Frack Free Colorado is a “local” coalition that has led campaigns in Colorado localities to ban fracking and is pushing a statewide ballot initiative to similarly limit oil and gas development. Though the spokesperson for Frack Free Colorado, Russell Mendell, told Bloomberg that “Rumors that national groups are backing the local initiatives with unreported contributions aren’t true” and that the effort to ban fracking in the Colorado localities was “100-percent-volunteer done,” Frack Free Colorado itself was founded and funded by wealthy, out-of-state, environmental activist groups.
While FFC claims to be a grassroots movement of “concerned citizens,” in reality it is an anti-fracking umbrella organization backed by radical, out-of-state activists with deep pockets. The goal of the coalition is to “call for a concrete plan to move the state of Colorado away from natural gas and other dirty extractive industries and toward a renewable energy economy.”
FFC is both a member of coalitions (Local Control Colorado) and a coalition itself. It’s status as a coalition means it doesn’t have to register as a non-profit organization and file IRS 990 financial statements.
Phony Grassroots Origins
Frack Free Colorado works hard to keep the myth of its “local” origins alive. The two groups that reportedly founded this “local” coalition are Yoko Ono’s New York-based Artists Against Fracking and actor Mark Ruffalo’s New York-based Water Defense. Ruffalo’s Water Defense was a major player in helping Frack Free Colorado and several CO localities pass fracking bans, even bragging about its role on its website. But after the 2013 elections, Frack Free Colorado deleted all mentions of Water Defense from its website.
The ties between Water Defense and Frack Free Colorado run deep. As recently as July of last year, Frack Free Colorado and Water Defense shared a Manhattan-based press secretary, Ana Tinsely. And Mendell, Frack Free Colorado’s leader, worked for Water Defense as recently as 2012.
Other founding members of Frack Free Colorado include Food & Water Watch, a wealthy D.C.-based anti-fracking group; Patagonia, a California-based maker of high-end outdoor clothing that funds a number of anti-fracking campaigns across the country; and Fractivist.com, a website run by one of the leaders of the Sierra Club’s Colorado chapters. Many of the same groups that make up FFC, a number of which are also not actually based in Colorado, are also affiliated with FFC.