By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is appearing in new paid radio ads airing across the state for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry lobby and trade group which has a history of fighting health and safety standards for fossil fuels. In the ad the governor states:
Hi, this is Governor John Hickenlooper. In 2008, Colorado passed tough oil and gas rules. Since then we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing. And we plan to keep it that way. That’s why Colorado recently passed the toughest—and fairest—hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule in the nation. In Colorado, we’ve proven that industry and the conservation community can come together to solve problems. We can create jobs, promote energy security, and protect our environment. [Brought to you by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.]
As Zaid Jilani of the Republic Report, United Republic’s new blog dedicated to exposing how money pollutes democracy, observes, “the spot is particularly remarkable because it is almost unheard of for a sitting governor to appear in a radio commercial sponsored by a certain industry.”
Hickenlooper’s background and track record may indicate why he has failed this test of good government. Before founding Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, Hickenlooper was a petroleum geologist. He took $73,666 from oil and gas interests in his 2010 election, and as Salon points out, appointed an industry campaign donor to an important regulatory position.
The governor’s smiling photo also appears on two print ads, which are greenwashed with statements like “because the environment matters.” In response to criticism for the radio ads, Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuller said:
We stand by the ads, and we call them public service announcements.
However, in a strikingly public rebuke, 13 environmental groups are pushing back on the implication that drilling and hydraulic fracturing are safe and that there has been no damage from them in Colorado. In a letter sent to Hickenlooper earlier this week, Colorado conservation groups discussed their “surprise” and “disappointment” and have asked the governor and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to pull the ads off the air:
The ad…creates a misleading picture about the overall safety of oil and gas development…That assertion misleads the public by ignoring the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites. Since 2008, numerous instances of groundwater contamination have resulted from releases of chemicals such as petroleum liquids and produced water used and generated during drilling and hydraulic fracturing.