Since 2008 more than 6,000 natural gas drilling permits have been issued for gas drilling in Garfield County, Colorado. Almost all of these permits have been approved under the supervision of Garfield County’s governing body, the Board of County Commissioners. Two of the three current commissioners have overseen this proliferation in its entirety. Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who was considered to be the one commissioner who wasn’t a rubber stamp for the gas industry was defeated in 2010. Now all three commissioners in Garfield County are free to continue giving the green light to the industry. Here are the green-lighters and their histories.
NAME: John “Wyatt” Martin, Garfield County Commissioner
GAS RECORD: In four terms as on the Board of County Commissioners, Martin has overseen more than 16,000 drilling permits be approved in Garfield County. This includes the county’s largest drilling year, 2008, when 2888 drilling permits were issued.
ELECTION BACKGROUND: Martin’s most recent election in 2008 was a close contest. He won, but many pointed to a litany of questionable tactics used in the days before the election as the deciding factor. Many of the so called, “dirty tricks,” which included a fake newspaper that spread lies about his opponent, was later proven to be connected to the gas industry, but Martin’s connections to the gas industry go far beyond the newspaper incident. A simple campaign finance search with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office reveals that several gas industry interests bankrolled Martin’s campaign, and have been handsomely rewarded.
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
In the 12 months leading up to the 2008 election the Committee to Reelect John Martin received just under $14,000 from individuals, political action committees and business. Of the donations the vast majority came from individuals and companies that directly benefited from the hydraulic fracturing industry that Martin has allowed to thrive unchecked. Of the donations, here are some of the most blatant examples of Martin scratching the gas industry’s back after it got him reelected.
–Mike Fattor, the President of Western Petroleum Co, wrote a $500 check to Martin in 2008. Western Petroleum Co. is in hydraulic fracking in Garfield County and according to a company profile, Western has estimated revenue of $67,080,000.
–David Moore, the Mayor of Silt, CO gave Martin $300 in the 2008 campaign. Moore has made headlines in Garfield County, not just because of his position as mayor, but because he has been accused of using his own office for personal gain.
–Frontier Paving, owned by Charlie Ellsworth, also contributed $1,000 dollars to Martin. In 2011 Frontier was awarded a $1 million contract by the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners.
-Eric Schmela, an attorney and real estate developer, gave Martin $1,000 during his 2008 campaign. Less than a year later Garfield County approved a deal between Antero Resources and the Battlement Mesa Company, where Schmela serves as president. The deal between Antero and the Battlement Mesa allowed for 200 wells to be drilled. According to the Denver Post, “One pad would be just 100 feet from the sixth hole on the public golf course. Another would be 500 feet from the nearest home. Many more of the 1,000 single-family houses in the development east of Parachute would look down on the well.”
NAME: Mike Samson, Garfield County Commissioner
GAS RECORD: Since winning a narrow electoral contest in 2008, Samson has allowed more Garfield County to approve more than 4,500 gas drilling permits. His tenure has included 2037 permits being approved in 2010 alone. In the spring of 2011 Samson joined John Martin and newly elected Commissioner Tom Jankovsky in a decision that refused to authorize a health impact study on hydraulic fracking in Garfield County, after the county spent years researching and analyzing the affects of drilling in the area.
ELECTION BACKGROUND: In 2008 Sampson narrowly defeated local judge Steve Carter to become a member of the Board of County Commissioners. The election was riddled with what several reports described as “dirty tricks,” including allegations that natural gas workers were told if they didn’t vote for Samson and Martin that they would be fired. The Samson campaign took thousands of dollars in 2008 from natural gas interests. Many of these donations came from companies or individuals who directly benefited from the Board of County Commissioners green lighting of the industry in the boom years between 2008 and 2010.
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
-Curtis & Janna Ercanbrack, each donated $1,000 to the Samson campaign. Curtis is identified as the president of CEO Operating Inc., which while it has no official website or online presence, is identified by several business websites as a crude and natural gas extraction company.
–Lane Bates of Denver Colorado wrote Sampson a check for $500. Bates is identified as working with the Oilfield Supply Chain Solutions Company, which works in the fracking fluids and cementing process of the hydraulic fracking process.
-Eric Schmela, see above. Schmela gave $1,000 to Samson, just like he did to the Martin Campaign, and directly benefited from drilling approvals in real estate developments he was involved with.
-Kaye Williams of Silt, Colorado gave $200 to the Committee to Elect Mike Sampson. Williams works for Dalbo, a Utah based trucking company that specializes in delivering fracking fluids and providing other services to the hydraulic fracturing industry in Garfield County, Colorado. As hydraulic fracturing has expanded in Garfield County under Samson Dalbo has continued to grow.
GAS RECORD: While the slowing of the national economy has slowed the amount of drilling permits approved in Garfield County, the numbers granted is still on of the highest in the country. Since Janovsky defeated Tresi Houpt in the 2010 election, decisions involving the natural gas industry generally result in 3-0 votes for the gas industry. This included a recent decision from Jankovsky where the county refused to authorize a Health Impact Study for hydraulic fracturing in Battlement Mesa, Colorado. This was done despite the county spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the study before Jankovsky got into office. This action and the fact that more than 600 drilling permits have been approved in Garfield County in a so-called “down year” for the industry, have been the main issues for Jankovsky regarding gas drilling.
Election records show that Jankovsky was heavily funded by the gas industry during his campaign against incumbent Tresi Houpt. Nearly fifty percent of Jankovsky’s campaign contributions were from gas interests, including a donation from an out-of-state gas company.
The natural gas industrial complex’s support of Jankovsky was stricktly about business.. As a County Commissioner and member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), Houpt was known for her caution when it came to opening up Garfield County to more drilling. A campaign finance search shows exactly how the industry interests mobilized in this local election.
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
-Lester Smith of Houston, Texas gave Jankovsky a $5,000 just days before the 2010 election. Smith is described to work for Texas-based S.G. Interests. While the company has no official website, the image below is from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and describes S and G interests as a company that deals with, “Mining, energy and producing natural gas.”
-Don Vandervander of Glenwood Springs and his $250 donation is one of the more interesting finds in out campaign contribution investigation. In the report filed by Jankovsky’s campaign, Vandervander’s description literally went as follows: “We really do not know who he is.” The Checks and Balances Project found that Vandervander owns a waste treatment company called Mountain Roll-off Inc. (MRI). MRI is a waste disposal company that built its business on renting out porta-potties and has expanded into the industrial waste business. This includes the treatment of waste-water, a major part of the hydraulic fracturing process. As county commissioner, Jankovsky is now being lobbied by MRI to let it take over a Carbondale building to expand its waste treatment capabilities.