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The center, which calls itself a “nonpartisan engagement center,” announced its findings in a blog post this month. Staff members worked with Washington, D.C.,-based political communications firm GMMB to retrieve publicly available financial filings from television and radio stations in the Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction markets.
The analysis comes amid ballot initiatives proposed by activists to give local governments authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Known as fracking, the drilling technique involves pumping fluid into a drilled hole to extract oil and gas from shale formations thousands of feet underground.
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“Since its inception in September 2013, the group has been plastering Colorado’s airwaves, public buses and mailboxes with paid advertising,” says a blog post on the center’s website. “But until now, Coloradans have had no sense of just how much money the group is spending on this massive public relations campaign.”
The center’s figure does not include spending on online advertising and ads on buses.
Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development has sought to educate Colorado residents about fracking through the radio and TV advertisements because people get their information through such media, spokesman Jon Haubert said. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) and Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL), two of the largest oil and gas companies in Weld County that supported increased statewide emissions regulations, fund the organization.
“We have been open and transparent about who we are, our mission to educate Coloradans and who is funding our efforts,” he said. “Since the beginning, we’ve acknowledged the oil and natural gas industry needed to do a better job at explaining what fracking is – and most importantly — what it isn’t.”
Haubert said it’s not surprising that the organization has spent money on “setting the record straight.” He noted that opponents of fracking also have spent money to “aggressively spread misinformation about fracking.”
In addition to the $2.4 million in advertisement between October and March, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development has bought $586,000 in advertising through June, according to the center.
The center does not support a ban on fracking, but rather strong regulations on industry and protections for human health and the environment, said Jessica Goad, advocacy director for the center.
“We wanted to look behind the curtain a little bit to see what exactly this PR campaign was costing the industry so far,” she said. “We tried to get a comprehensive look at what they were spending, but weren’t able to do that since we can only track their TV and radio spending.”