Oil and gas issue committee raises $2.1 million

A political issue committee formed to oppose ballot initiatives that attempt to limit or ban hydraulic fracturing has raised $2.1 million, according to a report filed Monday with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, formed by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC), Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) and other oil companies, received contributions from Calfrac Well Services Corp., PDC Energy Inc. (Nasdaq: PDCE) and Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL).

The largest contributions came from Noble Energy, Anadarko and Whiting Petroleum, which contributed $500,000 apiece. The report lists contributions made from Jan. 1 through April 30.

“Coloradans want balance,´ said Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for the issue committee. “They want to economically thrive while protecting the environment, keeping their utility costs low and becoming energy independent. Protect Colorado was set up to ensure just that.”

The issue committee reported spending of just $37.

Flood Ciruli, a Colorado pollster, expects spending to ramp up in September before the election in November, though other issue committees supporting the oil and gas industry have spent money, he said.

“The major expenditures will take place at the point that (local-control initiatives) could make the ballot,” he said.

The campaign finance report comes as the oil and industry faces challenges by activists who have proposed ballot initiatives to restrict hydraulic fracturing. Also known as fracking, the oil and gas drilling technique involves pumping fluid at high-pressure into a drilled hole to extract oil and gas from shale.

Anadarko and Noble Energy also formed Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a 501(c)(6) business league that has sought to educate residents on oil and gas development through advertisements. The nonpartisan Center for Western Priorities estimated that Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development spent $2.4 million on television and radio advertisements.

Observers expect total spending by the industry and activists of tens of millions of dollars by the Nov. 4 election.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is not alone in its fundraising to battle local-control ballot initiatives.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform, another issue committee comprised of businesses, nonprofits and other organizations, raised $770,000.

Contributions came from construction and mining companies as well as $50,000 from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and $25,000 from Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL) company. Coloradans for Responsible Reform reported nearly $144,000 in spending from January through April.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, a fracking critic, reportedly has funded local-control ballot initiatives. A spokesman has said Polis plans to back a ballot initiative that protects communities and homeowners from the effects of fracking.

“Unfortunately, the current law takes away our ability to choose what is best for our communities and families by forcing fracking to happen anywhere, anytime,” Polis said in a statement Monday after learning that the state Legislature would not take up a local-control bill.

“The people of Colorado are demanding a reasonable balance between energy development and their quality of life,” he added. “I will not stop fighting for a solution that does just that.”

The Polis spokesman declined to comment further.