Energy

Are Green Activists Secretly Hoping Colorado’s Anti-Fracking Measures Fail?

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Wealthy green activists are staying far away from an activist-generated campaign to force anti-fracking measures on Colorado’s November ballot.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who spent $8.5 million in Colorado during the 2014 election, has not donated any money to the anti-fracking campaign currently being pushed in the Centennial State.

Similarly, the League of Conservation Voters’ Colorado has made complimentary comments about one of the ballot initiatives but, like Styer, is not committing money to the effort. Nor is the Environmental Defense Fund, which has been far less critical to natural gas than Steyer.

Steyer and the others are likely avoiding the high profile push to get ballot initiatives 75 and 78 placed on the state’s ballot. If approved by voters, one of the initiatives would add language to Colorado’s state constitution allowing local governments to all but ban fracking. Initiative 78 meanwhile would require a 2,500-foot distance between hydraulic fracking and public areas like parks or hospitals.

Environmentalists are starting to murmur about possible negative backlashes if the bills get churned through, Politico reported Thursday. Activists are concerned the campaign will prompt the oil industry to dump massive amounts of money on Colorado in an attempt to quell the state’s anti-fracking movement, according to the report.

“If they don’t get on the ballot, I think it’s better for the environmental movement, because if they do get on the ballot, the oil and gas industry will just pummel this state. Democrats and moderate Republicans won’t want to touch this issue for quite some time,” one Colorado environmentalist told Politico.

The anti-fracking campaign has managed to raise a mere $424,000 as of Aug. 1, including $25,000 from Democratic Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, which pales in comparison to the massive amount of money the well-heeled entrepreneur turned lawmaker gave to anti-fracking initiatives back in 2014.

On the opposite end, energy companies Noble and Anadarko have forked over more than $11 million this year to Protect Colorado, a group hashing out battle lines against the controversial initiatives. Opponents have managed to pony up $15 million this year to fight the anti-fracking push, according to Politico.

Some chalk up Steyer’s decision to sit out the fight to his desire to slowly and quietly purchase influence in Colorado’s state legislature. Were Steyer to leap into a highly controversial ballot initiative process, analysts claim, then he might hurt his chances of acquiring pull in the state.

Steyer’s stealth on the issue is understandable given the unpopularity of the initiatives, Simon Lomax, an analyst with the Colorado-based non-profit group Independent Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Steyer can get more bang-for-the-buck if he focuses on the legislature, Lomax said, and avoid supporting a set of controversial measures that “Colorado voters would almost certainly reject.”

The wealthy activist, wannabe politician has certainly made no bones about his intention of turning the state blue.

Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who began his career at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, made three $200 personal contributions to Democrats in crucial state Senate races in July. Democratic senatorial candidates Rachel Zenzinger, Jenise May, and Daniel Kagan were the recipients of Steyer’s donations. May and Kagan are running for open seats, while Zenzinger is trying to unseat an incumbent Republican.

Steyer can only contribute a maximum of $200 in Colorado to state House or Senate candidates during the primaries, and another $200 during the general, for a total of $400 during the entirety of an election. Colorado’s primary was June 28. The rather small donations present a veiled threat to Republicans and others, take on these candidates at your own peril.

Steyer uses his super PAC, NextGen Climate Action to direct nearly all of his donations. He has spent more than $13 million through the group so far this election year, according to OpenSecrets.org. Those lofty numbers are likely to balloon further northward as the election trudges on.

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