Energy

Hick and severance: possibilities abound

Governor John Hickenlooper today recently threatened any municipality in Colorado with legal action, should it have the temerity to try to ban fracking within its corporate limits. His remarks did not resonate from supremacy clauses (state laws are “higher” than local) or any appreciation for local land-use discretion. Rather, the Guv lamented that property owners “paid for” the mineral estates beneath their feet, and so must not lose. He also alluded to severed mineral estates. There lies the meat of the argument.

Only recently employed, directional drilling accompanied by hydraulic fracturing is being used to reach targets that can not be drilled with a vertical well.

Only recently employed, directional drilling accompanied by hydraulic fracturing is being used to reach targets that can not be drilled with a vertical well.

Most severances occur when someone sells a property and retains the mineral rights, or a portion of them. This may be a hedge against benefit from future development. But modern “fracking” was not generally known or acknowledged until 2007 or so, and so I doubt many property sellers anticipated or expected that particular form of beneficiation.

I was a commercial real property appraiser long enough to learn that the “bundle of rights” within a property depends on reasonable expectations, plus knowledge of what is feasible. If someone in Colorado retains rights to mining diamonds, he is pretty likely to be wasting his time. But when a property is purchased without a severance, is the buyer cognizant of what is to be deeded? If so, what is paid for it?

The answer is very little. Only a buyer of a mineral estate in an area where a certain kind of mineral production is not only likely but also being prosecuted, would pay what might be recognized as “market value” for that estate. The increment attributable to all or part of POSSIBLE minerals within a purchase of the fee-simple interest, encompassing minerals, surface, and everything else, is generally minimal. Oil and gas operators almost always lease; they have no interest in ownership. In these days of CERCLA that may not surprise. At least there were such days prior to Dick Cheney’s tenure in Washington’s Executive Office Building.

Monopoly moneySo, guvna, are you going to bat for the owner of the severed mineral estate, or the owner of a complete fee-simple property? Mineral values are speculative until proven by production; drilling may or not prove them. A former oil geologist ought to know that. You also should know that the market value of a speculative probability is lower than the value of what can be seen, touched, and enjoyed (commonly known as the surface of the planet). It is a real shame you have no interest in protecting that.

Fortunately, owners of the latter are usually citizens of the state and can vote. Owners of severed mineral estates may not live here. If you’ve got nothing better to do than sue cities, then I suggest you go back to drilling. In Zimbabwe.

Frackenlooper’s unholy alliance

Dear Governor Frackenlooper,

I come by my Democratic credentials much like USAA insurance.  My father was a +50 year member of the IBEW; my senior speech in high school was on provision 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act.  A trip to the Ludlow Massacre site was a nice family drive on a Sunday afternoon.  I have been steeped, like a teabag, in a soup of labor law and collective bargaining jargon. “Kellogg, Brown and Root” plus “Halliburton” were dinner topics  in our household growing up.

It pains me, then, to have to leave the only political party which I have held in high esteem, a party that has been ready to protect the worker and our rights to a decent, living wage and the principles of due process.

I have regularly sent checks to the Colorado Democratic State House and Senate campaign funds, the national funds, President Obama, John Kerry, Bill Clinton and even Michael Dukakis.  Jimmy Carter will always be my personal hero.

I have been a committed member of the teachers’ union for more than 30 years, carried a picket sign in the 1976 teachers’ strike, been a precinct committee person, a canvasser, a poll watcher and an election judge.

HickenlooperThe Democratic Party cannot count on me from now on.  I will be a spoiler, a Ralph Nader – ready to split the vote from here on out.  You, Governor, give me no choice.  You and your friends, former Governor Ritter, Senator Bennet, and Phillip Anschutz, among others, have chosen to support the Oil and Gas lobby against the citizens of the state of Colorado.  You are no better than Governor Elias M. Ammons, calling  in the National Guard against defenseless miners at Ludlow in 1914.  You have formed an unholy alliance against the people of Colorado; you have chosen money over the public good.  You need to be recalled!!

Once a geologist, always a geologist!

