Energy

Bending vs Defending

brianbaum.jpg Brian BaumOn October 02, 2012, ex-mayor Bryan Baum appeared in a full color, full page ad extolling the honesty and integrity of the oil and gas industry. He was a “concerned citizen” and a supposedly credible spokesman for the frackers who stood at the city gates, salivating as they waited for permits which would allow them to stuff drills into Longmont.

Mr. Baum’s previous lack of demonstrated knowledge or understanding of the fracking industry might lead a cynic to presume that he received some benefit for his prescience, but I doubt we’ll ever know. On the presumption however that some fee or honorarium was paid, he now faces a much larger question – that of conflict of interest.

Citizen Baum aligned himself with the same energy interests that are suing the city. Nothing wrong with that, but mayoral candidate Baum, if successful, might well have placed himself in a very difficult position. There will be Council debates and votes on issues arising from the affirmative vote on Question 300 and the lawsuit now under way. Because of his support from the energy interests, would a Mayor Baum recuse himself from these debates and if he did, who would lead, support and defend the majority which voted against the energy industry?

It’s interesting to note that on Mr. Baum’s election web site, you will find no reference to fracking, drilling, petition drive, vote or pending law suits. It’s as though the most contentious and important issue in recent Longmont history had never happened. “Poof!” . What petition? What vote?

Beyond this of course is the future of the city as determined by a court. Sixty percent of us voted to deny fracking yet still we find ourselves on trial. The court’s decision will likely be appealed and possibly even moved to the US Supreme Court. Whomever sits in the mayor’s chair will make a considerable difference; this election bears mightily on where we go from here to life after the final decision. This election is far more than a personality contest between a bristle and a smile- it’s a battle between one who might have to bend and one who will defend.

The issues of exactly where Mr. Baum stands on the matter of fracking and the vote we cast last November are prime. Thus far we are left with many questions, no answers, a full page ad and the possibility of conflict of interest.

On the other hand, Dennis Coombs holds an MS in Engineering and understands both the technicalities and the politics of fracking. He has demonstrated a quiet leadership which has brought collegiality and positive results to Council, all invaluable attributes which will serve him well as he guides Longmont in the difficult coming years.

Dennis Coombs

Dennis Coombs

I believe Mayor Coombs has earned the trust and the votes of this community. Regardless of where we find ourselves once the lawyers and courts have spoken, this city will still need a wise and determined hand. The oil and gas folks are unlikely to quietly fold their tents and disappear; we need leadership that understands the issues, the wishes of the majority and a mayor who will step up to defend our city with energy and determination.

I urge you to vote. Last November a mere 33% of registered voters cast a ballot which, although not unusual for a municipal vote is frankly rather shameful. Call me a scold or the pejorative of your choosing, then mark your ballot and get it into the mail.

Give ‘im hell, Grandma, Grandpa!

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack Their Grandchildren’s Future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

Contact: Russell Mendell, 802-318-1135

Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack
Their Grandchildren’s Future

Broomfield, Colo.—Today, concerned grandparents from across Colorado will deliver a letter to tell Governor Hickenlooper and other governors from across the country to say no to fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and yes to a renewable energy future in celebration of National Grandparents’ Day. The delivery is taking place before Governor Hickenlooper’s keynote address to the Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development in Broomfield.

These grandparents will be voicing their concerns over the risks fracking, drilling and related activities pose to all Coloradans health, air, water, land, property values and their special concerns for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They are also demanding that Governor Hickenlooper end his continued use of lawsuits to bully the people of Colorado to accept fracking next to their homes and schools.

“Yesterday I celebrated National Grandparents’ Day with my two grandchildren in Lafayette,” said Merrily Mazza, a retired corporate executive and current member of East Boulder County United. “Today, I’m here to tell Governor Hickenlooper to stop trying to force fracking next to our homes and schools with lawsuits.  My grandchildren deserve a safe, healthy future in Colorado.”

Grandparents representing the five communities (Broomfield, Fort Collins, Loveland, Lafayette and Boulder) who will be voting to protect themselves from fracking this November will be participating in the letter delivery, as well as grandparents from Longmont, who’s community is currently facing two lawsuits from Governor Hickenlooper in order to force fracking next to homes and schools in their city.  Despite gathering thousands of signatures to exercise their right to vote in each of these communities, Governor Hickenlooper has stated he will sue any community that protects themselves from fracking and has not spoken out against the attempts of the oil and gas industry to undermine Coloradans right to vote on fracking in these communities.

“Endangering the health of our grandchildren by contaminating air and water is unacceptable.  We want to work to protect our communities from this dangerous practice.  We are appalled by the lack of leadership in our state government,” said Joan Stern a grandmother with Our Broomfield.

The Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development does not include one voice from residents who have been directly impacted by fracking or have been sued by either Governor Hickenlooper or the industry for exercising their democratic right to vote.  Instead, the Forum appears designed to coach governors and their staffs on how to deflect community concern effectively and use industry messaging to shut out any voices critical of fracking, drilling, wastewater disposal and its associated activities.

“This forum provides yet another disturbing example of how Governor Hickenlooper is the oil and gas industry’s leading cheerleader for fracking while he ignores the people who voted him into office in the first place,” said Kaye Fissinger, a great-grandparent, leading member of Our Longmont and a representative of Protect Our Colorado, the state coalition.

