Much has been said about air and water pollution, damage to roads, noise and light pollution, and in general the dangers of having fracking wells close to homes and schools.
However, there are other matters that the City Council must study and investigate that have hardly received any attention. It has been said that fracking is good for economic development. It seems to me that fracking is actually bad for business in Longmont.
Fracking is the kind of business that drives away most other businesses. Weld County is a fine example. The more wells you drill, the more wells you drill. Longmont strongly relies on retail development for significant sales tax. Business at existing stores will be seriously jeopardized, particularly on the main retail arteries of Hover and Colo. Highway 119. These areas are bordered by vacant lots that offer many opportunities to fulfill setback requirements and are likely to see fracking wells in abundance, with all the industrial traffic and pollution that goes with it.
Name one business that thinks their retail sales would improve if you drilled a fracking well in their parking lot, or put a well 350 feet from their main entrance. Businesses always worry about the impact of construction activity, even if it’s only for a few weeks and improves the roads to their business. The impact of fracking would be far greater and it would be continuous and detrimental. Will the redevelopment of Twin Peaks Mall include a fracking well in the surrounding lots? Who would shop there if it did? Will South Main be subjected to the same treatment? It isn’t just the well construction that would be harmful. As Erie’s current experience shows, the air pollution would jeopardize business throughout Longmont. The City Council needs to generate a thorough investigation of how the business of fracking would impact existing businesses and the plans for development that are in the works. That is, we need a study of the business environment as well as the natural environment, and for the same reasons: to thoroughly understand the possible adverse effects.
And speaking of regulations, how exactly will they function? Even supposing that we arrived at some agreement about suitable regulations, how will these regulations be enforced? At the present time there are only 17 inspectors in the entire state! We’d be lucky to see one in Longmont every five years, and then only for a day. At best. A passer-by and someone who was fishing downstream spotted the recent leak at Suncor that contaminated the South Platte in Denver, not inspectors or Suncor personnel. Should Longmont hire an army of fishermen and inquisitive pedestrians to patrol the anticipated 850 wells at full build-out?
The regulations are only as viable as the inspectors who have the responsibility to enforce them. The negligence that we are now seeing concerning the older wells drilled near Longmont residents is probably typical of what we can expect unless a major new plan of inspection is created and fully funded.
Fracking will be a plague in Longmont, not a means of economic growth. Think of how much time and expense have already been put into dealing with this issue. It’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what we are in for if fracking actually gets under way. It will tear this community apart, it will monopolize city staff time and city resources, and it will be an endless drain on Longmont’s budget. The city should investigate these matters fully.