Frack wars: Groups call for Matt Lepore to resign, while Jared Polis sues to stop drilling

Matt Lepore.
A coalition of several dozen grassroots consumer, environmental, business and farming groups is pushing for the resignation of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director Matt Lepore, after his off-the-cuff comments last week referring to anti-fracking activists as essentially rich and clueless. Meanwhile a fracking critic who could be described as rich but not exactly clueless -- U.S. Representative Jared Polis -- has gone to court to try to shut down a noisy, smelly drilling operation next to property he owns in Weld County.

As we previously reported, Lepore remarked at an energy conference in Loveland that people who oppose the hydraulic fracturing process -- which involves using massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals to extract oil and gas from tight shale formations -- tend to be "armed with misinformation" and affluent and thus unconcerned about rising energy costs. That blithe dismissal, coming from a former industry attorney who now heads the agency responsible for overseeing oil and gas development across the state, drew responses ranging from outrage to ridicule from fracktivists, who've long maintained that the COGCC is too closely allied with the industry it's supposed to regulate.

John Hickenlooper.
Lepore kinda sorta apologized for those comments late last week, calling them an "overgeneralization" and an "improper leap." But that hasn't appeased his critics. The latest broadside is a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper from 47 anti-fracking and community groups, ranging from Local Farm First to the Poudre Valley Green Party to the Save Our Snow Foundation, calling for Lepore's resignation.

The letter, accompanied by statements from public school teachers, small business owners and others who felt "insulted" by Lepore's characterization, blasts the COGCC's leadership and Lepore. For example:

"The COGCC has a sordid record when it comes to protecting Coloradans. Under Mr. Lepore's leadership, the agency has engaged in two lawsuits against the City of Longmont in order to force the placement of fracking wells next to homes and schools. Under the COGCC's watch, oil and gas have contaminated groundwater in 17 percent of the 2,078 spills over the past five years.

The COGCC has never met a well it did not like, permitting a record number of over 50,000 active fracked wells in the state, hundreds of which are located next to homes, schools and public parks. And finally, the agency also failed to meet its statutory requirement to protect the public by inspecting wells yet lobbied against hiring more inspectors."

Jared Polis.
Affluent congressman Polis can't claim to be a working stiff, but he has his own beef with the COGCC after trucks and equipment started setting up a drill rig last week adjacent to a farm he owns near Berthoud. He's filed a motion for a restraining order in Denver District Court and has an op-ed coming out in the Sunday Daily Camera about the situation; in an interview with the Camera, he explained that "I'm going public and talking about it because it's happening to a lot of other people in Colorado. This can happen to anybody."

Can a congressman's influence and resources prove any more effective in stopping the march of drilling rigs across the Front Range than the grassroots efforts? If so, then that could demonstrate how wrong Lepore's remarks were. If the fracktivists were as affluent as he claims, then those 50,000 permits never would have gotten issued in the first place.

More from our Environment archive: "Fracktivists are rich and clueless? Commission head Matt Lepore retreats after 'improper leap.'"

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DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Jared Polis = Zero Credibility, after having LIED on the Congressional Record falsely claiming that the first American Flag was made of hemp.


By the time "caring" Coloradans, not the neo-conservative sheep in Weld County who've been contaminating the land long before O&G development spiked, catch on to what's happening the State will be a pittance of its former self. You simply can't inject this much toxicity (50,000 fracked wells X 1-5 million gallons water/chemicals per fracking X 2-5 frack jobs per well) into our local habitat and hope for the best. 

Living amidst beetlekill in the high country is a less risky and more appealing proposition all of a sudden. Oh yeah, the COGCC is permitting 1000s of gallons of untreated drilling waste water to be dumped in North Park's tributaries on a daily basis.

Shit, where's a guy to move to in CO for relative safety?

RobertChase topcommenter

With estimates of natural gas reserves in the US having tripled in the recent past, the relatively low cost of natural gas, and a dearth of evidence that fracking has damaged aquifers, the crusade against fracking is politically doomed.  I favor drastically slowing the use of this technology until its environmental consequences are better understood; gas left in the ground will be there to extract later should we need it.  The worst aspect of fracking is that it diverts attention and investment away from the development of viable carbon-neutral technologies capable of substitution for fossil fuels.  Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) may offer the safe, abundant, cheap, and carbon-neutral source of electricity we need to shift away from the use of fossil fuels, but after having performed the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment demonstrating the feasibility of the nuclear part of the cycle at Oak Ridge in 1965, we have done nothing to develop this technology.  As a matter of national security, we need to investigate LFTR urgently, and if it proves feasible, speed its development and deployment.  See to learn about LFTR (which consumes rather than produces plutonium and other long-lived radionuclides and is intrinsically safe against runaway nuclear reactions and meltdown).


@michael.roberts @ColoradoShu It's some stark reality that we're all facing. I wish it wasn't so as I've got a family to look out for.

 Even in NY State where 200+ communities have implemented full out "BANS" on fracking, the legislature still won't appropriate a measly $100k to fund a study of its health impacts. 

The O&G Industry's grip on our Kleptocracy is as tight as Corey Gardner's grip on the tube of Crazy Glue he's purported to be sniffing.

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