The organizations participating in today’s delivery are: Our Broomfield, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, East Boulder County United, Protect Our Loveland, Frack Free Colorado, Our Longmont and Food & Water Watch.

Oil & Gas Industry: Anti-democracy and Anti-American

COGA seeks to deprive Lafayette community of opportunity to vote.

Last week the city of Lafayette received a clear glimpse of the true nature of the oil and gas industry. Within a 24-hour period of time we saw a Halliburton employee, backed by a Colorado Oil and Gas Association law firm file an effort to remove a community’s democratic voice on our future.

Vote plus flagCOGA attempted to strip Lafayette from our right to determine if our community would become a gas field by removing the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Ban Fracking from our November ballot. The Lafayette city clerk and city attorney ruled against the industry and with relevant law and our community. The effort to take the vote away was defeated.

Not skipping a breath, the industry attempted to create fear in the community with the impossible and unfounded claim that voting to ban gas and oil drilling within Lafayette city limits would mean that natural gas would be cut off to people’s homes. This would be similar to saying that if we don’t refine gasoline in Lafayette, we cannot fill up our cars. It should have been clearly reported that the Community Rights Act addresses extraction, and has no provisions at all about natural gas as a product.

If the industry is treating our community is this way before the first drill even hits the ground, imagine how we would be handled once they have established a real foothold in Lafayette.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s full board has 39 members. These 39 individuals are attempting to determine how life for Lafayette’s 25,733 citizens looks for decades to come. This is the world according to the oil and gas industry, which cannot tolerate a democratic voice to be present. And so if fracking cannot coexist with a community voice, clearly one of these has to go.

Preserve Lafayette and our community rights. Vote for the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing.

Our Broomfield Protests Ballot Title

Blatant violation of state law by Broomfield City Council

For Immediate Release
August16, 2013
OurBroomfield: http://ourbroomfield.org/

Contact: Laura Fronckiewicz, laurafronckiewicz@gmail.com

Our Broomfield Protests City’s Title for Fracking Moratorium Ballot Initiative

City’s Ballot Title Violates State Law, Does Bidding of Polluting Fracking Industry, Undermines Democratic Process

Broomfield,CO — Today, Our Broomfield, which collected 3,000 signatures to place a 5-year moratorium on fracking on the November ballot, filed an official protest of the City’s wording of the ballot initiative that will appear on the November ballot.  The wording was adopted by the City Council on Tuesday August 13th and violates state law as well as the intent of the petition circulated by Our Broomfield.  This is the language proposed by Our Broomfield:

“Shall Broomfield’s Home Rule Charter be amended for five years so as to prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City and County of Broomfield and to prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process in order to protect property,property values, public safety, welfare and the environment?”

 This is the language the Council adopted:

“Shall Broomfield’s Home Rule Charter be amended to prohibit the owners of property rights in oil and gas minerals from extracting their property through the use of hydraulic fracturing methods and impose additional restrictions on wastewater storage and disposal methods than existing state regulations for the next five years to address concerns about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing?”

Our Broomfield contends that the City Council manipulated the language for political purposes in order to persuade voters to not vote for the amendment,also violating State Law under the Colorado Municipal Home Rule Act of 1971.

“We feel that the Title language agreed to by the Broomfield City Council in their 5-4 vote is prejudicial to the outcome and does not correctly and fairly express the true intent and meaning of the ballot measure. The majority vote of the City Council is attempting to undermine the local democratic process – we feel this violates the ballot initiative process as well as state law,” said Laura Fronckiewicz of Our Broomfield.

“We presented the City with an Amendment with the required signatures and in good faith expected that the Ballot Title would accurately represent the proposed Amendment.  The words “public safety and welfare,” which are clearly and expressly stated as being central to the intent, have been removed from the Title altogether.”

“The City Council must respect the will of the people and not be subverted by this billion-dollar industry,”Fronckiewicz said.

The protest, filed by the University of Denver Law Clinic on behalf of Our Broomfield, is posted here:

Broomfield submits 3000+ signatures for fracking moratorium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Broomfield County Residents to Submit 3000+ Signatures to add Fracking Moratorium to November 2013 Ballot

BROOMFIELD, Colorado (August 2, 2013) – Our Broomfield will conclude its petition and signature drive on Friday, August 2nd, and submit signatures in support of a City Charter Amendment to place a 5-year moratorium on Oil and Gas Extraction on the November 2013 ballot. The ballot initiative will give Broomfield voters the freedom to wait for the results of ongoing research on the effects of fracking on health, safety and property value.

Over the last month, more than 3,350 Broomfield voters signed the ballot initiative petition— over 1,000 more than the 2,082 required signatures to place a charter amendment on the ballot. The Charter Amendment will be put to a direct vote by the community, allowing citizens to decide for themselves if they want to proceed with allowing heavy industry in our neighborhoods and near our schools prior to a full examination from independent sources on the health effects of fracking.

Within just 4 months of organizing, the group has been met with encouragement from the community and genuine appreciation from residents who were not aware how quickly oil and gas extraction was proceeding in Broomfield.  Petition volunteers have reported many instances of residents thanking them for taking the time to work on this important issue and bringing it to the voters of Broomfield. “By going door to door, I was able to talk to numerous Broomfield residents.  There were so many residents who were surprised to hear that this issue was going on in Broomfield.  I had people giving me their business cards because they were in agreement that the process known as fracking shouldn’t be happening near schools and residential areas.  They wanted to help.  We believe this is a cause worth fighting for.  Not just for ourselves, but for our children and future generations,” said Our Broomfield volunteer, resident, and mother of three, Meghan Mariner.

