The oil and gas industry's amateur attempt to mislead Fort Collins lawmakers

coloradoan.comThe oil and gas industry’s amateur attempt to mislead Fort Collins lawmakers.

Outlawing fracking in Fort Collins makes local business owners sad. At least, that’s what liars working for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association tried to tell local lawmakers.

Anders’ Auto Glass, Meneike Car Care Center, and Computer Renaissance were among 55 businesses whose names appeared with signatures on a petition that the association submitted to Fort Collins City Council. The petition urged city councilors to vote against a proposed ban on fracking within the city.

The petition failed. Following a two-hour Feb. 19 hearing, the council voted 5-2 to ban hydraulic fracturing in Fort Collins.

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But it turns out that none of those three businesses support fracking in their town, they told Fort Collins Coloradoan reporter Bobby Magill. Why on earth would they?

Following up on a tip, Magill hit the phone and reached 33 of the businesses listed on the petition. A full two-thirds of those denied signing or endorsing a petition opposing a ban on fracking in Fort Collins. Not only was the petition a big fat lie, it was a laughably amateur effort to deceive the city’s lawmakers. From the Coloradoan:

Cali Rastrelli’s name is signed at the bottom of a petition submitted to the council. At the top, the petition says in bold letters, “Vote NO on the Fort Collins fracking ban.”

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“Big Bill Pizza” is written in the blank where the signer could enter their business or organization.

“I haven’t signed any petition in the last month,” said Rastrelli, a Colorado State University student who lives in student housing. “I didn’t put my name on this. I’m not sure why somebody would have thought to sign my name.”

Big Bill Pizza, Rastrelli’s former employer, is in Centennial, and staff there were unaware of an effort to ban fracking in Fort Collins, said manager Leonna Gara.

Whoever signed Rastrelli’s name spelled it “Rasterelli.”

“I don’t know why I would have misspelled my own name,” she said.

The signatures were reportedly gathered by consulting company EIS Solutions. Memo to EIS and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association: Astroturfing shouldn’t be this hard! Hell, an intern going door to door with a bag of tacky corporate gifts and some printed propaganda should be able to return to the office with actual petition signatures.

By the end of last week, the association was acknowledging that “mistakes were made.” A subsequent internal audit “identified numerous areas for improvement.” Now association officials are trying to retract the petition. And they are failing. From Magill’s latest article:

“COGA has ascertained we made mistakes in the collection of signatures on a petition submitted to City Council last week opposing a ban on hydraulic fracturing,” COGA President and CEO wrote in an email to the council on Monday. “As a result, we withdraw that petition from the record.”

But Fort Collins city officials will not remove it from the public record, said Rita Harris, deputy Fort Collins city clerk.

“We’re not giving it back,” she said.

Once a petition is part of public record, it can’t be withdrawn, said City Councilman Gerry Horak.

If the oil and gas guys can’t get something like this right, why should they expect anybody to trust them to inject poisonous chemicals into their soil?