Colorado is a special place. With the Rocky Mountains, over 300 days of sunshine a year, and those Broncos orange sunsets, Colorado has a quality of life that simply can’t be beat. Something else that sets Colorado apart is the access it has to the second-biggest field of recoverable natural gas in the U.S.
Thanks to breakthroughs in oil and gas development, Colorado has become a national and global leader in energy production, providing thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenue and spurring Colorado’s economy in immeasurable ways. And while energy development has become a way of life in Colorado, California and New York billionaires have been spending millions of dollars every year to convince Coloradans that this energy production is a bad thing. Proposition 112 is their most recent attempt.
Hundreds of miles away, billionaires such as William Hewlett (co-founder of HP), Eric Schmidt (previous chairman of Google), and Tom Steyer (San Francisco hedge fund manager), not content with dictating the policies in their cities and states, started deep-pocketed foundations with the goal of influencing energy policy in Colorado and elsewhere.
Between 2008-2016, their well-endowed foundations and five others like them funneled over $91.7 million into Colorado to create and sustain nonprofits that share and promote their climate ideology. In many ways, these organizations lay the groundwork for legislative measures that come down the road.
Take Western Resource Advocates, for instance. Western Resource Advocates received over $24.7 million from the Hewlett Foundation, Sea Change Foundation and Energy Foundation between 2008-2016. These funds went toward opposing conventional coal-fired power plants, preventing oil shale development, and promoting costly renewable energy in Colorado. Colorado Environmental Coalition is a similar outfit. Its website brags about being “the largest state-based citizens’ group” yet the organization received over $1.7 million in recorded grants from the Hewlett Foundation between 2008-2013.
These are two of many examples. Fifty other environmental organizations in Colorado have received funding in varying amounts from out-of-state, left-leaning foundations. Nonprofits such as High Country News and Conservation Colorado mislead the public by claiming to represent Coloradans even though a significant amount of their operating budgets come from New York and San Francisco.
These tactics have been seen before. A large amount of anti-fossil fuel money flowed into New York around 2010. At that time and in the years following, “grass-roots” groups such as “Frack Action Fund” and “Water Defense” were founded and led sustained advocacy efforts to push for bans on fracking in the Marcellus Shale Formation. Other groups focused on pipeline holdups and worked to shut down coal plants with regulations. Foundations like the CA-based Schmidt Family Foundation and the NY-based Sustainable Markets Foundation bankrolled this advocacy.
Food & Water Watch was another organization behind these efforts in New York, and they’ve also chosen to spend their money in Colorado by backing Colorado Rising, the “grass-roots effort” behind Proposition 112. Other groups such as , the Sierra Club and Greenpeace are supporters of Proposition 112 as well.
This November, voters must answer, who should be in the driver’s seat of Colorado’s energy policies — Coloradans or coastal billionaires who wish to force their ideology on the rest of the country?
The truth is that Coloradans appreciate our environment and unique quality of life more than anyone else. That’s why energy development in the state has been accompanied by innovations that have made the process safer and more environmentally friendly. With Proposition 112, out-of-state interests are forcing a manipulative ultimatum between health and safety and energy production. Colorado has been safety extracting natural gas for years and while there’s always room for improvement, effectively banning future development in the state is not the answer.
The “keep it in the ground” movement was successful in New York. In 2014, fracking was banned and since then, New York has seen, at times, the most expensive electricity prices in the world. The Empire State has also lacked the benefits of natural gas development like job creation and an economic boom that have been seen just over the border in Pennsylvania.
Colorado should learn from New York’s lesson.
Erin Amsberry is a Colorado native and the communications manager for the American Energy Alliance.