Said another Our Broomfield organizer, resident and mother of two, Jennie Markarian, “It is amazing what can happen when concerned citizens stand up for their basic human rights. Citizens with jobs, children, and busy day-to -day lives gave up their time, and in many cases their own money to raise awareness and collect signatures to get this issue on the ballot. We have nothing to gain but the truth, and for so many of us, the truth is invaluable. I feel honored to have met some of the wonderful people who helped make this happen for Broomfield.”

Our Broomfield will now begin the campaign to educate our community further on the potential dangers of oil and gas extraction, which include water and air contamination, health impacts and depreciation of property values. Broomfield resident and mother of two, Jackie Houle, adds “I have met so many thoughtful and educated people during the past few months. The facts speak for themselves and the anecdotal evidence gives us pause… Which is why taking a time out on fracking in our heavily populated town is paramount to ensure the health, safety, and environment for Broomfield, neighboring communities, and the citizens of the Front Range.”

“I recently saw a video where Governor Hickenlooper was quoted as saying ‘Oil and gas is an industrial process that none of us want in our backyards.’ As a Broomfield mother I agree with the Governor – none of us want to see the dangerous process of fracking next to our homes and schools,” said AnnMarie Clearly, Broomfield resident and mother of two.

“Our Broomfield sees the effort to protect the people’s health from the dangers offracking for oil and gas as part of the larger movement throughout Colorado,” said Laura Fronckiewicz, who is expecting her second child any day.  “We support the initiatives in Lafayette, Loveland, Boulder and Fort Collins to assert public health and safety as the highest community objective.”

Contact: Laura Fronckiewicz, 312-533-0525, Jennie Markarian, 805-587-5282, Nate Troup, 314-330-4467

ourbroomfield@gmail.com

 

Lawsuit Challenges Oil Shale, Tar Sands on Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013
5:18 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 486-3161
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351
Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102

 

Lawsuit Challenges 800,000-acre Oil Shale, Tar Sands Plan Across Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

DENVER, Colo. – July 26 – A coalition of seven conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Colorado for allocating more than 800,000 acres of federal public land to climate-warming oil shale and tar sands development without undertaking formal consultation to protect endangered species.

The lands due to be mined are in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming within the Green River Formation, which the U.S. Geological Survey states contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,” — in fact, so high it holds 2 to 7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Vast mining, carbon emissions and water use will only worsen climate disruption and Colorado River drying,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “This plan opens the door to that kind of development, and it does so while ignoring the plight of the creatures most vulnerable to its many impacts.”

“This citizen intervention is necessary because the Department of Interior is sending mixed messages to the public. On one day, the administration issues a statement that the Colorado River’s critical water supply will be protected for people and habitat, and then on another day they announce the most carbon intensive mining practice on the planet can move forward,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers. “The two programs are not mutually beneficial. Interior has to protect the Colorado River, there is no other choice.”

In March the BLM amended 10 resource-management plans, making 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. The agency refused to conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, despite acknowledging likely impacts to those species.

“The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to consult with the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service when they know listed species will be impacted,” said Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Wild. “BLM has skipped this step, which will push these species closer to extinction.”

Mining for oil shale and tar sands would industrialize backcountry and destroy habitat, pollute and deplete water, and emit greenhouse gases. The allocated lands encompass habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species.

“Our public lands should be managed to protect our air, water and wildlife, not auctioned off for dirty and destructive fossil fuel development that will push us ever closer to climate disaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

CBD lawsuit BLM 4-state map

Thursday’s lawsuit comes as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 400 parts per million, a milestone in human history. Making fuel from oil shale and tar sands is an energy-intensive process of mining, heating, chemical treatment and refining. Its greenhouse gas emissions would far exceed that of conventional oil. For example, emissions from Alberta’s tar sands development exceed that of conventional oil by several times.

“The BLM should be managing these wild areas for the rich wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities they provide,” said Dan Chu, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, “not for dirty fuels development on a giant scale.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. Many of the same groups on Monday challenged a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, that could process fuels derived from oil shale and tar sands mined in lands subject to this lawsuit.

To download a copy of Thursday’s lawsuit, click here.

To download maps of the refinery and state and federal leasable oil shale and tar sands land, click here (high resolution [6.7 MB] or low resolution [1.7 MB]) (for media use).

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Governments turned vicious

728931_35025540-have-a-doubt

Really? REALLY?

The Coloradoan published an article on July 16, 2013, that contains some of the most offensive attacks on Colorado citizens that officials of government have leveled – at least in recent history.  The article’s title gives you more than a hint at what’s in store:  “Energy summit speakers: Fracking critics scaring the public, driving up home heating costs.

Critics are “scaring the public!” Not on your life. But with language like this, certain elected officials and appointed charlatans certainly are.

It’s no surprise that Barbara Kirkmeyer, Weld County Commissioner, would level the kinds of charges at citizens who seek to protect their health and safety and the health and safety of their families, friends and communities. The evidence of toxicity is mounting daily and it will only grow more certain.

