Open Letter to Longmont City Council

I attended the hearing for Boulder County Commissioners last Thursday, March 1, about terminating, renewing, or amending their Moratorium on accepting applications for oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County.  I don’t know if the commissioners had directed their staff differently from how Longmont City Council directed its staff in doing background research on this issue, but I can report that the two reports had a decidedly different focus.  Whereas Longmont city staff framed their report along legalistic lines, the Boulder County staff looked at the impacts of oil and gas development on citizens, landscape, and finances.

In addition to hearing testimony from the public, the Boulder County Commissioners heard detailed reports from county staff representing the Land Use Department, the Parks and Open Space Department, the Transportation Department, and—most importantly—from Public Health officials.  Staff from each of these departments presented research and analysis on everything from the inadequacy of county roads to hold up against heavy truck traffic to scientific studies detailing water pollution in Wyoming and air quality in Erie, Colorado, where oil and gas development had compromised public health.  I don’t recall that Longmont even considered requesting input about public health from city staff.  In Longmont that aspect of planning has had to come from the public.

Boulder County staff also looked at some of the dilemmas faced by administrators in the face of pressure from state regulators.  For instance, county roads might have to be rebuilt at considerable expense before they could be safely used by large semi-trucks servicing the industry and before revenues could be collected.  Furthermore, anticipated income from oil and gas development might not even cover the county potential expenses associated with mitigation and litigation.  Boulder County staff also pointed out that the area’s reputation for healthy living, hiking and biking, would be adversely affected by the higher ground ozone levels that accompany large scale oil and gas development.  Again, I don’t believe quality of life was a topic of consideration for Longmont staff input to Council.

Appeals to the “inalienable rights” guaranteed under the U.S. and Colorado constitutions, which county and city officials are pledged to protect, were mentioned by many of the citizens offering public testimony.  Among these are the right to clean air, water, health, and safety—all of these under threat by an overbearing industry in a hurry to preempt local authority.  Legal appeals on these grounds may carry more weight than adjustments to existing regulations in stemming the tide.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that there are many more avenues of research related to limiting or preventing fracking in the city of Longmont that city staff has so far explored.  Please direct them to study impacts and options for resistance as we move forward with our extended Moratorium.


  5 comments for “Open Letter to Longmont City Council

  1. March 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    The minimum Longmont citizens should settle for is accountability from the the drilling company. If their assurances that the technology is ‘safe’ are honest, then posting a bond should present no problem. Preferrably a sum sufficient to clean up a mess like the ones we’re currently seeing. I would think even our stalwart opponents from the right would agree that ‘accountability’ is expected of everyone… or is it? The whole town will be negatively affected so hopefully we can agree on this.

  2. Gregory Iwan
    March 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Nuclear power generation is said to be “safe,” too. I guess we can all agree how that has turned out. It can be design (Chernobyl), operator error (Three-Mile Island), or siting (Fukushima), but the error still arises from humans believing they can somehow direct the universe. ERROR! If failure is not an option, DON’T DO/BUILD IT! The “pound of cure” is far too taxing. And ain’t it funny: the more “technology” we see applied, the more we can be assured it is all in the name of higher monetary return (economists like to call this “productivity,” while engineers refer to “efficiency.” Wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone ask if doing a thing would be worthwhile in terms of its pure benefit. I challenge the captains of industry to come up with something — anything — that might stand that test. I’ll wait for you over here.

  3. brian jeffries
    March 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    (Mr. Jeffries is Executive Director of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority and a past member of the Longmont Water Advisory Board. -FRL)

    Mr Iwan, in response to your question I nominate the continuing additions of water purification and waste water treatment facilities that have advanced the welfare of civilization around the world. Kudos to the engineers and firms involved in the design and construction thereof.

  4. Gregory Iwan
    March 17, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I nod to your choice. Necessity is the mother of invention. Water and wastewater-treatment schemes were probably not devised (and improved) along the way to do “more” (like produce more natural gas more “economically” or generate more electricity via fissionable materials, to permit MORE devices and electronic gaming of dubious usefulness). Ancient Rome learned that it was not enough to only flush away sewage; after the Tiber itself became a sewer there was little to do but seek alternative sources of drinking water. As I learned when specializing in the teaching and practice of water and wastewater treatment and analysis as a part of my nuclear-power training days at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, YOU DON’T GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING. Nature doesn’t bargain. I’ve never been completely comfortable with the addition of chlorine to effluent streams, usually via Calcium Hypochlorite or Ca(OCL)2 . Any lasting effect on us or on aquatic wildlife due to the presence of this substance is dimmissed. Again, as always, things boil down to a cost-benefit analysis. In THIS case, I’d give your example a draw.

  5. March 17, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Greg, the oil and gas industry is all about ‘something for nothing’ – what with the subsidies from that big mean old government for a long time it was. Now that they have to be held accountable (where have I heard that word before…?) suddenly all we can hear is blues (just barely drowning out the banjos and the sound of mountain tops being blasted off).

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