An environmental group trying to shut down natural gas development in Erie, Colorado has been caught turning in a petition almost entirely signed by people not living in Erie.

In turning in 21,000 signatures the group, Erie Rising, was hoping for some great press, only to have it discovered that only about 100 signatures were from Erie residents. Doh!

From a guest commentary in The Denver Post yesterday:

A small group of environmental activists made the news last week with a petition against natural gas development in Erie. About 10 people, including the activists and their children, delivered copies of the petition to Encana Corporation's U.S. headquarters in Denver and Gov. John Hickenlooper's office, and made sure TV cameras came along for the ride. The petition included about 21,000 names gathered over the Internet, which sure sounds like a big number. There's just one problem: almost no one who signed the petition actually lives in Erie.  

All told, only about 100 Erie residents lent their name to petition, roughly one half of 1 percent of the town's population. In fact, hundreds more online signatures came from outside the country — Germany, Spain, Greece and Australia — than from inside the town. Erie's neighboring communities weren't persuaded, either, because barely 1,000 names came from the rest of Colorado. So where  did all those other names come from?  

The top three states were California, New York and Massachusetts, which together accounted for almost 9,000 names. Why so many from outside Colorado? Maybe it's because Erie Rising, the group that's trying to scare people in the Front Range suburbs by demonizing the oil and gas industry, called in a Washington-based pressure group called Food & Water Watch to run the campaign. [Peak emphasis]

This is a pretty common occurrence in the anti-drilling faction's latest war on energy independence. We've heard from a number of county commissioners and local officials that when energy issues come up they get a flood of anti-drilling form emails and letters, most usually from places out of town, out of state, and more often than you might expect, out of the country. 

Here's a lesson free of charge for the enviros — if you want to demonstrate support in a town, it's helpful to have people from that town, you know, show support. Governor Hickenlooper really doesn't care what some bloke from Britain thinks about energy development in Erie.

To Erie Rising's credit, unlike ACORN, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse don't appear to have signed the petition.