“Fracking detractors are trying to ‘scare the crap out of everybody with the wrong facts and making things up,’ said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who was moderating the discussion between Lepore and Anadarko regulatory affairs manager Brad Miller,” reported The Coloradoan.

No, Commissioner Kirkmeyer, the only people who are putting the public in harm’s way and “scaring” them are the likes of YOU and those with whom you associate.

Readers, go back up a paragraph and re-read.  So Kirkmeyer was moderating (that’s a laugh) Lepore and Anadarko.  What’s to moderate?  There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the three of them.

Let’s go up the power ladder to the state government.  Who’s scarin’ who, Mr. Lepore? Lepore is director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and he takes his ideological marching orders only one degree removed from Colorado Governor Hickenlooper.  Hick’s not called Frackenlooper for nuthin’.

Lepore must have had a wild hare up his backside at the “Summit.”  Here’s what The Coloradoan had to say about Lepore’s ridiculous accusation:

“Colorado’s chief oil and gas regulator panned critics of fracking and local public officials trying to regulate the energy industry on Tuesday, saying they’re working hard to drive up the cost of home heating and cooling.”

“Working hard to drive upt the cost of home heating and cooling.”  (Hmmm – maybe that wild hare was coming from rather than…)

Mr. Lepore, have you looked at the rush of applications for liquid natural gas terminals so that the industry can sell to the highest bidder overseas?  I gather you have no problems with fracked gas penetrating the lungs of young and old and all in between.

But lest I give the impression that ALL elected officials (with their pals in the oil and gas industry) are out to trash Coloradans, I want to give a shout out to Councilman Gerry Horak of Fort Collins and Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, neither of whom were given a spot on the panel.  Horak told the paper:

I hear the opposition demonized,” he said, adding that demonizing concerned citizens is the easiest thing the industry can do to make themselves look foolish.

(You got that right, Mr. Horak!)  And Guitierrez pointed out the obvious, that the “summit’s” fracking discussion was “unbalanced in favor of the industry.”

But there’s one more whopper in the newspaper’s story.  Sit down for this one.  When asked if anything was done to propagandize our kids (excuse me, I think they erroneously said “educate”) in order to improve the industry’s public relations, Anadarko’s Miller said, “We have to educate the youth and start there, and we also have to educate the general public as well,” he said. “Both of those programs need to start now. The industry is starting that.

Kirkmeyer talked about “crap” and she was partially right, because it looks like everything that was said at their arrogantly named “summit” was just that — CRAP

I encourage every Coloradoan who reads this post and the article to spread the word widely.  The public needs to know.  And by the way, Colorado school districts, keep the industry out of the classroom no matter how much money they offer to buy your loyalty and dependence.

Coloradans will continue to say “No” to oil and gas without action.

The following Guest Commentary appeared in The Denver Post on June 27, 2013 and is reproduced on Free Range Longmont with permission from State Representative Mike Foote.
Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Oil and gas is an issue that will not go away. The number of active wells in Colorado has doubled over the last four years. The number of spills and other contamination incidents has also increased. Drilling has encroached ever closer to more densely populated areas. The industry will spend and make billions of dollars in Colorado in the upcoming years.

People across Colorado have expressed legitimate concerns about their health and safety as well as their lack of a voice in the process. Changes to the system to increase transparency, accountability, local control and safety can go a long way in addressing those concerns.

That’s why I and other legislators brought forward proposals, including imposing minimum penalties for serious violations of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to focus on protecting public health and the environment, ending its conflicted dual role of promoting oil and gas drilling while simultaneously regulating it.

The industry opposed those bills, as well as others increasing water monitoring requirements, increasing the number of well inspectors, creating a health impact study, and assessing fees for local inspection programs. None of those common-sense reforms made it through the legislature.

However, some hope emerged at the end of the session when Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the COGCC to “reevaluate its enforcement philosophy and approach.” The governor’s order went on to say, “Colorado requires strong and clear enforcement of the rules and assessment of fines and penalties accordingly.”

Implicit in the order was the recognition that enforcement of oil and gas industry regulations in Colorado is neither strong nor clear, and that the COGCC has become too cozy with the oil and gas operators it is supposed to be monitoring. It is my hope more progress can be made on this issue as well as many others related to oil and gas over the next year.

Recently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association announced it would conduct a “listening tour” around the state this summer. As an elected official, my job is to listen to the people of Colorado all year long, and I hear widespread frustration about the current oil and gas system. Perhaps after listening like I have, COGA will be more interested in partnering toward some solutions rather than saying no to any real reform. Because if the industry continues to say “no,” the people of Colorado will say “no” to oil and gas.

That is exactly what is happening across the Front Range right now. Concerned citizens’ groups have popped up from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. A ballot measure banning fracking passed in Longmont with a bipartisan 60 percent margin. Ballot measures in other cities and counties are promised this year.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, industry supporters have called these citizens extremists and hypocrites for heating their homes and driving cars to work. That isn’t the language of dialogue; that’s the language of confrontation. People have responded with the tools available to them: public protest and the ballot box.

Coloradans know that our most precious natural resources are not gas and oil, but water, air and natural beauty. They will act to protect what’s most precious.

Until Coloradans have confidence that the oil and gas industry is behaving responsibly in our state, and under strict environmental safeguards, we will see this dynamic continue. Building public confidence by setting and enforcing high standards will not only protect the environment and people’s health and safety, it will also protect the livelihoods of the Coloradans who work in the industry.

