Dumpster fire: Anti-fracking groups face forgery investigation after ballot-measure debacle

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The credibility of the anti-fracking left – such as it was – lies in tatters in Colorado.

For the past several years, national “ban fracking” groups have promised a statewide ballot-measure campaign against Colorado’s energy sector. They have used this threat to raise money and win the attention of the political press corps. But the threatened campaign has never really materialized.

In 2014, facing almost certain defeat, anti-fracking groups and millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis pulled the plug on their campaign. This year, a coalition of national activist groups – 350.org, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club – promised things would be different. They said they would gather enough signatures to make the ballot and they even fooled some national media outlets into believing them.

Icon_2016_Op_EdBut state election officials weren’t fooled. They noticed when the activists used half-empty boxes to deliver their petitions to the Secretary of State’s office. They noticed 50 empty boxes were left over once the petitions were consolidated and shipped to the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration for verification. They noticed the activists had nowhere near enough signatures to make the ballot.

And Colorado election officials also noticed “several potentially forged signatures lines” in the petitions submitted by anti-fracking groups, according to Secretary of State Wayne Williams. The matter is now under investigation by the state attorney general’s office, but anti-fracking activists are disputing the forgery allegations, according to The Denver Post.

More than that, one of the anti-fracking signature gatherers is actually pinning the blame on Denver’s homeless population. “It wasn’t me at all,” he told Denver NBC affiliate 9News. “Some of the homeless men didn’t have any addresses so their friends would be like yeah I used to live in this address,” the signature gatherer said. “They’d just write some bulls***.”

The whole affair is “a fracking dumpster fire of the democratic process,” 9News anchor Kyle Clark reported.

Dumpster fire, indeed.

But there’s more. Anti-fracking groups have gotten so desperate in Colorado that they’re starting to call snarky tweets – in and of themselves – a moral victory. During the recent Rocky Mountain Energy Summit, Greenpeace wrote a column headlined: “Coloradans Take Over Fracking Conference.”

Nothing of the sort actually occurred. Instead, the so-called takeover was a series of anti-industry tweets that appeared on a TV monitor next to the stage, along with other messages posted by participants at the conference. Greenpeace claimed that Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who spoke at the conference, was forced to “fight for the stage” because of all those critical social-media comments. Or something.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the activists took a beating from the state’s Democratic governor. “This isn’t China, this isn’t Russia, we don’t take people’s private property without compensating them,” Hickenlooper said about the anti-fracking measures supported by Greenpeace, which would effectively impose a statewide ban on oil and gas development and seize billions of dollars of mineral rights from private citizens.

That’s right: The state’s Democratic governor compared the agenda of anti-fracking activists to policies seen in China and Russia, but the activists are claiming victory because they wrote some mean tweets.

Unfortunately, the demise of anti-fracking ballot measures this year doesn’t mean the anti-fracking left will retreat back to New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Those measures were just one part of a much bigger campaign, funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer and other left-wing donors, so the activists of 350.org, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club will just be redeployed to other races on the November ballot. With control of the state legislature and the right people elected to federal office, the environmental left can still do plenty of damage to Colorado’s economy without needing to use ballot initiatives to amend the state constitution.

But the collapse of this year’s anti-fracking ballot measures this year has shown, once again, who the activists really are. They aren’t interested in substance. They only care about deceptive media stunts to advance their fringe environmental agenda, which would cause tremendous damage to the state economy if it ever became law.

Why any candidate on the ballot this fall would accept the support of such groups is completely baffling.

Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at simon@i2i.org.

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