BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

"Nice Grass," Chevron

Several years ago, while working on a story about natural gas development on Colorado's Roan Plateau for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, then-Colorado Oil and Gas Association rep Kathy Hall had some interesting things to say about drilling and its impacts on wildlife.

Elk love the "nice grass" energy companies plant when they reclaim well pads decades after they're drilled.

She once said that natural gas "fracking" fluid and other drilling chemicals are so harmless, she'd gladly put fracking fluid in her mouth.

Well, thanks to research and excellent reporting from ProPublica, they confirm what most generally skeptical people had always suspected: Ya can't trust what the industry tells you about the impacts of drilling because they don't necessarily know the truth themselves and there are many, many unanswered questions about the safety of natural gas drilling and the chemicals used in the process.

Of course, many people in Colorado take industry word (nearly) for gospel, and push for full development of the West's natural resources, assuming that the consequences are either worth the environmental cost or aren't as bad as gloom-and-doom liberals and enviros claim. Maybe they're not, but a healthy dose of skepticism is always — always! — necessary.

Maybe those who seem so hell-bent against any sort of industry regulation, particularly when it comes to regulating polluting industries, should follow Colorado's Republican Declaration of Principles written by the Colorado Republican Study Committee (click the "Why Republican?" link), which states explicitly, "Polluters should be liable for the harm they cause others," and extols the virtues of Western conservation.

Oh, wait... the Declaration of Principles used to say that. Since those principles appeared on the Larimer County GOP's Web site some time ago, the party's Western conservation principles have changed.

Here's what Western conservation means according to the old principles and the Larimer GOP's Web site: "Public Policy should encourage effective water, soil and energy conservation, pollution control, healthy forests, wildfire protection, public access to government lands and the preservation of the legacy of the natural resources and the natural beauty of Colorado.  Private property rights encourage stewardship of resources.  Government subsidies and eminent domain often degrade the environment.  Market incentives spur individuals to conserve resources and protect environmental quality.  Polluters should be liable for the harm they cause others."

Things are different today. All that warm and fuzzy stuff about "preservation of the legacy of the natural resources" and the bleeding-heart John Denver bong-hitting "Rocky Mountain High" blather about "the natural beauty of Colorado" was dropped.

Today, the principles have gained a measure of testosterone and take-charge corporate manliness: "Public policy should honor private property ownership and encourage free market policies. Western conservation empowers the private sector to exercise personal responsibility to conserve the natural resources of Colorado for future generations."

To that I say, "Nice grass."