Negotiation requires more than just sitting at the negotiating table. It requires a willingness to accept opposing viewpoints and a commitment to find common ground. Coloradans deserve no less.

State Representative Mike Foote represents House District 12 in Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville.

 

 

President Obama: Fracked Gas is Not a Solution to Climate Change

I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.

A major pillar of the President’s climate action plan is increased production and use of domestic fracked natural gas – and it wasn’t just gas – he also lauded increased domestic oil production. While Obama didn’t use the word “fracking,” that is the method used to extract gas and oil in communities across the country. He repeatedly referred to “clean burning natural gas” and lauded it as a “bridge fuel.” But if our goal is stemming climate change, fracked gas is a bridge to nowhere. It’s true that we need to identify new sources of energy, but we can’t drill away our energy problems.

Studies show that the process of drilling, fracking, processing and transporting natural gas releases a tremendous amount of methane into the air. Methane is 70-100 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.  Some recently published studies on methane emissions show that burning natural gas may be even worse, in terms of the overall greenhouse gas footprint, than burning coal for electricity and burning fuel oil to heat homes or run industrial boilers. A massive expansion of fracking threatens to undo any gains from other parts of his plan and may make matters even worse. For an excellent video on the intersection between fracking and climate change, check out this great explanation by Cornell Professor, Tony Ingraffea.

Ban Fracking NowThere is a strong and growing movement against fracking – not just because of its documented impact on water, air and communities, but also because it is a driver of climate change. PrintAmericans Against Fracking, a national coalition to ban fracking has over 200 organizational members and vibrant state based coalitions pushing for a ban in New York, Colorado, California and elsewhere.  People across the country are growing to understand what climate scientists have said for years—that we must leave our fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate change.

When I heard Obama talking about boosting the development of natural gas and oil yesterday, I got angry, but then I got energized. I got energized by the tens of thousands of people in New York pushing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking; I got energized by the amazing organizing in Pennsylvania and California to move the Democratic Party to endorse moratoriums on fracking; and I got energized by the people in Boulder County, Colorado who won an 18 month moratorium on fracking.

Our movement is growing and our elected officials have not caught up to their constituents. It’s critical that we pressure President Obama to listen to the science and to this growing movement against fracking for oil and gas. We also need to continue to hold him accountable for decisions he is making that contribute to climate change. His Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, is facing critical decisions about fracking on public lands and his administration is also making key decisions on liquefied natural gas exports, pipeline projects and other infrastructure projects.

Take action now to tell President Obama that fracked gas and oil is not part of any climate solution.

Mark Schlosberg is the National Organizing Director of Food & Water Watch. He has a J.D. from New York University and a B.A. in Economics from University of California at Berkeley.

Americans Against Fracking Statement: Obama Climate Change Plan

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2013

Contact
Emily Wurth, 202-412-1505

Americans Against Fracking

Statement

on Obama Climate Change Plan

“President Obama deserves praise for prioritizing climate change, but if he’s serious he needs to start by rejecting fracking for oil and gas. Fracking is a dangerous and toxic drilling process that greatly exacerbates climate change and threatens to put us over the edge. 400 ppm is a game changer that requires President Obama stand up to the oil and gas industry. We have clean and abundant wind, water, and solar alternatives that can power the entire U.S. and individual states, according to studies, with existing technologies at equivalent or lower costs than conventional fuels. President Obama can’t claim to seriously address climate change and expand fracking for oil and gas – that’s a stark contradiction,” said actor/director Mark Ruffalo, a spokesperson for Americans Against Fracking.

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Crocodile tears don’t wear well on Big Oil

Tisha Schuller, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has been busy making the public relations rounds these days. And she’s promised to remain busy all summer as she goes from editorial board to editorial board with her latest talking point: polarizing.

What has Ms. Schuller (and the oil and gas industry) so motivated? Fracking, of course. Or more accurately, public opposition to fracking, a highly toxic and dangerous extraction method that threatens the health of every man, woman and child nearby or downwind of the volatile organic compounds that are released.

 

Fracking  near Mead CO

 

“Out in the boonies,” for the most part, and away from populated areas, until recently, the oil and gas industry had the luxury of operating under the radar of the air traffic control of the Front Range.

We should have been paying closer attention. But then, those in powerful places really didn’t want you to know very much. It might raise your eyebrows; bring frowns to your forehead; make you question. It might even activate you.

The West Slope has been fighting the fallout from fracking for oil and gas for years. Trying to preserve their health and their way of life, our friends on the other side of the Rockies have been battling their county commissioners, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, elected officials and don’t forget Big Oil, tirelessly and with determination, while most of the rest of us were leading our lives in “blissful ignorance” to the looming threats.

Ah, Ms. Schuller, I’m sure you long for the good old days, when all you had to do was keep an eye on the politicians in Denver to be sure that enough of them were on the same page as you.

So you tell your tale of woe to the newspapers so that your message, “We’re the good guys,” will be delivered by reporters not organizations that Big Oil has created and financed (Longmont Times-Call, “Colorado Oil and Gas Association seeks to depolarize local drilling disputes,” June 4, 2013).

With the inside media track, you write more of the same in the Denver Post. You moan and wring your hands about how abused the oil and gas industry is when all they do is provide you with, well, “everything.” You claim that “drill, baby, drill” is not you. If there even is such a thing, it comes from “extremists” on your side.