Elaine M. (Earnest) Doudna

 

P.S. If you think that my salutation is disrespectful, please consider your threat to sue municipalities that ban fracking as insulting !   We are just shaking in our shoes.. OOoooo!!! I just feel like Daddy has taken us to the wood shed for a good whoopin’.

Diverse Coalition of Coloradans Across State Speak Out Against Fracking


Editor’s Note:

Protect Our Colorado coalition designates February 27th Call-In Day to Governor Hickenlooper opposing the dangerous drilling practice of fracking and calling for a statewide moratorium.

Governor Hickenlooper’s Direct Line: 303-866-2471

To leave a message if the line is busy: 1-866-862-3237



Protect Our Colorado coalition and What the Frack?! Arapahoe deliver over 14,000 signatures to Governor’s office and state legislature calling for a moratorium on fracking

 

Audy delivers petitions to Hickenlooper, 2.27.13
Denver, Colo.— Today Protect Our Colorado, a coalition of more than 30 business, solar, farming, faith, consumer, environmental, grassroots and social justice organizations across the state, and What the Frack?! Arapahoe will deliver more than 14,000 petitions to the Governor’s office and leaders in the state legislature from Coloradans opposed to the dangerous drilling technique. The organizations are calling upon the Governor and state legislature to implement an immediate moratorium on fracking.

“Governor Hickenlooper may be willing to drink frack fluid, but Coloradans shouldn’t have to,” said Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager for CREDO, “Nor should they have to breathe cancer-causing air pollution, cope with toxic wastewater spills, or suffer the effects of fossil-fueled extreme weather. It’s time for the governor and the legislature to protect Coloradans and pass a moratorium on fracking.”

A dangerous method of extracting oil and gas from rock deep beneath the earth’s surface, fracking uses high volumes of toxic mixtures of chemicals. About 20 percent of those chemicals have been shown to cause cancer and up to 50 percent can affect nervous, immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. A recent University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Health report found that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above the federal hazard standard, which could increase their chances of developing cancer by 60 percent.

“Drilling and fracking would destroy farms, orchards, and vineyards across Western Colorado,” said Jim Ramey, Director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “Gov. Hickenlooper should be working to protect our local economy from this dangerous industrial practice.”

With over 47,000 fracked wells throughout the state, and the oil and gas industry looking to substantially expand that number in the next decade, Colorado has become an epicenter of the fight against fracking in the United States.

“Based on the body of evidence, we believe that hydraulic fracturing is an accident prone, inherently dangerous industrial process with catastrophic risks to the future of our children as well as to future generations,” said Ashley Collins with Adams County Unite Now. “As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our children as well as to protect the life support systems they rely upon, and for this reason we call upon Governor Hickenlooper and the state legislature to enact an immediate moratorium on fracking.”

What the Frack?! Arapahoe’s petition for a moratorium on all new drilling applications seeks to prevent escalation of harm until the state produces a comprehensive cost benefit analysis and completes health, water and climate impact studies. These common sense steps are necessary so that decisions regarding unconventional extraction from shale can be based on objective cost and risk assessment, rather than vague industry promises. “Current objective indicators point to risk of irrecoverable, irreversible harms to Colorado health, water supplies, and climate change escalation” says founder, Sonia Skakich-Scrima.

Protect Our Colorado is diverse coalition of businesses, farmers, faith groups, solar companies, parents, and social justice, consumer and environmental organizations with members from the West Slope to the Front Range of Colorado. The coalition is comprised of the following organizations: Patagonia, Lighthouse Solar, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Valley Organic Growers Association, 350.org, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley, Holy Terror Farm, Foodshed Productions, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Our Longmont, Adams County Unite Now, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, The Mother’s Project, Frack Free CO, Community for Sustainable Energy, Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group, East Boulder County United, Frack Files of Weld, Frack Free Loveland, Conscious Global Leadership, The Question Alliance, Frack Free Boulder, Denver Community Rights, Routt County Frack, Frack Free Fort Collins. For more information, please visit Protect Our Colorado.

