FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug 6, 2018
Anne Lee Foster: 757-870-5102 email@example.com
Suzanne Spiegel: 914-563-6080 firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado Rising Submits Enough Signatures for Safer Setbacks Initiative to Qualify for November Ballot
Despite numerous hurdles, signatures have been submitted for 2,500’ setbacks on fracking
DENVER —Colorado Rising submitted over 171,000 signatures for the “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” initiative to the Secretary of State this morning, far more than the threshold required to qualify for the ballot in November. This grassroots effort was led by more than 750 Colorado volunteers from across the state. Their passion and determination for protecting the health and wellbeing of their families overcame theft of petitions and a multi-million dollar opposition campaign that consisted of organized harassment, buyouts, and corruption.
Throughout the course of the campaign, harassers were paid to intimidate petition circulators and discourage voters from signing Initiative #97. The campaign’s original signature-gathering firm quit abruptly with just three weeks remaining before the deadline, refused to pay over 300 employees and took approximately 15,000 signatures out of state until a lawsuit forced the return of the petitions. Just last week, Colorado Rising learned that the signature-gathering firm Petition Connection was paid off to stop collecting signatures for the initiative. This was confirmed in a recorded conversation with the owner of Petition Connection, Dan Fessler.
Initiative #97 creates 2500’ buffer zones between oil and gas operations and homes and schools, water sources and playgrounds. The distance of 2500’ – almost one-half mile – aligns with studies that show increased risk of negative health impacts within this zone. The setback distance also matches the emergency evacuation radius used by first responders when faced with explosions, fires and toxic leaks. In 2017 alone, there were 15 oil and gas industry fires and explosions in Colorado including the tragic Firestone home explosion that killed two men and severely burned a schoolteacher. More than 1,000 complaints have been filed in Colorado in a single year about contaminated water, inability to sleep or work due to noxious fumes and extremely loud noise, headaches, nosebleeds, asthma and other grave health impacts.
“This industry robbed me of my peace of mind of when they began construction of a 24 well pad site behind my son’s school,” said Patricia Nelson mother of a student at Bella Romero Academy and volunteer for the campaign. “They have money and power, but we have things that cannot be bought. The love for our children and our community has driven us to succeed. This has been a labor of love. We are ready to be a voice for our children and the future of Colorado.”
“Oil and gas development has exploded over the last seven years in Weld County, and I have witnessed a change in the way people view the issue,” said Therese Gilbert schoolteacher from Greeley. “As more people experience what it is like to have fracking happen so close to where they live – the explosions, weekly spill reports, their children getting asthma, they are now saying ‘enough is enough.’ When the frack wells started going in right behind schools, a line was crossed. The industry cannot be allowed to take risks with our children.”
“We are proud and thankful for this monumental effort by the people of Colorado to create a commonsense setback from this increasingly brazen and destructive industry. We are committed to protecting our neighborhoods from this explosive and toxic industrial development that risks our children’s health and jeopardizes the safety of our homes,” said Colorado Rising President Tricia Olson.
“With nine out of eleven bills killed in our legislature and hundreds of heartbreaking testimonies given to the COGCC with no action, it’s time our citizens are heard with this ballot measure. It is long overdue, and I am pleased with the outpouring of support from so many statewide. The state has failed to protect us, so we’ve taken it into our own hands,” said Heidi Henkel, founder of Broomfield Moms Active Community.
Aug 1, 2018
Contacts: Lauren Petrie: 720-663-0735 email@example.com
Russell Mendell: 802-318-1135 firstname.lastname@example.org
Signature gathering admits to Accepting buyout
from oil and gas industry
Initiative 97 continues to collect signatures despite industry interference in ballot process
Denver, CO – On Tuesday evening, Colorado Rising captured an audio recording of a conversation with Dan Fessler of Petition Connection, LLC admitting that he was paid to stop circulating Initiative 97 and to immediately leave Colorado instead of fulfilling his commitment to collect thousands of signatures for the measure. Fessler was subcontracted by Hiram Asmuth of Encore Political Services just days before abruptly dropping his work on the initiative. Although Fessler refused to say exactly who provided the buyout, he mentioned working with Tracy Taylor, of Taylor Petition Management, LLC and confirmed that Taylor is known for buying out petition entities, subcontractors and petition circulators to stop them from working on ballot initiatives.