You claim that anyone against the vile consequences of horizontal hydraulic fracking is an “extremist” on the other side. Big Oil is no “villain.” They are your mommy and daddy taking care of your every need. “You’ll realize we were right when you grow up.”

But you, COGA and all of your industry members and the 501(c)(4)s that carry out your public relations and advertising directions, who execute your carefully crafted talking points are the “moderates.” Oh, please!

You do know “Energy in Depth,” don’t you? When you read about them on their website, you are given to believe that they are just a nice public service organization who will deliver, as “Dragnet’s” Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

But founding member IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America), in a 2009 internal document, wrote, “IPAA’s government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign — known as ‘Energy in Depth’ — to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”

It went on to say, “The ‘Energy in Depth’ project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy (now owned by Exxon/Mobil), Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.” Giants, all giants of the most profitable industry on earth, pretending to be the “David” in a battle against attacks from folks like the Longmont voters who banned fracking in our city.

EID was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to … attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” among federal and state associations and member companies “working closely with news media and policymakers.”

So look for the word “polarize” to repeat over and over while COGA presents itself as the only sensible entity. But don’t believe it. Don’t count on COGA to protect your health and all that derives from it.

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.

East Boulder County United launches campaign to prohibit oil and gas extraction

For Immediate Release

Contact:      Cliff Willmeng 303 478-6613

Merrily Mazza 720 556-1286

Rick Casey 303 345-8893

The final language for the Lafayette Community Rights Act, which will prohibit new oil and gas extraction within the city, was approved today by the Lafayette City government. This will officially launch the public effort initiated by East Boulder County United to establish a Community Bill of Rights that includes our rights to clean air and clean water, and our right to community self-determination. We hold that the rights of people and communities are the highest governmental authority, and that corporate interests are subordinate to the health, safety, and sustainability of the Lafayette community.

Starting the week of June 9th, East Boulder County United and the people of Lafayette will initiate a large-scale petition drive to place the amendment onto the November ballot for the direct vote of the Lafayette public. It is clear to us that an industrialization of this scale, forced onto this community by State government acting on behalf of oil and gas corporations, is far more dangerous to our public health, environmental sustainability, property values, and democratic decision-making than any threats of State or industry litigation. Hydraulic fracturing and its unpredictable threats to community health, economic viability, and environmental sustainability are too severe, and oil and gas profits are not worth more than human life.

There will be a kick off meeting for the Lafayette Community Rights Act, which will be held at the Vitamin Collage, located at 100 S. Boulder Road in Lafayette, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM on Tuesday, June 11. The meeting will underscore the campaign’s ideas and goals, and train the numerous volunteers in gathering signatures necessary to place the Act to a direct vote of the Lafayette public.

East Boulder County United considers the future and safety of Lafayette part of the new civil rights movement that has bloomed across Colorado and the United States in response to corporate interests and the threats of the oil and gas industry. Like other civil rights movements, we are forced to protect ourselves by confronting the corporate laws that threaten the many for the gain of the few.

The Lafayette Community Rights Act will aim to protect our community members, our city, and our environment, and help to stem the long tide of corporate abuses and their real-life impacts to people and environment. This will begin the march for a just, democratic, and sustainable future.

East Boulder County United
EastBoCoUnited@gmail.com

Hickenlooper / COGCC overreach in lawsuit

Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

The state legislative session has ended, with oil and gas drilling impacts on our communities still largely unaddressed — in no small part due to the active resistance of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration. Even more concerning, the Governor continues to actively undermine the efforts of local governments to respond to the growing citizen outcry against fracking and other industrial activities in their neighborhood
Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

For example, last year the governor sued the city of Longmont, where I was city manager for 19 years, for adopting local oil and gas rules to protect its citizens. While I appreciate Gov. Hickenlooper’s characterization of the lawsuit as “a last resort,” I want to explain why Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

Longmont didn’t take the task of adopting new oil and gas rules lightly. The City Council acted because state rules under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) were insufficient to protect our community. The council carefully crafted an ordinance that would safeguard the health and welfare of Longmont citizens and promote industry accountability and responsibility. Working with its most active oil and gas company, the city negotiated an operator agreement that went beyond COGCC requirements. Notably, while the governor sued Longmont for its new rules, the local oil and gas operator did not.

The new regulations prevent oil and gas development within residential neighborhoods, and require drilling to be a reasonable distance from occupied structures to better protect residents from noxious fumes, chemical spills, and dangerous and noisy truck traffic. Separating industrial uses from homes, schools, and nursing homes is part of the fundamental zoning role that local governments play.

When Longmont passed its rules, COGCC regulations allowed new oil and gas wells to be as close as 350 feet from homes in high-occupancy residential areas and 150 feet from homes in rural areas. Those “setbacks” applied whether there was one well or 22 planned for a site. Longmont residents were concerned about the health of children and seniors and the livability of their neighborhoods. The City Council increased the setbacks to 750 feet from homes and allowed for comprehensive review of multiwell sites to ensure they are located appropriately with respect to traffic and adjacent land uses. In response, Gov. Hickenlooper sued Longmont, stating the ordinance was “preempted” by the state.