None so blind as those who will not see

I couldn’t help but laugh at the insights reported after the fracking accident near Windsor that released greenish fracking fluid for 30 hours on what looked like agricultural land. To the Loveland firefighters, the lessons learned had to do with the speed and accuracy of reporting such spills, compounded by the fact that nobody knew whose wells were spilling. Not mentioned are the even more important lessons that could have been learned:

1) The released fracking fluid is toxic (Halliburton’s safer CleanStim fluid imbibed by our governor is expensive and rarely used). No telling what the effects of this release will be on the adjacent land. What if this spill had occurred next to a home, school or park?

2) Accidents and spills are exactly the problems citizens are worried about.

3) Regulations (or city rules) do not make fracking safe.

4) Fracking poses dangers to workers, including local firefighters and hospital staff.

5) Local communities have to cover the costs of training for emergencies and for clean-up.

6) No one knows the long-term effects of fracking because the high-pressure systems now in use are relatively new.

Loveland Fire Chief Randy Mirowki is reported as concluding, “The more we work together with these companies, from an emergency response side, the better off we are.” I would come to a different conclusion: The more we resist the lure of so-called economic benefits and statewide pressure to extract oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing, the better off we will be.

Thank heavens Longmont residents had the foresight to vote to ban fracking within our city limits!

Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado

We the PeopleAlmost exactly nine months ago on May 22, 2012, I wrote an editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, Fort Collins Should Ban Fracking. And yesterday, on Feb. 19, a sharply divided Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to ban fracking in the City of Fort Collins.

Nine months ago the conversation around fracking was relatively new in Colorado and few people and environmental groups were directly addressing it. Now, nine months later, very much has changed—fracking is in the news constantly, many environmental groups are engaged in the fight to stop fracking and the issue is escalating wildly throughout the public across the state.

What has changed in a mere nine months?

First, the threat of fracking has increased dramatically across the residential areas of the Front Range of Colorado. The Niobrara Shale geological formation underlies much of the landscape from Fort Collins all the way around suburban Denver and 150 miles south to Colorado Springs. The advent of horizontal drilling and horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology has allowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land to be leased and eventually fracked. Much of this land is squeezing up against suburban homes, neighborhoods and even schools, and those residents are speaking out in an increasingly feverish pitch. In fact, one of the biggest segments of the population speaking out as “fracktivists” is suburban mothers. And as we see in many types of politics in a purple state like Colorado, when suburban moms take up an issue, elected officials really start to pay attention.

Second, a few activists—in part let by retired U.S. Environment Protection Agency “whistleblower” and Gasland movie star Wes Wilson—started touring the state giving dozens and dozens of presentations to local government officials, local homeowners groups and local activists about the threat of fracking. These activists spent hundreds of hours (and miles) pressing the case that fracking is a serious concern, and left unregulated, fracking could turn many suburban communities into mirrors of Weld County, Colorado (in the northern part of the state) which has more active oil and gas wells (more than 18,000) than any county in the U.S. With those wells has come health problems, air quality problems, water pollution problems, water supply problems, social problems, real estate problems and financial problems. No surprise, but this exploitative extractive industry tends to take the oil and gas—as well as all of the money—and leaves local governments and people with pollution and financial trouble in its wake.

logo_our_longmontThird, a small band of fracktivists in Longmont, Colorado, in part led by a very small contingent of activists from the environmental group Food & Water Watch, made national news when they led a successful ballot initiative to ban fracking in the November 2012 election. This ban occurred with almost no financial backing (less than $20,000), with almost no support from other environmental groups, and through the sheer grit and moxy of its leaders. Further, the Big Oil and Gas Industry spent more than a half million dollars trying to defeat this ballot initiative in a town that cast only 42,773 votes—that’s more than $10/vote. And when the vote was final, the result sent shock waves around the state. Longmont is not a raging environmental hotbed—if a ban could pass in Longmont while being outspent 25 to 1, it could likely pass in nearly any city in the state.

