After a petition urging Colorado officials to allow fracking was voted down, an ugly truth emerged: most of the signatories didn’t know their names were on the paper. The lobbyists behind the bid are now trying to remove the petition from public record.
The petition was filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and signed by 55 local business owner in the Fort Collins area. Or at least that’s what the lobbyists claimed.
After the city's lawmakers voted 5-2 to ban hydraulic fracturing inside city limits on February 19, three businesses listed among the signatories voiced their curiosity about how their names, in some cases misspelled, ended up on a petition they never supported.
Further investigation revealed that almost half of the signatures were fabricated or signed on behalf of business owners and not their businesses. Some signatories claimed they never endorsed fracking, knew nothing about the petition, or were misled and didn’t know they were signing it as an individual.
The signatures were collected by EIS Solutions, an energy consulting firm based hundreds of miles away in Grand Junction.
An EIS Solutions spokesman said the company “went to pains” to ask the people if they could speak on behalf of their respective business, while the COGA spokesperson said people “obviously knew” what they were doing when they signed the ‘Vote NO on the Fort Collins Fracking Ban’ petition.
The owner of Anders’ Auto Glass business, Tamara Olivett, obviously didn’t.
“I don’t even know what fracking is,” Olivett told coloradoan.com.
COGA was quick to announce that they acknowledged some “mistakes in the collection of signatures.” In several cases COGA was even unable to identify signatories in order to contact them to verify their intentions.
Citing these mistakes in an email to the Fort Collins city council, COGA's president and CEO said the lobby group wanted to “withdraw that petition from the record.”
But once a petition is part of the public record, it can’t be withdrawn or removed.
“We’re not giving it back,” said Rita Harris, Fort Collins' deputy city clerk.