Thought Piece

[Lily Tomlin was right: “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”


Hide Behind Kids in Oil and Gas Lawsuit

by Aileen Yeung 12:12pm EDT April 10, 2017, Denver, CO

In what the industry has called a flawed decision that imperils jobs and incomes, the Colorado Court of Appeals recently sided with youth environmentalists in a lawsuit against the state’s chief oil and gas regulators. That is, the court sided with youth environmentalists backed by national activist groups that have a track record of using kids to get press and lobby the state legislature. Now, these groups are trotting the kids out as they take their rejected anti-fossil fuel agenda to the courts – after failing the first two times.

In this case, the petitioners sued the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) after the state regulatory agency denied their request to suspend approving oil and natural gas development unless it can be demonstrated that drilling “does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.”

The media has described the petitioners in the case, aged 13 to 16, as “a group of teenagers,” “six underage plaintiffs,” “some Colorado children.” “Colorado Appeals Court Sides With Teens Seeking to Block Fracking,” Bloomberg BNA reports. “The kids win in court,” the Daily Camera headlined its editorial.

The parties involved, however, and the attorneys arguing the plaintiffs’ case, clearly show who the real players are: 350 Colorado, Sierra Club, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch (F&WW), F&WW-affiliate Frack Free Colorado – the same national groups that have tried to masquerade their national political campaign as anything but a national political campaign in Colorado, one failed media stunt at a time.

Just as this lawsuit is part of the same old “ban fracking” campaign, the same groups involved are using the same attorneys to argue their case: Julia Olson founded Our Children’s Trust based on “[t]he idea of having children front the campaign” against climate change and “the idea of signing up multiple children to be plaintiffs in the various lawsuits,” according to E&E News. The group partners with Greenpeace and Sierra Club.

Fellow attorney in the case Dan Leftwich has built his practice supporting extreme “ban fracking” activists in Colorado. He has advised Sierra Club and Sierra Club-affiliateFrack Free Boulder, argued that fracking “threatens our lives and liberties,” and spoken at an anti-fracking rally in Boulder, Colo., just two weeks ago. Leftwich also represents Be the Change, a political group that has compared the oil and gas industry to slavery and industry supporters to Nazis, and is an associate of self-styled “Fractivist” Shane Davis, who has encouraged the anti-fracking campaign to draw inspiration from “revolutionary humanitarian” Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist guerrilla leader who figured prominently in the communist overthrow of Cuba.

Sierra Club, Earthworks, and F&WW have already taken their “ban fracking” agenda to the courts in Colorado – and lost. Twice. Last summer,, F&WW, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and a host of other national “ban fracking” groups failed to collect enough signatures to put anti-fracking measures onto the state ballot.

For national activist groups, “signing up multiple children to be plaintiffs in the various lawsuits” is consistent with their age-old tactic of deploying children as visual aids and training children to lobby their agenda.

“Some examples of great visuals from past hearings include … Holding your baby with you at the podium, or pushing them in strollers, baby car seats, baby-bjorns,” reads a Sierra Club handout preparing activists to provide comment at public hearings. “Older children also welcome.”

Unfortunately for these groups, even the involvement of kids in a lawsuit does not change the fact that the fringe campaign they are peddling has no place in Colorado.