Reporting on energy summit, Daily Sentinel offered industry perspective only

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In April 17 articles about an energy summit in Utah, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction presented the viewpoints of energy industry advocates, but it did not provide any comments from environmental representatives who also attended the meeting.

Reporting on the Utah Energy Summit in an April 17 article, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction quoted energy industry representatives exclusively, and in contrast to other reporting failed to note that a number of environmental and governmental interests at the summit urged an increased reliance on renewable energy rather than focusing on the future of oil, gas, and coal production in the region. A second April 17 article in the newspaper described the support several Western governors have expressed for renewable energy development, but also did not report any comments or responses from the numerous environmental interests attending the summit.

Although the first article -- "Industry touts coal, natural gas as integral," by Daily Sentinel staff writer Bobby Magill -- reported that "[m]yriad members of the energy industry, some environmental groups and state government officials are gathering for three days ... to discuss the future of coal, oil and gas, oil shale and renewable energy in the West," it provided comments only from three individuals with direct interests in fossil fuel development.

The article quoted Duane Zavadil, vice president of Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. -- an oil and gas exploration business -- as saying, "Natural gas fits very well in a carbon-constrained environment." The article also noted that Zavadil had "tout[ed] natural gas as a clean-burning fuel that emits half the carbon dioxide as burned coal."

The Daily Sentinel also reported that Greg Schaefer of Arch Coal, which describes itself as "one of the nation's largest and most efficient coal producers" on its website, "called a coal deposit spanning both Utah and Colorado the 'rocket fuel' of the coal industry," and noted his assertion that "[a]ccess to that coal ... is critical."

Furthermore, the Daily Sentinel reported attorney James A. Holtkamp's claim that "[t]he Endangered Species Act is going to be another challenge for the coal industry." Holtkamp is manager of Denver-based law firm Holland & Hart's Environmental Compliance Group, which represents industry clients in matters of environmental litigation and permitting. The Daily Sentinel quoted Holtkamp as saying, "If the polar bear is listed (under the Endangered Species Act because it is threatened by global warming), what happens when someone wants to get a permit for a major energy project with climate change impact?"

In contrast to the Daily Sentinel's coverage of the summit, The Salt Lake Tribune noted on April 16 that "some environmental groups have criticized the summit organizer, Jim Sims, for his ties to extractive industry groups." The Tribune reported that "[i]n 2001, Sims managed communications for Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, a panel criticized for taking too much advice from the fossil fuel industry and doing so behind closed doors." As Tribune columnist Paul Rolly further noted on April 18, Sims -- like Holtkamp -- has concerns about placing polar bears on the Endangered Species List. According to Rolly, "Sims has a long and storied relationship with the fossil fuel industry. He recently sent an e-mail to associates urging they fight a proposal to place polar bears stressed by the melting polar ice caps on the Endangered Species List."

Unlike the Daily Sentinel, the Tribune also reported on the concerns expressed by conservation interests attending the summit -- in particular, by John Nielson, executive director of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, a nonprofit law and advocacy organization dedicated to "protect[ing] and restor[ing] the Interior West's land, air and water." On April 17, the Tribune reported Nielson's observation that "[a]ll renewable energy sources together account for about 2 percent of the mix in the seven Rocky Mountain interior states" and that "no state has more than 500 megawatts of renewable generation, far below what could be developed." Similarly, an April 17 article in the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City quoted Nielson as saying, "[P]roactive renewable energy policies [have] played a critical role" in fostering a greater commitment to renewable energy in Colorado.

Another Tribune article from April 18 noted that participating in the summit were "governors, researchers, academics, conservationists and utility and industry representatives." It reported that "[e]nvironmental activists quickly jumped on [Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen] Johnson" following his assertion that "greenhouse gases grew by less than 1 percent in 2005." According to the Tribune, critics "call[ed] his statement that a 0.8 percent increase in carbon dioxide and other emissions from 2004 to 2005 shows progress was little more than a 'spin.' "

A separate April 17 Daily Sentinel article on the summit -- "Govs: Renewable, traditional energy essential to future" -- noted the support for "[c]oal, natural gas and renewable energy" that the governors of Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada had pledged in a "unified effort to achieve energy independence in a time of climate change." While the article -- also by Magill -- noted that a number of Western governors broadly support renewable energy initiatives, it failed to report on the numerous environmental interests present at the summit and their collective concerns regarding energy development.

From Bobby Magill's article "Industry touts coal, natural gas as integral," in the April 17 edition of The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction:

[T]he coal industry is keeping a close eye on court proceedings that may determine the future of roadless land in the West, said Greg Schaefer of Arch Coal, which operates a coal mine near Somerset in the North Fork Valley.

Myriad members of the energy industry, some environmental groups and state government officials are gathering for three days this week at the summit, called by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, to discuss the future of coal, oil and gas, oil shale and renewable energy in the West.

"Natural gas fits very well in a carbon-constrained environment," Duane Zavadil, vice president of Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp., said, touting natural gas as a clean-burning fuel that emits half the carbon dioxide as burned coal.

The West's vast natural gas resources have the potential to prevent the United States from importing as much foreign oil as we do today.

"What if we used more natural gas for motor fuels?" he said.

Regardless of rhetoric claiming renewable energy must soon replace fossil fuels as a primary energy source because the earth will soon reach "peak oil," Zavadil said oil and gas should be "farmed" from the earth just as wheat is grown in a field.

"At the end of the day, there are fossil fuels available -- be it coal, oil, natural gas -- essentially into the foreseeable future to the point that (the end of the fossil fuels era) shouldn't be a factor in our discussions," he said.

Schaefer called a coal deposit spanning both Utah and Colorado the "rocket fuel" of the coal industry. Access to that coal, he said, is critical.

Arch Coal, he said, is monitoring the status of the 2001 Roadless Rule "to make sure we have access to the mineral."

[...]

The Endangered Species Act is going to be another challenge for the coal industry, said James A. Holtkamp, manager of the Environmental Compliance Group of Denver law firm Holland and Hart.

Watch out for the polar bear, he said.

"If the polar bear is listed (under the Endangered Species Act because it is threatened by global warming), what happens when someone wants to get a permit for a major energy project with climate change impact?" he said.

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