by Gary Wockner
Clean Water Action has been heavily engaged in drilling and fracking issues here in Colorado. We’ve been knocking on doors in the Denver Metro area for the past 2 months, educating communities about drilling and fracking activity close to their homes and schools and on our public lands in Western Colorado. We’ve knocked on over 8,000 doors and gathered over 800 postcards and letters to Congressman Mike Coffman from his constituents in the outer ring of suburbs on the south and east sides of Denver.
On Tuesday, July 3rd, Clean Water Action and three Congressional District 6 constituents delivered the postcards to Congressman Coffman’s office and sat down with his District Director, Andy Merritt, to discuss the Congressman’s environmental voting record and the postcard requests from hundreds of his constituents.
First, the postcards ask Congressman Coffman to 1) “Protect our neighborhoods and public lands from the impacts of oil and gas drilling.” Mr. Merritt’s response to this request was to say that Congressman Coffman believes that drilling and fracking regulations are better left to the State and local governments and that the federal government should not be involved.
When asked about the federal government’s role on public lands in Western Colorado, Mr. Merritt said he was not sure on the Congressman’s position. However Congressman Coffman has publicly stated that he opposes the Department of Interior and the EPA’s attempts to regulate drilling and fracking on Colorado’s public lands. Mr. Merritt also said that Congressman Coffman believes that natural gas burns cleaner than coal and that natural gas is a “bridge fuel.”
Further, Mr. Merritt said that the Congressman supports an “all of the above” energy policy and strongly supported natural gas production and its use in fleet vehicles. In his role in Congress on the Natural Resources Committee and Natural Gas Caucus, Congressman Coffman has worked to solidify that support through votes and statements.
Clean Water Action response: We disagree with Congressman Coffman about the role of the federal government in protecting our neighborhoods and public lands from the impacts of drilling and fracking.
We believe the federal government needs to better protect people and public lands from drilling and fracking pollution. We also support the EPA and Department of Interior’s new drilling and fracking regulations.
While natural gas may burn cleaner than coal, the concept of it being a “bridge fuel” is increasing contested by scientists in the field. Further, drilling and fracking across our suburban neighborhoods and public lands is having an increasingly negative impact and we believe Congressman Coffman needs to better address this problem.
Also, Congressman Coffman signed a letter to Secretary Salazar asking the Secretary for “restraint” on regulating drilling and fracking on public lands – Clean Water Action strongly disagrees with this request.
Second, the postcards also ask Congressman Coffman to 2) “Stop supporting bills like H.R. 4382 that fast-track drilling and gut common sense protections.” H.R. 4382 opens up more public land to drilling and fracking. Mr. Merritt responded that Congressman Coffman believes that drilling has been stalled on public lands in Western Colorado, and that drillers face long delays for getting permits. He said that drillers need to have a few years of land leased as a stockpile so that they can plan ahead and ensure drilling occurs.
Clean Water Action response: We believe that the rhetoric about stalled permitting is mostly hyperbole. In fact, nearly 20 million acres of BLM land have already been leased but is not being drilled. Also, drillers are sitting on about 6,500 unused drilling permits. Further, under Obama, drilling activity has reached its highest level in 25 years.
Third, the postcards also ask Congressman Coffman to 3) “Invest more of our federal dollars in sustainable energy solution including renewable energy and fuel-efficient cars and trucks.” Mr. Merritt said that Congressman Coffman was very interested in renewable energy, had supported wind energy, and had worked with start-up companies to develop solar technology including supporting the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado. The Congressman also supports renewable energy for the military.
Mr. Merritt, however, said that the Congressman did not support direct subsidies to private companies. When Clean Water Action ask then why the Congressman supported subsidies to Big Oil companies, Mr. Merritt responded that he’d have to see those votes and that some things that people call subsidies aren’t really subsidies.
Clean Water Action response: Big Oil receives approximately $9.4 billion per year in various types of tax subsidies. Further, better regulations and protections for the environment helps to create jobs in the clean energy sector, but Congressman Coffman has voted to gut environmental regulations over 200 times.
Finally, we ask Mr. Merritt about the fact that Congressman Coffman had voted 100% along with his Republican colleagues who have been dubbed the “Most Anti-Environmental Congress in History” because they have voted 247 times against the environment. Mr. Merritt responded that he’d have to see the votes because some votes that people call anti-environmental may not be that way.
Clean Water Action response: Here are the votes.
Clean Water Action will continue working hard to hold federal officials accountable for their voting records. While we appreciate Mr. Merritt taking the time to sit down with us and talk about environmental issues, we are extremely disappointed in Congressman Coffman’s voting record.