Fessler also says he was asked to give all of the petitions that his team had collected to the party responsible for providing the buyout instead of releasing the signatures to Colorado Rising, which Fessler declined to do. When pressed about who was involved in making the request, Fessler did not refute that it was Protect Colorado – an oil and gas industry front group largely funded by Anadarko and Noble Energy – was involved. Protect Colorado has already spent millions campaigning aggressively against the initiative. Just last month, a leak from inside Anadarko, showed a company email encouraging employees to report the locations—in real time—of signature gatherers for Initiative 97 to a hotline connected to Protect Colorado. Karen Crummy of Protect Colorado recently claimed this was simply for opposition research, but on more than 100 occasions paid harassers have shown up specifically to intimidate Initiative 97 circulators shortly after a time and location was provided to the hotline.
Fessler’s admission comes less than a week after Colorado Rising publicly announced the theft of roughly 15,000 signatures by Mike Selvaggio of Direct Action Partners, LLC – the firm originally contracted to gather signatures for the campaign, but closed its doors and left the state overnight with seven boxes of petitions on July 18. The petitions have since been returned to Colorado Rising’s possession but these very serious incidents of harassment, theft, and buyouts raise question as to whether this is part of a larger coordinated effort to interfere directly with the democratic initiative process, specifically against Initiative 97.
“It’s absolutely disgusting to hear rumors that these firms are being bought out, but even more disgusting to find out that the rumors are true, straight from the horse’s mouth,” said Colorado Rising Board Member Lauren Petrie. “It’s unforgivable that these so-called professionals, along with the oil and gas industry, are willing to screw people out of their right to have a voice at the ballot box.”
“The level of corruption from the oil and gas industry in Colorado is astounding,” said Colorado Rising volunteer Russell Mendell. “They are pulling out every dirty trick in the book to subvert democracy. Luckily we have more than 600 volunteers hitting the streets who refuse to give up. We are doing everything we can to make sure that we make the ballot in November despite a coordinated harassment campaign designed stop us. The industry knows they can’t win playing fair, so they are stooping to the lowest of lows to keep the people of Colorado from having a say.”
“This is a movement led by mothers, grandmothers, teachers and health professionals,” said schoolteacher Therese Gilbert of Greeley. “We are looking out for our families and neighbors. This reckless industry is spending millions on ads, lobbyists and scandalous tactics, but they cannot drown out our voices to protect our homes, schools and everything we love about this state. This is a volunteer led-effort and we have spent thousands of hours working hard to ensure Coloradans have the opportunity to protect themselves and their community from fracking. We will not back down!”
Despite these blatant attacks to rob voters of having a voice this November, Colorado Rising is continuing to gather the required 98,492 valid signatures it needs to qualify the initiative for the statewide ballot. Initiative 97 aims to create safer setbacks from new oil & gas infrastructure by creating a 2500 foot buffer zone around homes, schools, hospitals, drinking water sources, and other vulnerable areas such as parks and playgrounds. The deadline for submitting signatures is this Monday, August 6th. The campaign is calling on volunteers during the final days to help offset time and resources that were lost as a result of this heavy-handed corruption and undermining.
For Immediate Release:
July 26, 2018
Signature gathering firm returns stolen petitions after fleeing the state and failing to pay hundreds of employees
Initiative 97 continues to collect signatures despite industry harassment and legal battles
Denver, CO– Last night, Colorado Rising, the proponents of Initiative 97, filed in Denver District Court to request an emergency hearing for the retrieval of seven large boxes of completed petition packets that were stolen. The boxes were taken without permission by the signature gathering firm Direct Action Partners (DAP) when they abruptly left the state last week. After a press conference this morning in Denver, Colorado Rising received information about the whereabouts of the petitions from DAP. The boxes were retrieved by Colorado Rising proponents at a Greyhound station around 5:00 p.m. in Denver without contingency.
