Groups call for energy reality check, end of excessive taxpayer handouts to Big Oil

DENVER Several Colorado groups took members of Congress to task today over their failed energy policies, political rhetoric, and ties to industry.

Clean Water Action, Colorado Fair Share Alliance, the Checks and Balances Project and local activists gathered on the steps of the state capitol early this morning in anticipation of a U.S. House Energy and Minerals Subcommittee field hearing on federal oversight of oil and gas fracking operations. Rep. Doug Lamborn chairs the committee, and Rep. Mike Coffman is also a member.

The groups greeted Lamborn and the hearing with a banner that said, “Welcome, Flat Earth Society” – a reference to a recent National Press Club speech by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar where he argued Republicans were out of touch on energy policy and the realities on the ground.

“The hearing is nothing but a Big Oil funded charade put on by Lamborn and Coffman, charter members of the Flat Earth Society,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action.  “Coloradans need to grab their air, water, public lands, and democracy because Big Oil wants to buy them all.”

The groups also called the hearing a waste of taxpayer dollars, especially given the fact that the Interior Department’s new draft fracking rules were actually met with praise by some in industry this week.

“The ‘Flat Earth Society’ members of Congress have fallen flat on doing what’s right – providing relief on gas prices and promoting real energy independence,” said Matt Garrington, co-director of the Checks and Balances Project. “Coffman and Lamborn continue to put Big Oil profits first.”

The groups noted that the oil and gas industry receives $9.4 billion annually in special tax breaks, funds that would be better spent investing in long term solutions such high tech vehicles, the next generation of renewable fuels, and transportation improvements.

Joining the event was David Bouchey of Aurora, who criticized his Representative, Mike Coffman, for supporting Big Oil and moneyed interests over Coloradans.

“As a constituent, I’m not happy that Mike Coffman has supported letting my unemployment benefits expire while supporting tax breaks for the 1% oil companies,” said Bouchey.

One reason for why Republicans Coffman and Lamborn may be abusing their authority to run special interest legislation for Big Oil and hold messaging hearings could be the disparity in campaign contributions Republicans receive from industry.

According the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas industry gave nearly 88% of their campaign contributions to Republicans. So far this cycle, Rep. Coffman has received $55,000 from the oil and gas industry, and Rep. Doug Lamborn has received $29,250.

“Today’s hearing is just another way Rep. Coffman and Lamborn are paying back their oil and gas campaign contributors,” said Wockner. “We should be ending taxpayer handouts to Big Oil and reinvesting in American energy solutions that will provide relief and real energy security.”


  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2010 at  1,589,664 MMcf (latest data available).
  • As of May 2012, of the 4.2 million acres leased for oil and gas drilling on federal lands in Colorado only 25% or 1.06 million acres are currently in production. That means the oil and gas industry has more than 3.1 million acres of land leased available right now for energy production.
  • Drilling in Colorado (federal, state, and private lands) was up 24% in 2011:
    • Average number of annual drill rigs under the Bush administration: 67
    • Average number of annual drill rigs under the Obama administration: 60


Download a jpg of the banner (seen above) and a map (PDF) showing the amount of Colorado’s federal public lands where are leased for energy development but not yet developed.