Every Breath You Take

As new industry front groups pop up across the West, those of who live here are growing increasingly wary of ‘non-profits’ run by industry public relations professionals.  Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development sounds real nice, and we’re happy industry in Colorado understands energy development should happen responsibility.  But as Colorado air quality continues to be threatened by oil and gas operations, it’s time for folks to take the problem seriously.  Throwing more money at PR campaigns and radio ad buys won’t help us all breathe a little easier.  Coloradans are growing tired of more than just industry and their front groups.  Unfortunately, Gov. John Hickenlooper has become complicit in their spin. It’s time industry holds up their end of the bargain when it comes to responsibly developing our natural resources and it’s time Colorado’s governor holds their feet to the fire.

Coloradans overwhelmingly believe in a balance between energy development and conservation, and at Western Values Project we know we all benefit from the jobs created by conservation and energy development.  But spoiling our air shouldn’t just be a cost of doing business. Colorado’s children shouldn’t be subjected to increasing levels of cancer causing emissions like benzene. With the right safeguards and enforcement, we can ensure that we continue to enjoy all that Colorado has to offer and ensure the state continues to be a great place to raise a family and do business. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

As oil and gas production across the West hits a 50-year high, there is growing pressure on the oil and gas industry to reduce air pollution.  Earlier this year the Coloradoan reported 75 percent of air pollution violations came from the oil and gas industry.  The Denver Post released a damning report in July, highlighting the growing air pollution problem in Colorado and as Post Reporter Bruce Finley points out, the Denver metro area and nine surrounding counties are already failing to meet federal air quality standards.

Last week to both fanfare and ridicule, Gov. Hickenlooper released Colorado’s new logo and accompanying tagline, an effort that included input from Coloradans and considerable funding from folks across the state.  The new logo includes the tagline “It’s Our Nature” an obvious hat tip to Colorado’s many natural wonders.  In fact, economists have noted that protected public lands in Colorado increase per capita income by thousands. Last year alone, tourism was Colorado’s second largest industry and each year many small businesses locate right here in Colorado because of access to public lands and the quality of life Colorado offers.

Yet even as air quality standards in Colorado and across the West continue to be endangered, Gov. Hickenlooper has delayed tougher air quality rules until next year, threatening our livelihoods and health.  Right now, the Hickenlooper administration is drafting new rules meant to safeguard our communities and he has the opportunity to stand with Coloradans. As new industry front groups continue to hide behind slick PR campaigns filled with imagery of Colorado’s treasured landscapes, Coloradans sure aren’t fooled.  They expect others to hold up their end of the bargain.  And they expect their Governor to do the same.

Energy development is an important piece of Colorado’s economy, but diversity is key to a healthy and strong economy.  Our government shouldn’t be in the business of making short-term concessions to a single industry that could negatively affect our entire economy in the future.  Coloradans depend on clean air to work, to play, and to thrive.  And they expect their representatives in government and industry to monitor and to clean up mistakes when they’re made.  It’s a responsibility that should be taken seriously.  Westerners take great pride in being good stewards of the land.  Our health and our economy depend on it.  It’s time industry and Gov. Hickenlooper remember that.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.