Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado oil and gas lobbyists and money keep Senate Republicans in their pocket.

In 2017, during Colorado’s legislative session, a deadly explosion killed two people in Firestone, CO. The explosion was due to an uncapped flow line from an oil well.

After such a tragedy, most Coloradans believed the oil and gas industry would work harder to keep people safe. But recently, several former Anadarko employees came forward during an investor lawsuit against the company, saying Anadarko can’t be trusted to maintain their equipment to protect health and safety, calling their operations in Colorado “a ticking time bomb.”

In 2018, on the one-year anniversary of the Firestone tragedy, state legislators had repeated opportunities to enact safeguards for people’s health and safety as the Colorado oil and gas industry moves closer and closer to our neighborhoods and schools. They didn’t take that opportunity. Instead, we saw one commonsense measure after another get shut down by the strength of the oil and gas industry’s lobbying.

Here are some of the stories that unfolded at the state Capitol:

Killed: a bill to keep oil and gas drilling away from kids


Currently, Colorado’s laws require oil and gas activity to be 1,000 feet away from school buildings. But there is no legal limit to how far this industrial activity should be from school playgrounds, outdoor lunch areas, modular classrooms, or athletic fields. HB 1352 would have required oil and gas activity to be 1,000 feet away from school property boundaries. This is in line with what all other industries have to do near schools, like liquor stores.

In support of this bill, dozens of students and parents came to the state Capitol and testified in committee, asking lawmakers to protect them and future students from the impacts of oil and gas, ranging from air pollution to dangerous explosions. In addition, 55 students, teachers, and parents signed on to an open letter to lawmakers to make their voices heard on this issue.

In an emotional moment, a young activist spoke out of turn when a legislator asked if an oil and gas explosion has ever happened near a school. “Why does it need to happen first?” she flatly responded.

Those powerful voices speaking up for this bill didn’t stop a Senate committee from killing it and continuing to put our kids at risk.

Killed: three oil and gas bills with small changes that would have made a big impact


One bill — HB 1071 — was an attempt to clarify the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). It currently states that the COGCC is in charge of fostering and regulating oil and gas in Colorado. This bill would have changed this contradictory mission to prioritize health, safety, and the environment over industry profits.

Another, HB 1157, would have ensured the industry is tracking and reporting all spills, fires, explosions, injuries, and deaths due to oil and gas well operations and production facilities. This bill would have made incident reports mandatory and required more detail for major and minor accidents, improving transparency to the public.

Third, HB 1419 was a bill to require pipeline mapping and transparency so we all know where oil and gas operations are taking place — exactly the kind of information that would have prevented the Firestone tragedy. It would have also prevented leaks, groundwater contamination, and explosions by ensuring wells are strong and up to industry standard.

All three of these bills were killed by Senate Republicans who continue to pander to oil and gas companies.

Killed: a bill to expand local government authority


While local governments (like cities, counties, or towns) cannot permanently ban oil and gas development in Colorado, they can put in place temporary halts on the industry. SB 048 would have protected the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas facilities, allowing governments to determine oil and gas regulations according to the needs of residents. As is the story with most of these bills, this bill was killed in a Senate committee.

But there’s good news, too. We managed to block the passage of SB 192, a bill that would have forced local governments to pay oil and gas companies for any loss in profits due to a temporary moratorium or ban. This would have added a financial penalty to any local government trying to do the right thing by their residents. We helped keep this bill from going anywhere!

Protecting homeowners from forced pooling


Forced pooling is when an oil and gas operator wants to acquire rights to extract oil and gas, but a mineral rights owner — like a homeowner — does not want drilling in their backyard. In Colorado, if there are 100 homes in a development and one of them agrees to lease the mineral rights for oil and gas development, all 99 of the other homes are “force pooled,” and the operator can develop there.

Currently, forced pooling laws and practices are unfair to the mineral rights owners and are advantageous to oil and gas operators. Highly technical notices are sent to property owners who are given only 30 days to respond. People with little or no experience with the oil and gas industry are forced to make a tough decision without enough time or clear information.

One bill (HB 1289) would have prevented local government and school district minerals from being force pooled. This bill was blocked.

