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Will industry-backed group be CRED-ible?

A new industry-backed group is spreading its message about oil, gas. Photo by Judith KohlerA new industry-backed group is spreading its message about oil, gas. Photo by Judith KohlerBefore there was CRED there was SFRED.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development –  SFRED –  formed in 2008 in the shadows of the Tetons. Hunters, anglers, land managers, scientists, conservationists and planners gathered out of urgent concern about the full-throttle oil and gas drilling occurring throughout the Rocky Mountain West. They wrote and publicized recommendations for re-establishing a balance between the need for energy and the jobs and revenue they produce and the need to protect our air, water, fish and wildlife. They wanted to maintain the Western way of life and the hunting, fishing and recreation that help sustain local economies.

Since then, the coalition’s lead partners – the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited – have organized sportsmen/women, lobbied local, state and federal officials for common-sense regulations and advocated for conserving public lands, hunting and fishing opportunities.

Street CRED?

Now here comes CRED, or Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development. CRED, which sounds a lot like SFRED, is buying prime-time TV ads to spread its message about the oil and gas industry’s “safe, environmentally responsible” practices. The new group likely has more money than SFRED to buy air time because it’s backed by the industry, which CRED’s website says generated $29.6 billion for the Colorado economy in 2012.

Another thing CRED has going for it? A cool acronym. They can say “We got CRED.” SFRED, pronounced Es-FRED, isn’t as catchy.

Here’s another difference. SFRED’s goal is to talk to regulators, elected officials, local residents and industry representatives to determine the best places and ways to drill or install wind turbines and solar panels and identify the spots unsuitable for energy development.

 Based on an interview with the Denver Business Journal, CRED members seem more interested in telling a story than engaging in conversations or making improvements. After all, no one's perfect. But representatives from Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy, the companies behind the group, said their focus isn't on policy, regulation or lobbying.  They told reporter Cathy Proctor that they will present facts and data to combat the misinformation from opponents of oil and gas drilling. 

That approach doesn’t leave much room for addressing legitimate concerns and questions about the effects of drilling and fracking near rivers, schools and houses. Not everyone who asks questions is an opponent of drilling. People who think the state should have more oil and gas inspectors, appropriate fines for violations and regulations to reduce spills and air pollution don’t necessarily want to shut down the industry.

Fracking fracas

Count SFRED members among those people. The group advocates for “responsible” energy development on public lands. That’s why SFRED supports updating the 30-plus-year-old federal fracking rules, something the industry is fighting. The industry doesn’t even want the feds to regulate fracking on federal land.

CRED representatives told the Denver Business Journal this week that the group wants to “ensure there is factual information from the industry, about the industry and its practices, including fracking, available and circulating in the public sphere.” Yet industry representatives balk at disclosing what’s in fracking fluids without being able to use the proprietary-information opt-out.

 The CRED website lists as a "fact" that layers of steel and cement are installed before fracking to protect underground drinking water sources but doesn't address the fact that problems with casings have led to contamination. In comments on the proposed federal fracking rules, SFRED said each cement well casing protecting usable water should be evaluated before fracking starts. Industry representatives have complained of the expense.

 With communities along Colorado’s Front Range considering fracking bans, there’s a lot of room for open dialogue and pro-active steps that might make people more comfortable with oil and gas drilling. Hunters and anglers would be happy to discuss reasonable buffers around waterways, effective reclamation practices and ways to conserve important wildlife habitat.

 Meaningful discussion among industry and the public and support for best practices could boost the credibility of CRED.

About the Author
Judith Kohler

Judith Kohler is the regional communications manager for the National Wildlife Federation in Boulder, Colo. Before joining NWF in 2011, she covered the environment, energy, politics and general news stories for The Associated Press in Colorado and Wyoming.

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