In a recording released by Colorado Rising and confirmed by shipping receipts, DAP President Mike Selvaggio admits to shipping the boxes to Oregon on July 18. Direct Action Partners attempted to use the petitions to demand money and an agreement waiving DAP of responsibility and requiring Colorado Rising to keep DAP’s actions secret. Colorado Rising did not sign the contract and have not paid for return of signatures.
During the press conference, Colorado Rising attorney Joe Salazar stated, “we have initiated legal action to preserve the rights of thousands of Coloradans to sign petitions. The constitutional rights of Coloradans are being implicated.”
In a separate recording taken the day before signatures were shipped to Oregon, Mr. Selvaggio acknowledged that Colorado Rising made all payments and acted according to the contract. “You guys have acted in good faith, and I appreciate that,” Selvaggio said in the recording. “It pains me we have got to this point and I realize that it’s my fault—and my attorney would probably slap my face and tell me to shut up.” Colorado Rising is still considering further legal action.
“It’s illegal and immoral for DAP to have taken signatures that belong to the campaign,” said Suzanne Spiegel a proponent for Initiative 97. “This blatant betrayal was an awful shock to everyone who has been working so hard to get this initiative on the ballot. The good news is we have more than 550 committed volunteers across the state, and an amazing and dedicated grassroots donor network who are fired up and who won’t let this keep us from protecting the health and safety of our communities.”
This comes at a time where oil and gas companies are also being linked to calculated harassment of Initiative 97 signature gatherers. Since signature gathering began, both volunteer and paid gatherers have been continuously stalked, harassed and intimidated by paid protestors. A leaked email from Anadarko shows the company set up a hotline for employees to report to Protect Colorado, an oil and gas funded group, the locations—in real time—of signature gatherers.
The harassers have been recorded numerous times admitting they are being paid and have followed gatherers for hours, sometimes all the way to their homes. Protect Colorado spent $15 million on a “Decline to Sign” campaign in 2016 and has spent more than $10 million on the 2018 election. Oil and gas companies Anadarko, Noble and Extraction have each contributed more than $2 million to Protect Colorado, since the beginning of the year. A harassment complaint has been filed with the Boulder DA, and the DA’s office is informing other district attorneys along the Front Range about the widespread problem of harassment of Initiative 97 circulators.
“This is a movement led by mothers, grandmothers, teachers and health professionals,” said schoolteacher Therese Gilbert of Greeley. “We are looking out for our families and the neighbors next door. This reckless industry is spending millions on ads, lobbyists and dirty tricks, but they cannot drown out our voices to protect our homes, schools and everything we love about this state. This is a volunteer led-effort and we have spent thousands of hours working hard to ensure Coloradans have the opportunity to protect themselves and their community from fracking. We will not back down!”
Colorado Rising needs to collect 98,492 valid signatures in by August 6, to have their 2500 ft oil and gas setback initiative on the ballot. The initiative would create a safe buffer zone around occupied structures, waterways and other sensitive areas. More than 80 organizations and more than a dozen elected leaders have endorsed the initiative, including the Colorado State Democratic party.
For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2018
Exposed: Oil and Gas Industry Secretly Paying Actors to Harass and Intimidate Citizens with Colorado Rising Ballot Initiative Campaign for Safer Setbacks
Campaign calls on Secretary of State to stop the bullying
Denver – Today, the Colorado Rising ballot campaign held a press conference to expose a harassment and intimidation campaign using paid actors targeting petition circulators. The initiative would allow voters to create safety zones around schools, homes, playgrounds and drinking water so that oil and gas operations will be kept 2500-foot away. Across the nation, in failed efforts to extort democracy, energy companies and other powerful interests have funded similar “astroturf” (fake grassroots) tactics with paid actors pretending to be local protestors.
“The oil and gas industry should be ashamed of itself, for using paid actors – fake protesters – to harass citizens who simply want to ask voters to better protect schools, homes, playgrounds and drinking water from oil and gas operations,” said Micah Parkin, a Colorado Rising Board Member. “Who do they think they are? We know the truth now. They’re bullies who’ll do anything to get their way. What kind of a lesson is this for the sons and daughters of energy executives? Here’s how we can thank them for their attempt to extort democracy: Sign the petitions and vote to protect our schools, homes, playgrounds and water sources this Fall. Keep oil and gas operations 2500 feet away from our neighborhoods. That’s called payback.”