Follow the money will billsFinally, Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper (a former oilman), has become a lightning rod who has rapidly escalated the tension around fracking and infuriated local residents and environmental activists. His anti-environmental, pro-fracking actions—too numerous to count and catalogued elsewhere—include starring in a radio ad for the natural gas industry and recently boasting to a U.S. Senate committee that he drank fracking fluid because it is safe and risk free. Every time he speaks about the issue, he just makes it worse both for him and for the issue—his disrespectful and demeaning attitude towards environmentalists seems to be closely matched by his reckless deception of the public. It’s gotten to the point where the best way to fight fracking in Colorado is to just give the Governor the microphone and wait for him to say something inappropriate and further infuriating.

Nine months ago there was little support for banning fracking in Colorado, and there were hardly any organized groups willing to take it on. Nine months later, the situation has completely changed. Cities like Fort Collins are making clear that it makes no sense to put a ban to a vote when it is almost assured to pass, and so therefore a smart and progressive council has the obligation to pass a ban with a simple ordinance. Further, more than a dozen small ad-hoc “fracktivist” groups have sprouted up around the state pushing their local governments hard and publicly. The group that led much of the fight in Fort Collins is Frack Free Fort Collins, while some of the names of other groups around the state have been more creative like Erie Rising (in Erie, Colorado) and The Rio Grande Watchdogs (in the Rio Grande valley).

With fracking, threat has bred opportunity, and democracy has come alive in Colorado. While it’s profoundly unfortunate that thousands of homeowners are now threatened with the impacts of fracking, it’s also deeply important and powerful that these same homeowners and suburban moms and dads learn how to be active and informed citizens in our democracy. Not only the promise of democracy—but the responsibility of democracy—is becoming real to thousands of people who just a year earlier were likely focused on normal suburban activities.

The Big Oil and Gas Industry doesn’t care and will say and do absolutely anything to anyone in order to increase their short-term profits. But the citizens of Colorado—at least in Longmont and Fort Collins, so far—do care and are learning that they don’t deserve what they’re getting, so they’re fighting for what they want.

Stay tuned and keep watching: Democracy in Colorado is coming alive. And it’s beautiful.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Gary Wockner, PhD, represents Clean Water Action and Waterkeeper Alliance in Colorado. He lives in Fort Collins—Gary@GaryWockner.com.

Reprinted from EcoWatch with permission from the author.

Oil and Gas: Industry Gone Wild!

Oil drilling is glamorous

Oil drilling is glamorous

You really have to wonder why EnergyfromShale.org recently placed two slick advertisements in the Daily Camera, showing idyllic scenes of a man fishing, with a strategically placed fracked well in the background. Can fishing, requiring fresh, flowing water, exist side by side with toxic, fracked oil wells? This is in North Dakota, home of the biggest domestic oil patch, where tens of thousands of wells are flaring natural gas, visible from outer space.

Flaring natural gas raises atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. Can our planet afford to get any warmer? It seems apparent that warming has contributed to severe drought in North Dakota and the rest of the high plains, leaving everyone very thirsty, while the oil and gas industry continues to destroy precious water by fracking. What about the people, the livestock and the farmland of North Dakota, all suffering the ill effects of an industry gone wild?

The Shilke family, highlighted in The Nation, had 32 fracked oil wells within three miles of their home. The result: a water well contaminated with a brew of toxic chemicals and health issues for Jacki Shilke and her husband, including chronic lung pain, unexplained rashes, loss of fillings in their teeth, body pain. Doctors diagnosed Jacki with neurotoxic damage and constricted airways. Five of her prized Angus cows dropped dead and now they can no longer sell their cattle.

Is this a vision of Nirvana? This story plays out over and over again throughout the oil patch in North Dakota — from cities overrun with man camps and crime, to millions of truck trips disintegrating their roads and billions of gallons of water being destroyed. Is this a wonderful legacy? Or is it destroying our life support system?

Natural Gas: No clean energy future

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter’s statement on behalf of 
Americans Against Fracking

PrintWASHINGTON – February 13 – ”President Obama was right to proclaim the importance of speeding our transition to a clean energy future last night in his State of the Union Address, but natural gas has no place in that plan. The so-called natural gas boom he described is only locking us into further dependence on dirty, polluting fossil fuels, while destroying our communities and the resources on which they thrive.