Finally, one bill that provided some improvements for mineral owners’ property rights passed this year. This bill (SB 230) was a compromise that will provide some immediate relief to homeowners by extending the amount of time homeowners have between getting notified about forced pooling and their hearing, and providing more easily understandable information about the process of being force pooled. Even with the passage of this bill, property owners still face an uphill battle when it comes to negotiating with industry. Compared to the many other commonsense bills that were killed this year, this one is a small step.

While it can be easy to feel disappointed that these bills we all fought so hard for did not pass, even bringing up these issues at the Capitol is a step in the right direction. Thank you for standing with us to fight for these bills, especially if you sent a message, called your legislator, came to testify, or took action in another way to protect our communities.

The best way to change this story next year and into the future is to elect more pro-conservation champions into office. This November, many of our state senators and all of our state representatives will be up for re-election. Help us build the majority we need to pass more life-saving bills that put our communities over the industry!

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner has claimed many times that he values our outdoors and environment. Unfortunately, when it comes to conservation and environmental issues, Senator Gardner has little to brag about. In fact, Gardner has voted with President Trump 92.4 percent of the time since Trump took office, both on environmental issues and everything else that’s come up in the Senate.According to the League of Conservation Voters’ 2017 National Environmental ScorecardSen. Gardner received a zero percent score. According to the 19 Senate votes scored, Gardner could not have been a worse ally for the environment. Let’s take a look at some of his votes.

1. For Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Protesters outside of Gardner’s Denver office raise the cry against Scott Pruitt.

In spite of hundreds of calls to his office, protests outside of his office, and social media campaigns, Gardner supported Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has denied man-made climate change and is known for his many lawsuits against the EPA. Now he is the head of the agency.

2. For Rick Perry to be the Secretary of Energy.

Perry’s famous slip where he forgot the Department of Energy was one of the agencies he wanted to eliminate is not even his biggest disqualifier for being Secretary of Energy. He has ignored the consensus around climate science and has many financial ties to energy companies, yet Congress — and Sen. Gardner — approved him for the position.

3. For Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, to be Secretary of State.

Tillerson led Exxon during its long-term campaign to spread lies about climate science and deceive the public. He also has deep ties to Russia and Putin, which should have disqualified him from representing our country on the international stage. Instead, Congress voted to confirm him.

4. For Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior.

At first, Zinke seemed like the least extreme member of Trump’s cabinet. However, his financial backing from the oil and gas industry makes him less than suitable to manage our public lands. His record since becoming Secretary of the Interior has been peppered with misuse of funds and efforts to undermine public land protections, like shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah.

5. To undo a rule that would have made it easier for the public to influence decisions about our public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had recently made a rule to update land management processes. Both experts and the public agreed it was a much-needed step to improving management of our public lands. Senator Gardner’s vote overturned this rule and prevented the BLM from ever making a similar rule. This is an example of shutting out local voices while putting our public lands at risk.

6. His vote to repeal the stream protection rule allows coal companies to have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams.

This debris pollutes streams with toxic heavy metals, which can have dire health impacts on the communities nearby. It was yet another move to stand up for fossil fuel companies at the expense of our health and people.

7. To move forward with repealing a rule that protects our air from oil and gas emissions.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaks from oil and gas sites across the country, wasting taxpayer dollars and exacerbating climate change. The Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Rule established commonsense standards that require oil and gas companies to deploy readily available, cost-effective measures to reduce methane lost through venting, flaring, and leaks. While the rule itself is still in question, there’s no doubt that Sen. Gardner went against the wishes of most Coloradans and voted to repeal the rule.

9. To open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. 

This vote was snuck into the Tax Bill that Congress passed in December 2017. There was a proposed amendment to remove the piece of the Tax Bill that allowed for drilling in the Arctic Refuge — but Sen. Gardner voted against the amendment, and voted to pass the Tax Bill. Now the largest protected wilderness in the country, known to the indigenous Gwich’in people as “the sacred place where life begins,” is open to drilling.