Here’s what Colorado Rising volunteers and workers are reporting: In multiple cities across Colorado recently, the secretly paid harassers are specifically seeking out petition circulators for Colorado Rising at public events and locations. They then call in other harassers who stand uncomfortably close to the petition circulator and follow them around holding handmade signs with messages like “Would you trust this person with your info?” and yell at people not to sign the petitions. The harassers are typically large males whose behavior seems intended to intimidate both potential signers and petition circulators alike.
Anne Lee Foster, signature gatherer: “They shook signs and yelled that I was untrustworthy and generally smearing my character. The experience was scary, outrageous, dishonorable and unacceptable. Everyone has the right to participate in the democratic process. So, to have a big powerful corporation manipulate and try to extort that process, that so many have fought and died for, was alarming and incredibly saddening. The energy industry hired an actor, a fake protester, a harasser to try to scare me. Well, listen up: It didn’t work. Voters will have the final say.”
Why is the energy industry doing this? Because they fear the voters. They fear they won’t make as much profit as they could. They fear better protecting schools, homes, playgrounds and water will hurt their bottom line.
Cameron Baller, signature gatherer: “I was harassed by paid disruptors on three separate occasions. As tools of the oil and gas industry, these people were paid to hold signs, menace voters who wanted to sign my petition, and intimidate and follow me. They’re trying to steal the democratic process! Who do they think they are!? At one event, these people followed me for more than a half hour before I had to flee the event fearing for my own safety.”
In 2016, oil and gas companies funded similar “Decline to Sign” efforts through front groups like CRED (Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development), Protect Colorado and Black Diamond to keep from the voters greater protections for neighborhoods from fracking. Inside sources have told Colorado Rising volunteers that these same groups are responsible for this year’s harassment as well.
Colorado Rising is exposing these big money bully tactics and will deliver a log of the harassment to the Secretary of State’s office in a plea for help to stop what the campaign believes are illegal actions to prevent voters from deciding.
Susan Secord, signature gatherer: “Who do they think they are? Why do these people fear the voters? What is the oil and gas industry afraid of? This harassment happened to many of the volunteers. It’s a flagrant disregard for our democratic process. It’s disrespectful to America. It’s a failed attempt to keep the voters from deciding.”
Visuals: photos and video footage of the harassment can be found here and is open for use by the press.
For Immediate Release:
June 19, 2018
Contacts: Micah Parkin, email@example.com, 504-258-1247
Anne Lee Foster, firstname.lastname@example.org, 757-870-5102
Oil and Gas Industry is Using Secret Paid Actors to Pose as Protesters and to Harass and Intimidate Colorado Rising Ballot Initiative Signature Gatherers
Denver – The Colorado Rising ballot initiative campaign will hold a news conference Wednesday at 10am to expose secret “astroturf” tactics, a deceitful strategy cropping up nationwide whereby powerful corporations such as the energy industry use paid actors to pose as protesters or harass citizens, and now being deployed here in Colorado.
The Colorado Rising initiative campaign seeks to create 2500’ safety zones between oil and gas operations and occupied buildings, such as homes and schools, playgrounds and water sources. Its campaigners will present video, audio and imagery of these paid actors harassing signature gatherers in various places around Greater Denver.
In multiple cities across Colorado, the secretly paid harassers are specifically targeting petition circulators for Colorado Rising at public events and locations. They then call in other harassers who stand uncomfortably close to the petition circulator and follow them around holding signs with messages like “Would you trust this person with your info?” and yell at people not to sign the petitions. The harassers are typically large males whose behavior is clearly intended to intimidate both potential signers and petition circulators alike.