“While it is encouraging to hear President Obama declare his commitment to combatting climate change, natural gas will only perpetuate this vexing issue. Extracting, transporting and burning natural gas all contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and worsen global climate change. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted from burning natural gas, significant amounts of methane leak as new wells are fracked and as natural gas is transported. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, about 33 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over 100 years, and about 70 to 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years according to a 2009 study published in Science. New evidence, including data from researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, indicates that the oil and gas industry and the Environmental Protection Agency have drastically underestimated the extent of methane emissions from drilling and fracking operations.

“President Obama needs to stand up for American communities, not the special interests of the oil and gas industry. He must reject natural gas, as well as plans to export additional supplies overseas. It is true that we need to reinvest in American communities and bolster our green energy infrastructure, but natural gas is not the bridge to a future lit by clean energy. It is, as many have said, a bridge to nowhere.

“Controlling our own energy future means investing in energies that sustain our communities, not the financial needs of the oil and gas industry.”

Americans Against Fracking is composed of nearly 200 groups.:

Shame on Greeley’s Mayor, Council

Robert Winkler

Robert Winkler

As a 30-year risk management professional, I have supported many multi-national organizations in risk mitigation best practices, studies, and programs. Informed by my background and because my family lives in northern Colorado, home of over 19,700 poorly regulated gas and oil wells, I have serious concerns about the effects on our health, our environment, and future property values from gas and oil industry activities.

Greeley Mayor Thomas Norton and his city council failed to consider these issues in their excessive support of an economy based on oil and gas. They persist in viewing oil and gas activities solely through a prism of arguable economic perspectives.

On 1/14/2013, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), CU Boulder, and NOAA concluded that “oil and gas activity contributed about 55 percent of the volatile organic compounds linked to unhealthy ground-level ozone.” The study was published in the prestigious journal Environmental Science and Technology. In early 2012, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) stated that well pad equipment leaked or vented an estimated 4 percent of natural gas produced to the atmosphere.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) database reveals that 60 of 1,000 spills reported in Weld county last year comprised 824,000 gallons of spilled and “unrecovered” oil, 383,000 gallons of “spilled” and “unrecovered” water and up to 547,000 gallons of “spilled” and “unrecovered substances labeled “other,” including fracking fluids.

And if Greeley’s elected officials are so concerned with economics, they should also consider recent real estate data that states that property values in and around oil fields typically depreciates 25% and up to 75% when the area is completely industrialized.

Mayor Norton fails to address any of these concerns when objecting to proposed COGCC setback rules. Instead, the mayor and council members should consider why citizens who live amongst over 400 wells within the city limits are concerned about adequate setbacks. Our elected officials should be concerned with making their community a healthier and safer place to live, both now and for future generations.

In addition to a minimal half mile setback from single and multiple family homes, churches, schools, community centers , and medical facilities, the City of Greeley should immediately institute an indefinite moratorium on gas and oil development until scientific analysis and assessments determine that these processes are safe.

A Health Impact Assessment would identify and describe the effects of gas and oil development on health. Minimal increases in incidences of chronic health problems could impact thousands of people and create escalating health care costs. The assessment should emphasize segments of the population most vulnerable, specifically infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly. It should also examine occupational risks to workers and to those living closest to drilling, fracking, and completed well sites.

weld-county-gas-rig, Colorado IndependentBecause the gas and oil industry is well aware of the risks of its heavily industrialized operations, it successfully lobbied for exemption from provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Super-Fund Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Toxic Release Under Emergency Planning and Community Right To Know Act (known as the “Halliburton Loophole”).