COGCC rules require that toxic chemicals used in fracking be disclosed to the state 60 days after the operation has been completed. Since most accidents happen when chemicals are being transported or during the fracking process, the Council opted to increase safety for residents and emergency responders by requiring that chemicals be disclosed prior to trucking them through our neighborhoods and pumping them underground. The COGCC is suing for this, too.

The COGCC is also suing Longmont for trying to prevent facilities within the city limits from being an eyesore — such as requiring that tanks be painted and well heads be screened by landscaping. Why is the state threatened by this? The city of Greeley has had a similar requirement in its land use code for years.

Hickenlooper 2The governor accuses Longmont’s use of its zoning authority as a “taking” of private property. Yet, reasonable zoning restrictions — such as those to protect public health — have never been considered a taking by the courts. That is probably why the state is not suing Longmont for a “takings” — even though that is the governor’s rationale.

Applying local zoning to oil and gas development is common. Just look to the birthplaces of the industry: Texas allows municipalities to set their own setback rules; Pennsylvania allows local governments to apply their zoning authority to oil and gas development; and Oklahoma allows its municipalities to ban oil and gas development within their borders. Yet, these states aren’t suffering from an “uneven patchwork of regulations.”

Zoning industrial land uses inside the city is within Longmont’s authority as a home rule city. From mining operations to marijuana dispensaries, barber shops to breweries, local governments have the authority and responsibility to regulate land use to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare. Oil and gas development should be no different.

The oil and gas industry is booming in Colorado. Responsible development of the industry is appropriate. However, responsible does not mean steamrolling the citizens of Longmont. Longmont’s future should be dictated by the needs of its community, not the desires of the industry or the governor. One thing we all agree with the governor on: “Our ultimate responsibility is to protect people.”

I hope the governor will rethink his approach and work with local officials to ensure Longmont remains a great place to live.

Gordon L. Pedrow is a former city manager of Longmont.

Why Colorado Residents Can’t Keep Fracking Industry Out of Their Backyards

This story first appeared at EcoWatch.greeley

Do you want to know how cold it can get in Antarctica in midwinter? Go to a city council meeting in Greeley, CO, any time regulation of the oil and gas industry is on the agenda. You’ll get an idea.

Last week, the room temperature felt near absolute zero from the iciness of the council’s reaction to citizen petitions to rein in industry designs on their neighborhood, a place called Fox Run.

What was up for debate was a proposal to approve permits for 16 horizontally fracked oil wells on a small parcel of undeveloped land, itself about 16 acres within the city. The 16 wells would be only 350 feet from the back door of some residences. These wells, according to the oil company, would be fracked four at a time, meaning the citizens of these neighborhoods could expect heavy industrial activity out their back door for up to three or four months a year, 24/7, over half a decade, perhaps. We’re talking literally tens of thousands of truck trips to deliver water, chemicals, steel pipe and a variety of heavy industrial machinery via a single point of ingress.

Envision, if you will, the Saturday afternoon barbeque, with the excited voices of children at play competing with the drone and Earth rattle of drilling next door as unknown quantities of who-knows-what are spewed onto the festivities. This scene could be played out over and over again as money is made for the few and public health and social well-being are sacrificed for the many. That was the argument most often made by the homeowners.

Add to this that some local businesses would actually be only 200 feet from the wells. It happens that the man who owns the 16 acres for the drilling site also owns the street-front buildings in which these businesses are housed. They had all voluntarily agreed to the reduced setback, and no one suspected collusion in these robust economic times. As the owner said—employing small town, Daddy Warbucks logic—these people couldn’t tell him what to do with his land. That would be a takings, and he would have to be compensated, royally. In his mind, his individual rights were superior to the public’s rights.

His understanding is almost certainly wrong, for the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed over and over again that the protection of the public’s health and well-being is superior to property rights, but no use to talk to this scion of “private property rights uber alles.” The only thing keeping the takings assertion alive for the oil boys and rent-seeking land owners is that government refuses to look at the health implications of fracking systematically, even though a host of scientific and public policy leaders at all levels of government and academia are asking for them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the impacts on water. A draft of this study is to be released in 2014, but the agency has scrubbed any analysis of air impacts as a result of oil industry pressure.

From the Greeley Communities United Appeal of the Sheep Draw Oil and Gas Proposal presentation.

From the Greeley Communities United Appeal of the Sheep Draw Oil and Gas Proposal presentation.

In the end, despite roughly 45 people speaking in opposition to the permit, and only about seven in favor—four of them owners of the permits and the property involved—in an audience of about 150 people, the city council voted 7-0 in favor of the oil company and private enrichment over repeated calls for caution and deferral until the health impacts of fracking were better understood.

Of the opposition, many were homeowners in Fox Run, some were tearfully concerned about their children, all were concerned about the air impacts. A doctor, head of the pulmonary unit at the Greeley Hospital, tried to appeal to the council’s better angels. Another woman explained that Fox Run was home to two city-chartered apartments for the disabled, 40 units in all. These units had been built with $4 million in public money from HUD. Ranging in age from 20 to 70, many of these citizens are wheelchair bound, and the majority use oxygen, in the newer unit all but one. The impacts on them might prove frightful she reasoned.

One person said she had heard the vote was rigged, it had already been decided, but she had come to the meeting anyway just to find out. She was not to be disappointed.

