Six months ago, a small group of local activists had a big impact on the debate over oil and gas development in Erie, Colo. The group, called Erie Rising, claimed the town had dangerously poor air quality – worse than Houston and Los Angeles – and blamed it all on the energy industry. It was a shocking revelation.
The Erie Board of Trustees almost immediately called for a moratorium on local permitting for new oil and gas wells, and Erie Rising became an overnight sensation with national environmental activist groups and Hollywood actors like Mark Ruffalo.
There was just one problem: those claims weren’t true. In the weeks that followed, Erie town officials commissioned two expert air quality studies, and both found there was no danger. Not only that: environmental data from the Obama administration showed the Denver metropolitan area had much better air quality than Houston, Los Angeles and about 30 other major U.S. cities. In other words, Erie Rising’s ringleaders had scared their neighbors and elected officials without cause.