Billboards show view of energy industry

Messages question effects of drilling on hunting, environment

This billboard along Interstate 70 in Fruita is part of a campaign intended to raise questions about the drilling industry in the minds of motorists as they travel through Colorado.

Four organizations have purchased billboards in the Grand Valley and elsewhere in Colorado that raise questions about the drilling industry.

An industry group, however, called the campaign “a complete mischaracterization.”

One billboard, aimed at catching the eye of motorists coming into the state on Interstate 70, shows drilling rigs and other energy-related icons in silhouette against a fiery sunset backdrop, along with a cowboy tipping his forehead in apparent sorrow.

“Home, home on the range?” reads the caption on the billboard.

Another billboard, this one seen by outbound motorists, shows deer against a similar backdrop, with the caption: “Where the deer and the antelope played.”

The idea, said Peggy Rawlins of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, is to raise questions about the drilling industry in the minds of people who most likely are unaware of the effects of drilling in Colorado.

“They don’t understand how it affects the environment,” Rawlins said.

Dave Petersen of Durango, a co-chairman of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing pump more than $3 billion into Colorado’s economy each year and support 33,000 jobs.

“If we want to maintain the fish and wildlife, we have to maintain their habitat,” Petersen said.

The environmental groups, however, don’t understand the industry, said Kathy Hall of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Energy drilling, Hall said, contributes $23 billion to the state’s economy and employs 72,000.

“Without good-paying jobs, you can’t afford to get out and recreate,” Hall said. “Oil and gas people hunt and fish and play golf and mountain bike and climb mountains.”

Drilling and environmental concerns, she said, “are not mutually exclusive.”

One tangible goal for the campaign is to gain support for efforts to require energy companies to make public the chemicals they use to fracture the tight sands of the Piceance Basin to release natural gas.

Most people are unaware that the drilling industry is exempt from several environmental requirements under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal laws, Rawlins said.

One measure, H.R. 7231, was aimed at repealing the exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Reps. Diana DeGette and John Salazar, both Colorado Democrats, said they will reintroduce the measure in the next session of Congress.

Sponsors of the campaign, which will place billboards along I-70 through the Denver metro area, include Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Taxpayers for Common Sense.


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