The list of mitigations that the City of Greeley should require to protect all taxpaying citizens is more substantial that space here allows. Minimally, it should:

  • Retain independent inspectors to monitor the operations for abuses. Seventeen inspectors for entire state with only one for Weld County is ludicrous.
  • Regulate and control the complete filtration and disposal of all fluids and mud’s used in drilling and extraction of resources for contaminants.
  • Monitor Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) toxic vapor leakage around well sites with infrared photography.
  • Assure that adequate fire protection and mitigation resources are in place and regularly rehearsed in all communities to respond quickly to chemical and other disasters related to the industry’s activities.
  • Initiate industry impact fees for independent testing of all wells for aquifer depth, bore seal integrity, and water quality before, during, and for a minimum of five years after the well has been drilled and fracked.
  • Hold gas and oil companies accountable for construction, maintenance of roads and bridge infrastructure.
  • Monitor truck traffic and the behavior of transient workers employed and associated with the industry by local, county, and state law enforcement.

It’s well past time that our elected officials honor their oaths to guarantee citizen health, safety and welfare.

Boulder: Make it Frack Free

Boulder Falls - Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Boulder Falls – Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Does the City of Boulder need a ban on fracking? I say yes and here’s why.

We have 16 wells already in the City of Boulder — many immediately next to residences and open space areas. These existing wells are likely candidates for fracking to access the valuable hydro-carbons resting about 1,000 feet under our homes, schools and office buildings. Boulder sits on top of a large “shale play” extending as far north to Canada, south into New Mexico and east to Kansas. It is part of the same shale layer with economically-recoverable oil and gas that is actively being fracked in Weld County, where there are more than 19,000 active wells.

While you might think, “This is Boulder. No oil and gas operator is going to start fracking here.” The fact is they can, and right now we have no legal defense to prevent the oil and gas industry if they chose to frack in our city.

It has only been in the past year that the first peer-reviewed studies have been published about the health effects of fracking and they are alarming. Well-respected endocrine researcher Theo Colborn studied the air pollutants around drilling in Western Colorado and found high concentrations of toxic chemicals and carcinogens that cause severe health damage (see the natural gas video at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange).

Another peer-reviewed study by Lisa McKenzie of the Colorado Dept. of Public found that the air pollutants from fracking increase a person’s risk of cancer 60 percent (see resources on Frack Free Boulder). In the documentary “Gasland” by Josh Fox people who live near fracked wells in Weld County describe how their well water turned brown by the fracking solution containing hundreds of toxic chemicals that seeped into and poisoned the water table. These Coloradans — after wells were fracked near their home — got cancer, brain tumors, severe asthma, disorientation, tremors, migraines, continuous nose bleeds, etc.

Colorado residents are taking a stand. Citizens in Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban fracking last November in a historic, citizen-driven effort. Fort Collins passed a moratorium on fracking with a unanimous city council vote in December. El Paso County passed a moratorium at the end of 2011. Colorado Springs passed a moratorium in 2012. Erie and Boulder County passed a moratorium in 2012. (On Thursday, Jan. 24, at 4 p.m., Boulder County Commissioners are holding a public meeting with time for citizen comments to decide whether to extend the moratorium on fracking in Boulder County.)

Boulder Falls - Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Boulder Falls – Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Boulder is falling behind and needs to join the rising tide against fracking. We must protect our citizens, land, air and water, and our property values. Who wants to buy a home near a fracking operation? Our quality of life and our economy are at stake. What athlete wants to train or a tourist visit a city with polluted air, unsafe drinking water, with 18-wheel trucks doing an average of 100 trips per day 24/7 to and from a well site, with stadium quality lights on at well pads all night?

Colorado State Legislators have placed fracking on the 2013 agenda. Citizen volunteers across Colorado are working to permanently ban fracking in their communities. The more cities that join this state-wide effort the stronger the message that Colorado citizens are demanding a state-wide ban on this dangerous and destructive process.

A ban on fracking is also consistent with our Boulder municipalization effort. It is only by having local control over the source of our electricity that we can first work to minimize our reliance on all fossil fuels, including natural gas, and then seek to find the cleanest, most “ethical” source for any remaining energy need. Importantly, natural gas doesn’t have to come from fossil fuel sources; it can be sourced from renewable sources, including feed lots, biomass gasification and sewage treatment plants.

