Congress stand on oil shale speculation,” said Garrington.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. Coffman has taken $145,800 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Rep. Tipton has taken $103,600.

The watchdog group Public Campaign recently called on Tipton to return donations from executives at SG Interests. The oil and gas exploration company is being forced to pay a $275,000 fine as part of an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The ads follow a national ad campaign the Checks and Balances Project launched last week, ahead of the vote for H.R. 3408.

The Coffman and Tipton oil shale ads will run in the Thornton-Northglenn Sentinel, Aurora Sentinel, Colorado Community Newspapers, Denver Post, 9news.com, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Durango Herald, Steamboat Today, and Grand Junction TV station websites KJCT, KKCO, and KREX.

Mike Coffman ad: http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2012/02/21/oilshalefail-coffman/

Scott Tipton ad: http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2012/02/21/oilshalefail-tipton/

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Checks and Balances Project launches Western Lands and Energy Dashboard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 27, 2012

Checks and Balances Project launches
Western Lands and Energy Dashboard

In wake of State of the Union energy debate, watchdog group works to counter claims
by API, Western Energy Alliance

Denver – Today, the Checks and Balances Project launched its Western Lands and Energy Dashboard examining oil and gas development and public lands access in the West.

The dashboard is an impartial counter to the rhetoric of industry lobby groups such as American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance as well as politicians with deep industry ties as a result of oil and gas campaign contributions.

The dashboard presents the facts and figures of the oil and gas industry and public lands development in a simple and clear way, with links to original sources.

“After the State of the Union address, we saw a pile-on by industry lobbyists and Big Oil politicians to spread misinformation about the health of America’s oil and gas industry,” said Matt Garrington, Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project. “Our research demonstrates that business is booming for the oil and gas industry, and that those companies continue to underutilize existing access to public land while demanding taxpayer handouts.”

“Last year, under the Obama administration, oil companies reported $104 billion in profits and enjoyed the highest level of drilling activity since the Reagan era. This is the sort of information the oil and gas industry and their supporters in Congress neglect to mention. We want to set the record straight,” continued Garrington.

The dashboard contains a series of slides that focus on specific areas of interest. Every fact in the slides is cited to original sources, including government agencies, industry data, and nonpartisan think tanks.

“The Checks and Balances Project is committed to providing accurate data regarding our nation’s energy production and land use,” said Garrington. “This is why we created the Project, to counter industry spin with cold, hard facts.”

The organization plans to add new research over time and update existing slides as new data becomes available.

Among the key findings are:

  • Drilling activity is at its highest level in 25 years.
  • The oil and gas industry saw windfall profits of $104 billion in the first three quarters of last year, due primarily to a dramatic rise in the price at the pump.
  • The oil and gas industry receives $9.4 billion every year in special tax breaks and subsidies.
  • Over 20 million acres of public lands leased for energy development remain idle.
  • The oil and gas industry has failed to develop 6,500 drilling permits issued by the BLM.
  • The oil and gas drilling industry employed 615,900 people in 2010, adding over 40,000 jobs during President Obama’s first two years in office.
  • The U.S. is now a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since 1949.

The dashboard can be found at: www.checksandbalancesproject.org/dashboard

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Behind the Scenes: American Petroleum Institute’s Commercial Shoot

Recently, the Checks and Balances Project responded to an open casting call from the American Petroleum Institute (API) to be a part of their multi-million dollar ad campaign targeting the 2012 elections.  API’s Energy Citizens campaign sent an email asking for “all ages and races to express their views in a Commercial Spot on American Made Energy!” Deputy Director Gabe Elsner answered the casting call and got an inside look at how the oil and gas industry communicates with the American public through the creation of public-facing materials. Read about our experience and listen to audio of Mr. Elsner on the set of API’s ‘Vote 4 Energy’ commercial shoot.

The Checks and Balances Project’s look behind the scenes at API’s commercial shoot was covered by the Washington Post. Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin write:

Elsner shows up as instructed with three wardrobe options, ranging from a suit to weekend wear. The API and Edelman staffers pick the suit and steam it, pick out a tie, usher him into the makeup room, then send him for the audition. One says he has “a nice, young professional’s look.” Elsner hears Edelman executive Robert McKernan say, “I think we’re done with people in suits after this.”

After being ushered onto the set, Mr. Elsner was asked to repeat a script “written by the agency” instead of “go[ing] on camera and stat[ing] [his] beliefs,” as the casting email described. The Washington Post quoted Mr. Elsner:

“They’re using deception to talk to Americans about the oil and gas industry,” he says. “These multi-million dollar campaigns are clearly being crafted to give the appearance that it’s ordinary people talking. What we experienced was that it was well scripted and totally set up to be the perfect commercial.”

Mr. Elsner’s experience was also covered by National Journal’s Influence Alley, which is a blog covering money, politics and policy, as well as CEO Update (subscription), a publication for association news and executive careers.

The Checks and Balances Project experience at API’s commercial shoot calls into question the credibility of the oil and gas industry’s other advertising that supposedly demonstrates grassroots support.  In August 2009, activists leaked the launch of API’s astroturf campaign “Energy Citizens” and uncovered that oil industry lobbyists organized most of the rallies.

It appears that API’s ‘Vote 4 Energy’ campaign is a continuation of a carefully crafted multi-million dollar public relations plan to convince the American public that ordinary people support the oil and gas industry.

The transition to clean energy is one of the most important challenges facing our nation and millions of dollars in advertising and deceitful commercials from the American Petroleum Institute is spreading misinformation and preventing the American public from having an honest debate.

More drilling happening under Obama than last three administrations

It’s official. There is now more oil and gas drilling occurring under the Obama administration than under the administrations of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and the second half of the Reagan administration.

Salem Gebrekidan at Reuters has the story:

“The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States this week reached a record high in at least 24 years as producers scrambled to tap resources in unconventional oil fields in North Dakota, Texas and other states, data from an oil services firm showed on Friday.

“U.S. oil rigs rose to 1,080, the highest number on Baker Hughes’ data, which goes back to 1987. The oil-directed rig count this week is 55.4 percent higher than a year ago, when 695 rigs were operating.”

Read the full story.

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