During a recent congressional committee hearing, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), challenged the testimony of an oilfield worker regarding working conditions in the oil and gas industry and the impacts on communities from extraction practices.
She later misrepresented the testimony and insulted the witness in a speech to Colorado Republicans at the Fremont County Lincoln Day Dinner.
As a former roughneck working on drilling rigs, Michael Patrick Smith might initially be viewed as a sympathetic witness to Boebert’s pro-fossil fuel platform. Smith is generally supportive of oil and gas companies, he appreciates the employment opportunity they provide, and he is proud of his work and the camaraderie he found in the oil fields, just like Boebert.
Boebert’s district includes vast areas of longstanding oil and gas development and federal lands where leases for drilling and extraction are currently in contention. Many constituents, including her own husband Jayson Boebert, are or have worked as roughnecks like Smith.
But Boebert derided the witness as a “fluffneck,” seemingly for no other reason than disagreeing with her on the actual impacts of extraction industries.
Having worked as a roughneck during 2013-14 in the Bakken oil patch outside of Williston, ND, Smith cited instances where business practices and unregulated environments create conditions of hyperinflation, income disparity, lack of suitable and affordable housing, and dangerous, exploitative working conditions that destabilize hardworking families and small rural communities.
“Boomtowns are built into the business model of oil extraction,” Smith testified May 19 before House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, of which Boebert is a member. “When an extractable resource is discovered, industry moves in, workers move in, and the black market moves in. This influx of fast money into small communities creates extreme income inequality. A kind of localized hyperinflation occurs. … Boomtowns find ways to take your money as fast as you make it. Inflated prices affect every aspect of life in town. … I believe the industry should put real money into extractive communities, instead of treating them as tools to be tossed out as soon as they’re done with it. Not everything needs to be a cash grab and not all the money needs to go to the top. As a nation, we need to take care of our extractive communities. … If sustainable green technology is the future, and I hope that it is, then it needs to provide sustainable, good-paying jobs, something that, frankly, the oil companies have never delivered to the extent to which they have been capable. These new green jobs, should they become available, should be placed in extractive communities. You will find no one on planet Earth willing to work as hard for you as an oilfield hand.”
In her May 22 address to the Fremont County Republicans, Boebert disparaged Smith and his testimony, to the approbation of the gathered crowd.
“I got really excited! Oh, we’re going to hear the truth about drilling! We’re going to hear our side! We have a roughneck in the committee hearing room, and we’re going to hear how great American energy can be produced, how safe [sic] we do it, how we produce it cleaner and better than anyone in the world. Well, it turns out, he wasn’t just a roughneck. He was more of a “fluffneck.” [laughter.] So, he gets on there and he’s talking about when these drilling companies come into a community, there is artificial hyperinflation that takes place, and the cost of living goes up, and everything gets so expensive, and it’s so ridiculous because there is a boom. Well, for me, the hyperinflation was not artificial. That’s what gave our family a head start. That’s what developed schools in my community. We built fire departments. We built hospitals. We built community colleges. We built roads. Our community thrived from that. There was nothing artificial about it. And the only reason it’s not there anymore, is because Polis wants to regulate us into poverty.”
Also in her speech to the Fremont GOP, Boebert misrepresented Smith’s testimony concerning the hours he worked in one- and two-week periods, countered that hyperinflation in a community is a positive impact, fallaciously blamed CO Gov. Jared Polis for oil and gas boomtowns going bust, and disingenuously compared oilfield working conditions to mining conditions in Africa, distorting the point of the hearing and the witness’ testimony.
Hear the entire testimony of Michael Patrick Smith to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Boebert’s comments to Fremont County Republicans regarding Smith’s testimony using the links below.