Leading the charge for adoption was Mayor Tom Norton. Of stentorian voice, laced with perhaps just a whisper of whiskey’s telltale raspiness and coiffed in surprisingly vivid auburn hair, he was in control, for, after all, he was used to a much larger stage. He had been president of the Colorado Senate during the heyday of former Gov. Bill Owen. Owen fancied himself a Texas oilman and had the pickup and plates to prove it, though perhaps not the chin, but that too has been altered to fit his rough and ready oil patch persona.

Norton, himself an engineer, had risen to become Owen’s director of the Department of Transportation, before retiring to Greeley, his longtime residence, and running for mayor. A family affair, Gov. Owen had appointed Norton’s wife, Kay, to be President of Northern Colorado University. It, too, is in Greeley. She still heads this university of over 12,000 students. Previously, she had been a staff lawyer for Monfort Meat Packing.

This “private sector” experience, she recently wrote, caused her to take the lead in leasing 246 acres of mineral rights under the university to Mineral Resources, Inc., the same family oil company that was seeking approval for 16 oil wells that would run under Fox Run.

In glowing terms, she described the Richardson family owners as our neighbors, much in the same fashion they had described themselves at the hearing. She went on to fancifully describe their oil business as “boutique.” She reasoned, too, that since city records showed the Richardsons already had leases to the mineral rights under most of the city, both public and private, a little more land couldn’t hurt and might foster orderly development.

She also wrote that the university had considered student public health issues and, in her opinion, there was nothing to worry about. In fact, she effused, the state’s regulations would only get stronger and more protective of the students.

Well blow-out near Windsor, CO, in February 2013.

Well blow-out near Windsor, CO, in February 2013.

The idea of stricter regulation to protect public health was not what her husband argued last winter when the state was considering greater setbacks. The proposal, eventually adopted, increased the setbacks from 350 feet to 500 feet. But as Matt Lepore, the head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state’s oil regulatory agency, said to the press, these regulations were not to protect public health, but to reduce noise and dust near homes, or more concisely, the anger factor in neighborhoods invaded by the industry. Lepore added that the state hadn’t really gotten its head around the health issues. This fiscally wasteful and cynically driven form of decision-making was recognized as dangerously flawed by COGCC Commissioner Holton who said in these debates:

I just felt like we should wait until we get some good data, in order to make a decision. If it’s 100 feet, fine, if it’s 1000 feet, whatever. Basically it looked to me like we were just changing the rules because we could, and I don’t think that is a good idea.

Norton, speaking for the city council, felt none of these compunctions. He was worried about reduced revenues to the city if some areas were no longer available to the industry because of a 500-foot setback rule. After all, he said, the city already has over 400 operative wells and with the potential for many more, new setbacks might “affect the $3.2 million in annual city revenue from oil and gas, and the $900 million of royalties projected over 25 years to Greeley…”

Clearly, the Nortons see Greeley as a classic company town where public services are paid out of monopoly oil and gas revenues. Moreover, the mayor and the council need not have worried because the COGCC and the Department of Public Health approved a setback of only 200 feet for businesses in the case at hand. The Richardsons did admit under friendly questioning that the council needed to act quickly because the new setback rules, which become effective on Aug. 1, would make their well oiled plans more difficult, perhaps requiring even more official variances.

Unknown to most in the audience was that Mayor Norton, only weeks earlier, dressed all in black, with resplendent auburn mane, had come to Denver to testify against HB 1275, the only significant piece of fracking legislation before the 2013 state legislature. It would have funded a one-year effort to survey reported health impacts from people living near fracking. Mayor Norton said it was unnecessary, that everyone was happy with fracking in Greeley, for revenues from fracking helped pay for public services. His testimony was seconded by the boldly feckless Dr. Chris Urbina, Gov. Hickenlooper’s choice to head the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. Dr. Urbina spoke against the bill because of the dangers of collecting medical data too hurriedly, as opposed to the dangers of collecting none at all. These two presumed representatives of the public provided the cover needed to allow the state representative from Greeley, Rep. Dave Young (D), to vote against the measure, thus ensuring its defeat. Company town, indeed!

Greeley has suffered greatly from oil and gas development. Its attempt to deny drilling within the city boundaries back in the 1980s was met with one of those great, dunderheaded decisions that only courts can make. The Colorado Supreme Court, uninformed about geography, apparently, reasoned that oil and gas development was so important to the state and nation that any attempt to deny the industry access to the city proper would pose a threat to national security. Colorado is 104,000 square miles in size. Greeley is 47. Couldn’t they do the math?

Consider, too, that most of Colorado is underlain by shale deposits, the ancient sea floor that is giving up its treasure to the industry through the “magic” of horizontal fracking. All the incorporated cities and towns in the state comprise about 1900 square miles, less than two percent of the state. Yet, it is this wrongheaded 1980′s court decision that is allowing the oil and gas industry to invade cities at will across the state.

The testimony of the city planner, parrying the comments of the young attorney, Matt Sura, who had been hired to represent the home owners, was straight out of Charles Dickens. Sura had been masterful in pointing out the numerous holes and unanswered questions in the city’s evaluation of the 16 permits. Chief among them was the unanswered question of the impacts of these wells on public health, particularly those people living in close proximity to the wells. The city manager told the council that he thought the city had done a stellar job of answering all questions except the questions concerning public health. But he said that shouldn’t concern the council since the public’s health was a matter of state and federal concern. It was not their responsibility.

Surely there can be no truth in the old notion that we deserve the government we get.