Today a coalition of grassroots organizations asked for the resignation of Co-Chair Randy Cleveland from Governor Hickenlooper’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on fracking.
This Task Force was established so U.S. Representative Jared Polis could gracefully strike from the 2014 state ballot two initiatives he had financed. One would have required 2000-foot setbacks from homes, the other would have allowed towns and cities to determine for themselves whether they wanted fracking in their back yards.
On Monday, Wes Wilson and Phil Doe from Be the Change exposed Cleveland’s appointment of industry insider Dollis Wright to the health and safety panel scheduled for Thursday’s Task Force meeting in Greeley.
The groups cite several reasons for requesting Cleveland’s resignation:
1. Cleveland’s company, XTO, was recently fined $2.3 million for toxic dumping in West Virginia. The estimated cleanup costs are another $3 million. XTO is recognized as one of the worst polluters in Pennsylvania, having been fined more than $227,000 for toxic dumping into major rivers such as the Susquehanna. A state grand jury has brought criminal charges against the company because of its reckless and illegal dumping.
Phil Doe, Environmental Director for Be the Change said, “The governor’s appointment of Cleveland to a leadership role on his ‘blue ribbon’ task force is bewildering. Cleveland has been given control of the task force even though his company has been repeatedly charged with significant regulatory violations. If any of us had done what Cleveland’s company has done, we’d probably be in the clinker.
“He’s not even a resident of this state,” Doe continued. “Yet, he is invited to jet in here, make decisions about our lives, our property, our safety and then jet back to his home in Texas. Coloradans don’t need a law-breaking Texas CEO to tell us how to regulate our oil industry.”
2. XTO’s activities in Colorado show a similar pattern. State oil and gas records show that XTO has self-reported 101 spills, with almost 800 thousand gallons of operational waste of unknown toxicity leaked into the environment, mostly from faulty disposal ponds and corroded pipes. About 93 percent of the waste was never recovered, some of it reaching rivers and streams. For these infractions, the company has been fined once for $2000. Moreover, the company is wasting approximated 7 percent of all its gas production, either through flaring or leaks. With a market value of roughly $68 million, the waste of this nonrenewable energy has cost Coloradans reduced severance and royalty payments as well.
Colorado activist Shane Davis says, “We know XTO is wasting Colorado resources, we just don’t know how much since, in Colorado, the oil business is on an honor system designed by state regulators. We don’t self-report for speeding, and we shouldn’t let oil companies do so either. These wasted gases are the source of airborne toxins affecting the health of people living near well sites. Health concerns are the reason Governor Cuomo banned fracking in New York last month. On top of that, methane, the primary constituent in these leaks, is 86 times worse than CO2 for climate warming over a 20-year period.
“The health of Coloradans must come first, not oil company profits,” Davis added. “There are plenty of other oil company representatives on the task force, but the President of XTO Energy has to go.”