DENVER—Patagonia’s crusade against hydraulic fracturing in Colorado has drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers, who are calling on the California outdoor-clothing company to reconsider its position.
In a stinging letter to Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan, five legislators representing northwest Colorado ask him to “take even a few moments to learn the scientific facts about a production process which you so vocally disparage.”
The legislators signing the letter are Republicans Randy Baumgardner, Steve King, Ray Scott, Bob Rankin and Jared Wright.
“[W]e would like to call your attention to the damage your recent and ill-thought out anti-fracing campaign is doing to the people and economy of both our region and our state,” said the two-page letter, sent the week of Nov. 4-8. “The damage that may be caused is all the more regrettable because your statements are not based on any facts about the world of fracing.”
Patagonia’s summer catalog included an anti-fracking essay by Sheahan that criticized the extraction process as a “Faustian bargain.” Patagonia is based in Ventura, Calif., but Sheahan singled out Colorado’s oil-and-gas development for criticism.
“In Colorado, where the industry has a long history and is expanding rapidly, there are 48,000 active wells and 5,000 documented spills of toxic chemicals to date,” said Sheahan in the essay. “Over 47 percent of the spills from January 2003 to March 2008 contaminated groundwater or surface water, according to the Oil and Gas Accountability Project.”
In their letter, the Senate Republicans point out that Patagonia sells clothing made of polyester and nylon, which are petroleum-based, and that its catalogs cater to customers who can afford high-end outdoor hobbies like skiing, rock-climbing and surfing.
“We would ask you to bear this in mind as well: a frac-free western Colorado would mean a largely Patagonia-free western Colorado,” said the letter. “The quality products you provide are, after all, luxury items for most people, which by definition are not items that people buy when they do not know where the income to buy food is going to come from.”
The oil-and-gas industry provides 10,000 direct jobs in western Colorado and thousands more indirect jobs. A ban on fracking would “result in all 14 drilling rigs currently operating in this part of the state being shut down,” said the letter.
“Without economic development, people simply cannot afford the recreational activities that are the lifeblood of your company,” said the Senate Republicans.
Patagonia is known for its environmental activism, which includes selling the anti-fracking documentary Gasland on its website.
A June 17 article in the pro-industry website Energy in Depth called Sheahan’s essay a “publicity stunt.”
“[I]f Sheahan really felt that the oil and gas industry should be shut down, he should stop production on all Patagonia petroleum-based products, at the very least,” said the article by Courtney Loper. “We know that won’t happen, because while he’d like his activist friends on the East and West coasts to think he’s one of them, he’s also a shrewd businessman who recognizes that his brand cannot exist without oil and natural gas.”
Patagonia spokeswoman Jess Clayton said she had not yet seen the legislators’ letter, and wanted to obtain a copy before commenting.