In 2016, oil and gas companies funded similar “Decline to Sign” efforts through front groups like CRED (Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development), Protect Colorado and Black Diamond to block the democratic process and keep ballot measures designed to protect communities from fracking from qualifying for the ballot. Insider sources have told Colorado Rising volunteers that these same groups are responsible for this year’s harassment as well. And we know Protect Colorado has already amassed a $8.4 million war chest to try to defeat these common sense protections for our communities. At the news conference, Colorado Rising will expose these big money bully tactics to the public and will deliver a log of the harassment to the Secretary of State’s office in a plea for help to stop what the campaign believes are illegal actions to affect Colorado’s democratic ballot initiative process.
- When: Wednesday, June 20, 10am start -10:15am finish
- Where: Secretary of State’s Office, 1700 Broadway, Denver – speakers will gather outside
- Who: People who are circulating the Colorado Rising ballot initiative for 2500’ safety zones from fracking will speak about the harassment they have experienced or witnessed.
- Why: The Colorado Rising campaign for safer setbacks wants to expose and put an end to these dirty and possibly illegal secret industry harassment tactics.
- Visuals: Photographs of the harassment in action, plus video footage will be made available to the press.
More information is available at www.corising.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ballot Initiative Language for Safer Setbacks from Fracking Operations Approved by Supreme Court
Colorado Rising beginning signature collection for November ballot
DENVER, CO, April 6, 2018 – On the morning of Friday April 6, the Colorado Rising statewide ballot initiative for 2,500 ft. oil and gas buffer zones was approved by the Colorado Supreme Court. The statutory initiative overcame all arguments from the oil and gas industry. This represents the final hurdle before statewide signature gathering, which will begin immediately. Colorado citizens have until August 6th to collect approximately 100k signatures in order to qualify for the ballot.
Recent polling shows that the initiative has 69% support from registered Colorado voters. The Colorado Supreme Court decision comes just 11 days before the one year anniversary of the tragedy in Firestone. The gas explosion in Firestone killed two and critically injured a local school teacher. It set off a fierce statewide debate on the safety of oil and gas practices in Colorado. In the following eight months Colorado saw 13 more explosions.
The 2,500 ft. buffer zone mirrors a recent emergency call issued by Greeley Fire Chief Dale Lyman in response to a leak at Northridge High School. It was reported that crews responding to a valve leak at an oil and gas facility near the high school football stadium initiated an emergency call to everyone within a half mile radius of the gas leak. Greeley House Representative Dave Young, who is running for State Treasurer, responded to the incident with a letter, “Clearly, a half-mile setback is what our trusted first responders believe is a safe distance.”
The decision also comes several weeks after a new 266 page report on more than 1,200 peer reviewed studies shows increased risk of asthma, birth defects and cancer. The report was released by Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Concerned Health Professionals of New York. “Pregnant women have a major risk, not only themselves but they’re carrying a fetus whose cells are multiplying continuously,” says Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, a retired Army colonel and the president-elect of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Studies from the Colorado School of Public Health have indicated increased incidence in cancer, birth defects and respiratory problems within a half-mile from oil and gas fracking operations.
On Friday Coloradans responded to the news:
“As a Colorado farmer, I am concerned about the effects of a changing climate and the stress our local ecosystems and resources are under,” said Mark Guttridge of Ollin Farms. “Our most precious resource, water, is getting pumped into the ground and removed from the natural hydrological cycle. I’ve seen the dangers of off-gas events from fracking operations first hand, seen another farming family’s blood tests showing exposure, seen the unacceptable statistics for spills contaminating soil and water. 2,500 ft setback is the LEAST we can do to try to protect the civil liberties of Coloradans.”
“We are thrilled that our language has been approved by the supreme court,” said Colorado Rising President Tricia Olson. “We have already handed out hundreds of petitions to our volunteers who are all set to begin circulating. Through this initiative, we have a direct route to protect our communities from the dangers of rampant oil and gas development using fracking. We are calling on all Coloradans who value clean water, clean air and the safety of their families to sign this petition for safer setbacks, and to help by circulating a petition. Together, we can protect our water and our homes. For more information about this effort, please visit our website at www.corising.org”
“Fracking is hazardous to our health, poses serious safety risks, and compromises our home values. It’s a bad neighbor,” said Suzanne Cabral, a registered nurse and mother who has been working with neighbors and other parents to protect her community from fracking in Thornton. “I’m concerned about my children’s health and future generations. This industry is responsible for 30-40% of asthma-inducing smog that gives the Front Range an “F” air quality grade by the American Lung Association.”