In an increasingly blue state which Gardner won by a slim margin in 2014, he’s becoming one of the country’s least-liked politicians. Not only did Coloradans vote decisively for Hillary Clinton, but they care about the issues Gardner has attacked. The environment is a key example.

During his 2014 campaign, Gardner repeatedly claimed to be “Not That Kind Of Republican”. In order to win Colorado, he tried to separate himself from the extreme partisanship and positioning of his party. He advocated for clean energy and protecting future generations.

Cory Gardner’s 2014 campaign video was all about the environment.

“What can we do to make sure we are protecting this beautiful environment?” he asked on the campaign trail. However, Senator Gardner’s promises to be a “new kind of Republican” have proved to be empty.

On environmental issues, Gardner’s track record leaves much to be desired. Despite his efforts to portray himself as a Westerner who values public lands and protecting our future, his voting record tells the truth.

At the same time, Gardner still claims to love the environment. In February, he and Senator Bennet introduced a package of public lands bills designed to fix a couple of tiny issues with Colorado’s public lands. These bills would affect a grand total of less than 1,000 acres of public lands — out of 24 million acres in Colorado. Although Gardner says he’s “proud” to work on bills like this “that will ensure future generations of Coloradans are able to enjoy our state’s natural treasures,” these bills are a distraction from his anti-environmental onslaught.

We must continue to tell Senator Gardner that Coloradans don’t want to see him siding with Trump. Especially when it comes to our air, land, and water, which he campaigned for and claims to support, Gardner needs to vote with his constituents.

DENVER – The League of Conservation Voters, Conservation Colorado’s national partner, today released the Colorado delegation’s scores on the 2017 National Environmental Scorecard.

Notably, Senator Cory Gardner received a zero percent score.

“We knew Senator Cory Gardner was bad on environmental and public health issues, but looking at his entire voting record from 2017, we now know he couldn’t be any worse. We deserve lawmakers who represent the needs of their constituents, not President Trump’s extreme anti-environmental agenda and his attacks on Colorado’s air, water, land, and wildlife,” said Maria Handley, Acting Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “We need our representatives in Congress to fight for Colorado values. Thankfully we can count on champions like Senator Bennet and our pro-conservation representatives to push back.”

The 2017 League of Conservation Voters (LCVScorecard measures votes cast during the first session of the 115th Congress. The delegation from Colorado earned the following scores for 2017:

Senator Bennet – 84 percent
Senator Gardner – 0 percent
Representative Degette – 89 percent
Representative Polis – 100 percent
Representative Tipton – 6 percent
Representative Buck – 6 percent
Representative Lamborn – 0 percent
Representative Coffman – 6 percent
Representative Perlmutter – 100 percent

“This Congress repeatedly refused to stand up to President Trump’s extreme anti-environmental agenda and his attacks on our air, water, land, and wildlife,” said LCV Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld. “In a year where devastating hurricanes and wildfires showed why the need to fight climate change is so urgent, Congress instead inflicted lasting damage on our communities by reversing clean water protections, confirming industry favorites to key environmental posts, and opening up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Our environmental champions are more important than ever as the administration’s hostility toward our communities continues to grow.”

The 2017 Scorecard includes 35 House votes and 19 Senate votes, including 8 Senate votes to confirm anti-environmental Cabinet and sub-Cabinet nominees who have wasted no time implementing Trump’s dangerous agenda.

LCV has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970. The Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which members of Congress were scored. The votes included in the Scorecard presented members of Congress with a real choice and help distinguish which legislators are working for environmental protection. More information on individual votes and the Scorecard archive can be found at scorecard.lcv.org.

Contact:

Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
Alyssa Roberts, 202-454-4573

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

As the 2017 Colorado state legislative session comes to a close, Conservation Colorado celebrated seven victories but also lamented several important bills that were killed or left on the cutting room floor by the state Senate.

Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, put it this way:
This year’s legislative session had several great, bipartisan wins for conservation issues. Conservation champions and legislators on both sides of the aisle stood up for our air, land, water, and communities, and we’re proud of the passage of meaningful and innovative bills to protect our environment.

