As fractivists gear up for a new battle to ban energy development, we decided to take a closer look at the Colorado players with financial links to the Russians.
Western Resource Advocates, which bragged in a press release last week that oil and gas task force member Matt Sura was also their consultant, has received $5.4 million in direct funding from the Sea Change Foundation.
That’s right, we’re saying it: A member of Gov. Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force is linked to the scandal, that is Russian government and oil industry ties to millions of dollars pouring into anti-fracking environmental groups in the U.S.
According to a U.S. Senate report, it started with the Sea Change Foundation that was created in 2005, which has been flooded with mysterious funding “from a Bermuda based corporation that deliberately hides the source of their funds.” Numerous reports have since revealed the Bermuda corporation tied to Russia is called Klein Ltd.
As a practical matter, an overseas company contributing tens of millions to organizations dedicated to abolishing the use of affordable fossil fuels is highly problematic, the Senate report said about Klein Ltd.
The Peak reviewed Sea Change’s IRS filings from 2010 through 2013, which shows that $5.4 million went directly to the Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. Where do these advocates stand on the issue of local control in order to ban fracking? Here’s what they said in a statement last week:
“While a handful of modest recommendations were adopted addressing health studies and regulatory staffing, the Task Force didn’t give residents and local governments the tools they need to manage the industrial oil and gas development that we are seeing in Colorado today. The majority of members of the Task Force saw resolving the conflict between local government and oil and gas development as the central issue. Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry blocked the most meaningful recommendations on local government’s role in protecting its citizens … Unless the industry and the state do a better job of collaborating with residents and local governments, we are going to continue to see more and more conflict over oil and gas development.”
And here’s what they had to say about Sura:
Matt Sura, consultant to Western Resource Advocates and an Oil and Gas Task Force member, believes that local governments share siting responsibility with the COGCC for oil and gas development – especially in watersheds.
“By federal and state statute, local governments have been given the responsibility to regulate development, including oil and gas development, in floodplains. Local government staff have the on-the-ground local knowledge and expertise needed to protect our water quality and public health and safety.”
Sura noted, “It is a sad irony that one day after the task force completed its recommendations intended to reduce conflicts between the state and local governments, the COGCC is engaged in rulemaking that ignores the role local governments play in permitting activities within watersheds.”
We admit, even we were shocked.
We don’t know the legal ramifications for foreign countries to influence state and local governments through shady environmental donations, but this sure as Hell stinks to high Heaven.
Russia’s bought-and-paid-for fracking wars scream for attention from our state and congressional leaders. Meanwhile, we’ll keep hammering away at the issue, which brings us to our second Colorado group.
Russia’s Sea Change’s fortune also trickled down to Conservation Colorado, that not only opposes fracking and criticized the oil and gas task force’s work, but passed more than $100,000 of its cash to campaigns against the recall elections of Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo.
Let’s follow the money, class. Sea Change gave $3 million to the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, which kicked $268,000 down to Conservation Colorado that in turn dropped $108,250 in the recall elections including $75,000 that was funneled through Taxpayers for Responsible Democracy — the same organization that collected $350,000 from then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
And what is Conservation Colorado up to now? Take a look at this press release last week from Executive Director Pete Maysmith:
“Five months after the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force convened, the recommendations put forward lack the substance needed to protect Coloradans and our environment from drilling and fracking. Today’s outcome had some gravy, but forgot the meat and potatoes. This despite the fact the Task Force heard loud and clearly from Coloradans in communities across the state that are being impacted; from to Durango to Rifle to Greeley — communities are asking for something to be done.”
This isn’t a complicated puzzle. Someone above our pay grade needs to examine the true extent of Russia’s influence on our regulatory and election process.