More information is available at www.corising.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Should Fracking Wells be Allowed in Your Neighborhood? Newly Submitted Ballot Initiative Says No
A ballot initiative submitted by Colorado communities will establish larger buffer zones between oil and gas development and homes, schools, playgrounds and water sources
12/21/17, Denver – Colorado Rising (CO Rising), a local grassroots organization dedicated to protecting communities from the dangers associated with fracking, announced today that it submitted a ballot measure to establish common sense 2,500 foot buffer zones between oil and gas development and occupied buildings, such as homes and schools, and vulnerable areas, such as playgrounds and drinking water sources.
“Colorado Rising was started by Coloradans who live in or near impacted communities and are committed to the health and safety of people in our state, because if we don’t protect Colorado, no one else will,” said Tricia Olson, with Colorado Rising.
Fracking is ramping up in Colorado once again, and future activity is on a collision course with eight out of ten of Colorado’s fastest growing communities.1 Massive industrial frack pads are planned alarmingly close to elementary schools in Erie, Lafayette and Thornton. This is despite 12 oil and gas blasts and explosions since the Firestone explosion eight months ago that left two people dead.2 Thousands of ongoing complaints that have been submitted to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission about health effects, noxious chemical smells outside of homes, and persistent noise pollution from around the clock industrial activity.
“Fracking is hazardous to our health, poses serious safety risks, and compromises our home values. It’s a bad neighbor,” said Suzanne Cabral, a registered nurse and mother who has been working to protect her community from fracking through the local group North Metro Neighbors for Safe Energy. “I’m concerned about my children’s health and future generations. This industry is responsible for 30-40% of asthma-inducing smog that gives the Front Range an “F” air quality grade by the American Lung Association.”
In Colorado, oil and gas setbacks are currently a mere 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. A 2,500-foot buffer zone (almost one-half mile) aligns with the Colorado School of Public health study, which found that the most grave health impacts from fracking activities are experienced by people living within one-half mile of operations. The increased buffer would also help to keep more homes and schools out of the blast zone of potential oil, fracked gas, and chemical explosions.
“Our children are precious and vulnerable, and it is absolutely clear after a leak mere feet from an elementary school playground in Erie, that we must protect them,” said Patricia Nelson, whose child attends Bella Romero Academy in Greeley, where Extraction has requested a permit to frack just a few yards from the school playground. “We cannot continue to risk their health and safety, after all the only party who benefits is the oil and gas industry.”
Health studies show that fracking operations pose grave risks to public health and safety. Just last week, Princeton University released a major study that analyzed 1.1 million babies and found that infants born within 1 kilometer (.62 miles) of a well were 25% more likely to have low birth weights than infants more than 3 kilometers away (1.9 miles) and also showed significantly lower scores on a standard index of infant health. Additional health studies clearly link the toxic emissions from oil and gas development to certain types of cancer, respiratory problems, endocrine disruption and birth defects.
Unfortunately, today in Colorado, there are no concrete ways to keep fracking out of communities. To date, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the regulatory agency that is charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, has never denied a single permit. In light of that record, the buffer zone ballot initiative submitted is designed to protect Colorado communities.
“The state of Colorado and the oil and gas industry have utterly failed to protect Colorado communities from the dangers of fracking. Now it is up to us as Coloradans, to insist that our families health and the future of our communities take precedence over this irresponsible and dangerous industry.” said Suzanne Spiegel, with Colorado Rising. “Together, we can vote to protect our families and our way life.”
“It is time to put Coloradans’ health and safety first by establishing common sense buffers between hazardous fracking operations and our homes, schools, playgrounds and drinking water sources,” said Micah Parkin, with Colorado Rising. “Colorado is rising for a safe and healthy future, and we invite all our neighbors to join us.”
More information is available at www.corising.org.