 

But throughout the session, a group of obstructionist right-wing Republican senators repeatedly blocked progress by voting ideologically rather than for the needs of everyday Coloradans. Their opposition to simple, commonsense fixes to problems facing Colorado — such as giving citizens the opportunity to vote on a long-term sustainable funding to solve our transportation problems — should serve as a reminder about why voting matters.

Key victories that Conservation Colorado achieved were:

  • Extended a successful energy efficiency program (HB 1227)
  • Helped schools test for lead in their water (HB 1306)
  • Outlawed “rolling coal” (SB 278)
  • Defended tax credits for electric vehicles (SB 188)
  • Supported energy assistance to low-income households (HB 1116)
  • Secured funding for healthy rivers (HB 1248)
  • Prevented bills that would seize or sell off our public lands from being introduced

Despite the wins, several other environmental priorities were killed or stalled this session thanks to ideological opposition. These bills included:

  • Funding for the Colorado Energy Office and important clean energy programs, which Republicans held hostage in order to try to provide a windfall for natural gas companies (SB 301)
  • Improvements to transportation infrastructure and multimodal options (HB 1242)
  • Funding for our state parks (HB 1321)
  • Opening up new opportunities for investment in electric vehicle infrastructure (HB 1232)
  • Three measures to keep our communities safe from oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods:
    • Better protecting children from oil and gas wells located near schools (HB 1256)
    • Providing notice and transparency to property and mineral rights owners in the gas patch (HB 1372)
    • Securing mapping of and information about oil and gas lines, a critical necessity in the wake of the Firestone tragedy (HB 1336)

Conservation Colorado will be releasing its annual conservation scorecard with scores for legislators based on their environmental votes during the 2017 legislative session early this summer.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

In a huge win for the environment and the “resistance” against the Trump agenda, the vote to move forward with repealing a rule protecting air quality from oil and gas development just failed in the U.S. Senate. However, Colorado Senator Gardner voted the wrong way.

Here is a reaction from Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado.

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

 

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him.

 

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.

Senate Republicans today attempted to use a little-known procedure (the “Congressional Review Act”) to kill rules from previous presidential administrations. Today’s vote on the “motion to proceed” was 51-49, with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) joining all 48 Democrats in rejecting the resolution.

Senator Gardner has a 100% record of voting with Trump and has voted against the environment seven times already this year, the methane vote being the eighth.

The BLM’s methane waste prevention rule was modeled on Colorado’s successful 2014 methane rules. The federal rule was finalized in November 2016 after three years of public process that included eight public meetings held across the country and 300,000 public comments. The rule would minimize the amount of wasted natural gas resources from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands by requiring companies to look for and repair leaks, minimize flaring (burning) and prohibit venting of gas directly into the atmosphere. All told, the rule could save $330 million worth of natural gas each year, which would result in increased royalties paid to the federal treasury saving taxpayers more than $800 million over a decade.

Written by Sarah White

2014 has been a successful year for Conservation Colorado. From working with our elected officials to pass critical environmental legislation, to knocking doors to get out the vote, and organizing on college campuses, in Latino communities, and in cities all across the state, we’ve accomplished big things for Colorado.

It would be pretty hard to point out all of the things that we’re proud of, but we wanted to highlight the BIG ones. Here are our top 10 accomplishments of 2014.

10. We won a decade long battle

The ten year long battle to protect the Roan Plateau is finally over. The conservation community finally won the fight to keep the 54,000 acre Roan Plateau from becoming an industrial zone.

9. We had a year long party!

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and boy, did we celebrate. We held events across the state from July to November to raise awareness about the 3.6 million acres of Colorado’s most sublime wildlands that are set aside as wilderness areas.

8. We held industry accountable

In April we were thrilled to help pass legislation that will finally clean up groundwater contamination in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Canon City. After 30 years of pollution and indifference from Cotter Corporation, Coloradans living in its shadow were finally granted the right to clean water and use of their own water wells.

7. Introducing….Protégete!

This year, Conservation Colorado launched Protégete: Our Air, Our Health. It is an important and timely effort to engage the Latino community around the issues of clean air and climate change.

