Despite having recently struck down local hydraulic fracturing (fracking) bans, Colorado continues to be the test ground and launching pad for increasingly well-organized and funded national anti-fossil fuel campaigns, the head of the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), Tim Wigley, told an audience at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference on Wednesday in Bismarck, ND.

Sounding an alarm and encouraging the oil/natural gas industry to get active, Wigley said the anti-fossil fuel group Keep It in the Ground has infiltrated the Democratic Party establishment with the announcement recently that national environmental writer/activist Bill McKibben, co-founder, has been named to the political party platform committee heading toward the national convention this summer in Pennsylvania.

Wigley reminded the industry audience that earlier this month the Keep It in the Ground movement carried out demonstrations in Colorado, one unsuccessfully attempting to block a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil/gas lease sale (see Shale Daily, May 13;April 14 ). Along with attempting to block the entrances to BLM lease sales, he alleged that the activists have had some of their supporters pose as news media representatives in the actual sales to gather information for the protest movement.

“In watching this effort, it is amazing how well organized and well funded it is,” Wigley said, claiming that California billionaire Tom Steyer, a climate change activist, has helped support Keep It in the Ground. “This is a challenge that the industry is going to see, especially in the last few months of the Obama administration, because there are a lot of folks in that administration that sympathize with these groups.”

For 2016, Wigley urged people to keep a close eye on Colorado because the anti-fossil fuel groups have zeroed in on the state since they worked to get five local fracking bans enacted, only to have them struck down earlier this month by the state Supreme Court (see Shale Daily, May 3).

Wigley said the local bans were established four years ago when the industry in the state was less aware and organized to counter the groups. As a result, WEA helped launch Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED). The local bans, along with some WEA opinion polling, were a wakeup call for the industry.

At the time, 90% of voters in Colorado had read or heard something about fracking, and more than two-thirds had a negative opinion of it, Wigley said. “Anytime you have a 90% awareness of anything, it is pretty impressive, and that is when we began educating the public about what we do and how we do it.”

Active in both the mining and timber industries in the past, Wigley is convinced that voters will side with industries when they know what they do, how they are regulated and what the industry does for the general consumer.