Video raises more questions about co-chair’s anti-frack past

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Newly uncovered video of Colorado’s oil and gas task force co-chair speaking at a 2012 anti-fracking “Stop the Frack Attack” rally in Washington, DC appears to contradict earlier denials she made about ever calling for bans on fracking.

Gwen Lachelt, a La Plata County Commissioner tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to head the state’s fracking commission, provided a venue for the planning of the “day of action” according to one of her Earthworks colleagues, heavily promoted the anti-fracking rally on her own blog, and served as the master of ceremonies for the event on July 28, 2012.

As the crowd loudly chanted “ban fracking now” for approximately 30 seconds, Lachelt, then Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) director, asked the crowd, “Are you fired up?”

“Yes!” the crowd enthusiastically responded.

“Are you fired up? Are you here because you want clean energy now? Are you here because you want clean water? Are you here because you want clean air? Welcome to the first ever national day of action on fracking,” Lachelt said.

“We call for the President and Congress to lead us into a new energy economy,” she continued.

MintPressNews, covering the event, described the rally.

“A broad coalition of people, including well known environmentalist Bill McKibben, converged on the capital, demanding Congress take steps to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” a practice that many say is harmful to the environment and human health,” wrote MPN author Martin Michaels.

The event’s website, seen on Lachelt’s blog at stopthefrackattack.org, issues a call to “Continue a multi prong approach fighing [sic] for bans in states that a ban is possible and strong regulations in states where that is possible,” under the organization’s “Our Work” page.

Lachelt’s own promotion of the “Stop the Frack Attack” included a postscript that included OGAP’s perspective on fracking:

“P.S.S. – Our country needs a meaningful conversation about energy development. At Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, we believe drilling should only be allowed to proceed when our water and air is protected, landowner and community rights are in place and no-go zones are established. Most importantly, we need a bold vision to transition to clean energy economy.”

Lachelt was forced to issue a denial that neither she nor the San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA), a group Lachelt serves as a board member, has ever called for a ban on fracking to the Denver Post in October, as the issue became part of the recently concluded gubernatorial campaign.

The GOP candidate, Bob Beauprez, had picked up on blog posts by Energy In Depth (EID) that called attention to the activities of SJCA–a group affiliated with Lachelt. The group had offered statements during the public comment period of the October oil and gas task force meetings. EID is a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Dan Olson, whose comments as executive director of SJCA fired off the exchange, appeared to offer comment on the tactics employed by SJCA in response to an article by Boulder Weekly on the killing of the fracking ballot measures in favor of the Governor’s task force.

“A clarification. It is untrue to state that no task force members have endorsed bans for moratoriums on oil and gas drilling. Gwen Lachelt pursued a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in La Plata County. It was after the moratorium effort failed that Wester Colorado Congress and San Juan Citizens Alliance pivoted to work on creating and strengthening regulations,” the posted “Dan Olson” wrote.

“While I’m not contending some of your larger themes, there is another – critical – dimension to why some groups focus on better regulations as opposed to outright bans: the political landscape. If a local group is unable to win support for bans or moratoriums, stronger regulation helps to improve protections for human and environmental health while that organization continues to work on longer-term strategies allowing a complete transition from all fossil fuels,” the comment concluded.

It is unclear whether the poster “Dan Olson” and the executive director of SJCA are the same person at this time.

Earlier in November, author Ron Arnold chronicled Lachelt’s radical activism for more than a decade leading up to her elevation to the state’s fraught fracking commission. Lachelt served in multiple roles for groups like Earthworks and SJCA, and frequently appears as an expert at events across the country.

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