6. The EPA came to town & we responded with a day of action

This year we took a huge step toward addressing the challenge of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed national safeguards that aim to cut carbon pollution, One of just four hearings across the country was held right here in Colorado! Our coalition rallied over 250 Coloradans to testify at the hearings and came out on top — an overwhelming majority of the testimonies showed support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

5. 42 wins for conservation

It wasn’t easy, but after one of the toughest election seasons yet, the conservation community helped elect 42 pro-conservation candidates to the Colorado state legislature. With the help of our staff and volunteers, we knocked doors, made phone calls, created mail pieces, landed on people’s Facebook newsfeeds, and crafted radio ads to promote our conservation champions and help them to victory.

4. Colorado made history (in a good way)

Colorado sent a strong message to the nation in February – that every person deserves to breathe clean air. With your support, and after a year-long ground campaign, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission passed groundbreaking, first in the nation rules that directly regulate methane pollution from oil and gas facilities.

3. Huge steps for water

Up until now, we have been the only state in the west without a State Water Plan (yikes!). But that’s about to change. On December 10, the first draft of this groundbreaking plan was released — and it will be finalized in a year. This plan will address the “gap” between our available water supply and our demand and we have worked every step of the way to ensure that the Governor keeps his work and puts conservation first.

2. Hey, President Obama! This land needs protection

Conservation Colorado has worked with U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet for years to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument. This month, we brought this beautiful 22,000 acres of public lands around the Arkansas River to the forefront of President Obama’s attention and are optimistic that he will take the next step to finally protect Browns Canyon once and for all.

1. YOU

Conservation Colorado works hard to protect the land, air, and water of our beautiful state for YOU, our members. We are proud to have a growing membership of dedicated Coloradans who are willing to take action and support the work that will ensure clean air, healthy flowing waters, and protected lands for years to come. We do this work because we believe that it is your right to enjoy the outdoors as you see fit, without restrictions from out-of-state special interests and polluting industries. We do this work because of YOU.

We can’t do any of this without your support — please consider making a year end donation to Conservation Colorado.

Written by Sarah White

Earth Day is upon us today and we’re excited! We focus a lot of our efforts on the long-term conservation of Colorado’s beautiful lands and clean air. But today we celebrate what we can do right now help our environment.

These steps are simple, but they add up to create a massive impact on climate change in our state every single day. Now, we know you have been told to do some of these things before, but Earth Day is a day to remind ourselves that these steps are more important now than ever before.

1. Let’s start with the obvious: reduce, reuse, recycle:

Did you know that there’s an island in the Pacific Ocean that is the size of Texas and is completely made up of trash? Although we have made great progress, far too much of our everyday lives ends up harming our air, land, and water. We can all do our part by reducing what we consume, try and reuse as much as possible, and recycle the rest.  Every little bit helps reduce the amount of new, harmful chemicals that are introduced into the environment, helps us use energy more efficiently, and minimizes the land our landfills need.

2. Help preserve our water supply by conserving your water:

April snow has made us hopeful for a good snowpack this year, but years of drought have depleted Colorado’s reservoirs to the point where it’s going to take many years of above-average snowfall to bring them back to normal. So, how can you help? From your sink to your lawn, conserve your water usage.

3. Walk, ride your bike, use our great transportation system:

We all know that climate change is the problem of our age but want can an individual do?  The car you drive and how you choose to get around can have a huge impact on your energy consumption. Better yet, get out and enjoy our great Colorado weather;  ride your bike, walk, or take public transportation to help you get where you need to go.

4. Go outside this Earth Day:

No, seriously, go outside. How will that help? We hope the more time you spend exploring our beautiful state, the more passionate you’ll become about preserving it for future generations. Check out some of the areas we are working to protect. But remember, take only pictures and leave only footprints.

5. Get involved with your elected officials:

Final self plug: we have made this step easy for you; Take an Action. Tell your local legislators why you are concerned and what they can do to get your support. Our vast landscapes, wildlife, rivers, and our tremendous outdoor opportunities help define our beautiful state. Any day a lawmaker hears from a constituent is a day that he or she must think a little longer about the impacts that his or her decisions have.  Check out our latest Actions and send your elected official a message that you care about protecting Colorado!