Oil and Gas Not to Blame for Colorado’s Drone Swarms

On December 26, Coloradan Jennifer Rollins captured a minute of footage of a drone as it hovered above her home for around half an hour. A few days later, another Coloradan captured similar footage.

Throughout December, residents in northeastern Colorado and parts of Nebraska began to report similar drone sightings in the skies at night. The enigmatic machines are larger than average, with an estimated wingspan of six feet. Several citizens have reported not individual drones hovering in the skies, but entire swarms of drones flying in perfect formation. In one case, the flock numbered as many as seventeen. Sightings have only picked up frequency in the weeks since rural Coloradans began to call authorities, but authorities remain stumped. 

The lack of information has given rise to several conspiracy theories about the origin of the drones, chief among them the (incorrect) belief that the oil and gas industry is behind the mystery.

The Colorado Boogeyman

It would seem that the venom being aimed at the Colorado oil and gas industry isn’t restricted to the courtroom. Perhaps that explains why one of the most popular conspiracy theories used to define the drones is that an oil and gas company is using them for a secretive mapping project.

Here’s one tweet from a nervous Coloradan.

Of course, there’s no proof (or reason) for the oil and gas industry to be behind the mysterious drone appearances. In fact, as much as the niche group of anti-energy advocates would love some proof of oil’s part in the mystery, there is none.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association spokesperson Jake Taylor soundly dismissed the possibility that oil and gas had a guiding hand in the phenomenon. The New York Times also poked a hole in the “survey theory” with one logical question: if they’re looking at the land, why are the drones only appearing at night? Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to do their fly-bys during the day?

Anxiety in Eastern Colorado

To date, even a federal investigation has not yielded results. The mystery of Colorado’s drones remains unsolved. Efforts to uncover the culprit are about to step up, however. On Thursday, Colorado governor Jared Polis pledged to begin his own investigation.

Until then, residents of eastern Colorado will have to turn their cameras to the sky in the hopes of unraveling the mystery.

GPA Photo Archive/Flickr

Land and Water Conservation Fund to Spend $170 Million on State Parks

Finally, a victory everyone can agree on. 

In early September, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced more than $170 million in federal grants would be allocated to shore up the nation’s outdoor recreation areas and national parks. What’s more, the awards are set to come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal initiative funded entirely by offshore oil and gas leases.

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Tony Webster/flickr.com

COGA Rises to the Top

It’s a time of great flux in Colorado.

First-year governor Jared Polis has taken it upon himself to turn the state’s in-house energy proponent, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), into a body focused on regulation, not support of the state’s oil and gas industry. In the vacuum created by the COGCC’s forced transformation, however, another group has stepped forward to assume the role of energy-industry champion.

Perhaps Governor Jared Polis thought he was ridding himself of opposition when he gutted the COGCC, but he didn’t count on the folks at the Colorado Oil and Gas Organization (COGA) picking up the fight.

A Friend Among Tradespeople

Since they were founded in 1984, the people of COGA have pursued the environmentally-responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas reserves with quiet determination. While the COGCC gave quotes to the press, COGA stuck to trade professionals, accruing a membership of hundreds of companies filled with like-minded employees.

The guiding philosophy behind COGA was (and still is) the quiet support of the thousands of men and women supported by the state’s oil and gas industry. That work was made more complicated in the wake of the drastic changes overtaking the COGCC.

Marching Forward in a New Colorado

At COGA’s recent Energy Summit, Haley invited Governor Polis to speak at a forum entitled, “Can You Still Drill for Oil in a Blue State?” It’s a pressing question in a state where oil and gas employees are in fear for their economic well-being. Though he accepted the invitation and showed up to the event, Polis still dismissed the entire topic of the conversation as “silly.”

Over the next hour, Haley tried calmly to explain COGA’s concern for the state’s energy future, even as the governor repeatedly scoffed at those fears.

Taking the Reigns

Throughout 2019, CEO and president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Dan Haley, has become a fixture in the headlines. In just a few short months, he’s gone from the head of a benevolent trade organization to the de facto voice of Colorado’s oil and gas industry and, by extension, thousands of people who work in oil and gas each day.

When Adams County enacted new regulations in the last week, it was COGA and Dan Haley who stepped forward to call out the harsh rules for what they were: a ban on oil and gas development.

It was just the latest of a growing number of moments when a COGA rep has stepped up to speak out for the people on the ground in Colorado.