Broomfield Official Remains Defiant After Emails With Anti-Fracking Activist Exposed
A local official in Broomfield, Colo., is under fire this week for his conversations with an environmental activist who has advocated violence against oil and natural gas workers.
At a June 13 meeting, Councilman Kevin Kreeger faced criticism for communicating with Andrew O’Connor before and after the activist’s call in a letter to the editor for oil and gas opponents to “blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers.”
Two community members who spoke at the Tuesday meeting in Broomfield were angry about Kreeger’s dealings with an outside activist – O’Connor lives in neighboring Boulder County. They also said Kreeger failed to defend fellow council member Liz Law-Evans from a series of abusive e-mails sent by O’Connor.
“I was shocked to learn that a member of this city council would have dealings with someone like Andrew O’Connor,” said Camille Cave of Broomfield, who called O’Connor a “fringe environmental activist who wants to completely eliminate oil and gas development, not just change the way it is regulated.”
“Instead of defending his colleague from this vicious bullying, Kevin Kreeger encouraged O’Connor for being ‘blunt’ and sharing his ‘feelings in an unfiltered manner,’” Cave said, quoting emails between the two that were uncovered under the Colorado Open Records Act and first reported by Western Wire.
“I think Kevin Kreeger owes the people of Broomfield an explanation and an apology to Liz Law-Evans,” said Cave, who described the emails between the councilman and O’Connor as sounding “like a real bromance, a mutual admiration society.”
Kreeger refused to apologize and gave a fiery defense of his actions. He called the criticism “disgusting and untrue” and tried to minimize the significance of his communications with O’Connor.
“The truth is I have never called for violence. I don’t believe that violence is the answer to any disagreement. I don’t believe anybody that opposes oil projects should call for violence. And I don’t think anybody that supports oil projects should call for violence,” Kreeger said.
Western Wire reported on Kreeger’s communications with O’Connor on May 26, but never stated or implied that Kreeger called for violence.
In an unusual move, Kreeger asked Mayor Randy Ahrens for permission to respond during the public comment period about the emails, rather than wait for councilmember reports.
Kreeger blasted what he called “substantial lies and misinformation spread” in the council’s first meeting since a Western Wire story revealed the email exchanges between the environmental activist and councilman this spring.
“I think it’s appropriate under this circumstance to clarify the record since so many people were just told something that is disgusting and untrue,” Kreeger said. The statements, he said, were “something so abhorrent that I believe it would [not] wait until the end of the meeting to be addressed”
“What’s truly unfortunate is the nasty, disgusting Washington D.C.-level of personal attacks that has come into our local politics,” said Kreeger. “It is good that I get to address this in a public forum,” he said.
In his public comments Kreeger acknowledged that O’Connor’s emails to other council members, including Law-Evans, whom O’Connor called an “idiot,” were over the line. “[O’Connor] said things to her that were nasty.”
Kreeger estimated that of the thousands of emails he has received from constituents and other members of the public, only about 40 came from O’Connor. Of those emails, Kreeger said, “I responded to something like two of them.”
The CORA documents reveal at least eight direct responses to O’Connor from Kreeger’s email address between March 1 and May 2. O’Connor’s letter to the editor in the Boulder Daily Camera calling for oil and gas opponents to “blow up wells” was published on April 19.
The following week O’Connor “unapologetically reiterated his stance on fracking” in a phone interview with Colorado Politics. “I wouldn’t have a problem with a sniper shooting one of the workers” at a well site, he told Colorado Politics. “I believe fracking is murder.”
“Call this observation biased, if you want, but if you’re hinting at killing your opponents, you’ve probably lost the argument,” wrote 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman in reaction.
A review of the CORA emails revealed that Denver Post Opinion Editor Cohen Peart also shared deep concerns when O’Connor approached the paper about another letter to the editor. “Do you truly believe it would be responsible for The Denver Post to publish a letter to the editor that seeks to incite violence against an industry – and therefore against its workers, who are your neighbors and mine?” Peart asked in her email. “I don’t.”
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office was prompted to take additional security measures at a meeting between O’Connor and representatives of the oil and gas at a title-setting hearing for a ballot initiative the activist proposed.
Kreeger told the council that he found O’Connor’s letter to the editor “disagreeable.” When O’Connor asked for feedback on May 2, Kreeger told him, “I want to be honest with you . . . as I always am to everyone . . . I am COMPLETELY against the Extraction project in Broomfield. And I know you are too. But I think you also walk a fine line if what you say could sound like you advocate violence against people.”
In May, Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc. announced it would not file applications for 40 wells in Broomfield, and instead seek to submit applications in neighboring Weld County, according to the Broomfield Enterprise.
On Tuesday, Kreeger appeared to suggest his complimentary attitude toward O’Connor preceded the April 19 letter to the editor. But Kreeger’s compliments on the ballot initiative effort came from an email dated April 24, nearly a week after the letter was published, and again in an email on May 2, in which he “applauded” O’Connor’s “energy and desire to fight for what’s right.”
That same day, after O’Connor compared hydraulic fracturing to “commercial terrorism” and said “Fracking is murder” and that “fracking workers are mercenaries,” he asked Kreeger, “Is anything I wrote not true?”
In the following email, Kreeger thanked O’Connor for the “clarification.” “I think we are at a tipping point. We’re there partly because so many people who would not normally be outraged, are outraged now,” Kreeger wrote.
An earlier March 9 email from the councilman to O’Connor with the subject line “Re: Colorado Oil and Gas Industry Initiative” revealed more about the Broomfield councilmember’s thoughts on hydraulic fracturing.
Kreeger told O’Connor, “My thoughts are that there’s too much fracking in the middle of residential areas. Especially since we’re exporting natural gas to 14 other countries. We’re a net exporter as a country.” Kreeger then asked O’Connor what type of support he was enlisting for the initiative. “Letter of support? Before or after the bill is introduced in committee?”
At the June meeting, Kreeger sought to distance himself from O’Connor’s public statements, while remaining defiant on the email story.
“And in no case, ever, and I cannot be more clear on this, do I ever think that violence is an appropriate response for either side of this issue,” said Kreeger.“Let’s stop this stupid, disgusting personal attack policy in order to win our arguments on the Extraction project,” he said.