Whenever communities come together to push back against the oil and gas industry, they can always expect a tough fight. The fracking industry relies on its strong bipartisan political ties and its deep pockets to silence communities that want to protect their homes and families from fracking. So it came as no surprise that during the months-long effort by Food & Water Watch and our local allies to collect enough signatures in Colorado to protect local rights to say no to fracking, the industry tried to stop us.
Our staff, volunteers, and allies worked long hours and even pulled all-nighters to collect the signatures we needed, and we faced opposition every step of the way. Because so many Coloradans supported these anti-fracking measures, the industry had to resort to downright dirty tricks to discourage people from signing:
1. They piled the airwaves with TV and radio ads.
By spending more than $13 million dollars – at least 40 times our campaign’s budget – industry opponents were able to run ad after ad on TV, radio, and in the mail, trying to paint organizers and volunteers collecting signatures as “out of state activists” and “extremists” coming to Colorado to “ban oil and gas development.” But this huge effort to keep fracking out of Colorado’s schoolyards and neighborhoods was truly a grassroots movement led by a coalition of local groups made up of homeowners, neighbors and concerned Coloradans.
2. They flooded public events with anti-petition materials.
Industry groups and their friends showed up at festivals and fairs, trying to appear fun and lighthearted, and paid for booths where they handed out magnifying glasses and set up funhouse mirrors. Their deceptive message? Petitions and petition gatherers can distort the truth. But we see another message in this cheap funhouse mirror stunt: the fracking industry is frightened by people learning the clear truth.
3. They circulated their own pro-fracking petitions.
After going to such lengths to cast suspicion on our petition collectors, wouldn’t it be ironic for these well-funded industry groups to hire petition collectors of their own? But that’s just what they did. For months, pro-fracking campaigns circulated petitions against ballot measures that would restore communities’ rights to protect themselves from fracking.
4. They bought billboards and drove billboard trucks warning people not to sign.
In an attempt to spread their false message as far as they could, pro-fracking groups set up billboard ads telling people not to sign petitions for ballot measures 75 and 78. Taking it a step further, trucks carrying glass boxes filled with fake money and signs saying “Don’t sign away billions in revenue” drove through the state—a manipulative and misleading tactic to glorify the fracking industry’s mantra of profit over people.
5. They hired protesters to hold signs and intimidate state residents.
Finally, in their most aggressive and egregious tactic yet, pro-fracking groups hired protesters to harass and follow our signature gatherers and intimidate them. These hired agitators would appear with banners, cameras, and in costume when our petitioners were trying to collect signatures. At times, we needed police and security personnel to ensure Coloradans could freely participate in a legal, democratic process. Their harassing tactics made a sham of law, order and democracy – period.
Thanks to the resolve of the anti-fracking movement and dedication of so many volunteers, our signature gatherers refused to be intimidated and worked overtime to collect well more than the required 200,000 signatures.
We’re still waiting for the final word on whether our measures qualified for the ballot, but this historic effort proved that when communities come together to stand up to the oil and gas industry, we can accomplish incredible things. If you’re outraged by what the industry did in Colorado, chip in to help us fight fracking in Colorado and communities across the country. Together, we will win against dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and the corporations profiting off them.