Boulder is ready to move beyond fossil fuels. Banning fracking within city limits is a protective move to give us the greatest safeguards possible to prevent fracking next to our homes, schools and businesses, and is consistent with our vision for a clean energy future. It is also the right message to send to our politicians at the state level as this is a battle that needs to be won for all citizens in Colorado and the rest of the state needs our support. It’s time for Boulder to step up and ban fracking now!

Neshama Abraham lives in Boulder and is the founder of Frack Free Boulder.

Large Coalition Comes Together to Oppose Fracking in Colorado

Over 25 organizations join forces to create “Protect Our Colorado” and calls on state officials to protect residents from dangerous energy extraction process.

No-fracking-logoWASHINGTON – January 14 – Today, more than 25 business, solar, farming, faith, consumer, environmental, grassroots and social justice organizations around the state came together to announce a new coalition to oppose the controversial oil and gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The coalition, Protect Our Colorado, will call on Governor John Hickenlooper and state legislators to ban fracking in Colorado.

“Fracking endangers our health and contaminates our clean air and water. For the future of our children and our state, it’s essential that we stop fracking in Colorado and move immediately to a renewable energy economy,” said Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia, Inc.

Earlier this month, Longmont became the first city in Colorado to ban fracking in a historic bipartisan vote, indicating that the tide of public opinion is turning away from fracking as more residents learn of its negative impacts on health, safety, property, air, water and families throughout Colorado.

“The overwhelming victory in Longmont and the launch of Protect Our Colorado signals that more and more Coloradans are waking up to the dangers of fracking. We are pro-Colorado, and there is no place for fracking in Colorado,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “Governor Hickenlooper has ignored, bullied and sued citizens in order to expand fracking in Colorado. It’s time that Governor Hickenlooper start representing the people of Colorado instead of the oil and gas industry by banning fracking in our state.”

With 47,000 fracked wells throughout the state, and the oil and gas industry looking to substantially expand that number in the next decade, Colorado has become an epicenter of fracking in the United States. A method of extracting oil and gas from rock deep beneath the earth’s surface, fracking uses high volumes of toxic mixtures of chemicals, 20 percent of which have been shown to cause cancer, and up to 50 percent of which can affect nervous, immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. A recent University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Health report found that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above the federal hazard standard, which could increase their chances of developing cancer by 60 percent.

Despite these scientific dangers, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) just passed rules that do nothing to protect the health of people of Colorado. Instead state regulators are proposing that wells be situated only 500 feet from homes, schools, public parks, lakes and rivers.

In addition to the public health problems associated with the process, oil and gas companies regularly “externalize” many of the costs of doing business, making the local communities pay these costs, which include significant increases in heavy truck traffic and road damage, increased noise, dust, crime and demand on social and health-care services, police, fire, and emergency services, degraded air and water quality, and property value declines near well sites by as much as 75 percent.

“The oil and gas industry is lowering our quality of life along with our property values.” Audy Leggere Hickey of Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights. “Governor Hickenlooper needs to show strength, courage and integrity. He needs to stand up for the people of Colorado to ban fracking.”

A recent study by Western Resource Advocates found that water used in one year for new oil and gas development throughout the state could supply the entire population of Lakewood, the fourth-largest city in Colorado. Farmers are continually forced to compete against the oil and gas industry for access to water, even during periods of drought such as the one experienced this past summer.

“It’s unconscionable that the industry is so powerful in Colorado that it’s allowed to pour millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground just steps away from areas where honest, hard-working Coloradans are trying to make a living, raise their families and send their children to learn,” said Ashley Collins with Adams County Unite NOW. “We can’t let Governor Hickenlooper and powerful special interests ride roughshod over local communities.”

Fracking is also exacerbating the climate crisis, as huge volumes of methane have been documented leaking at fracking wellheads, according to recent reports. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in our atmosphere. This has led some researchers to surmise that fracked natural gas may be as or more dangerous to the global climate than burning coal.

“These leaks are contributing to climate destabilization, which has already loaded the dice for record-breaking storms, floods, heat, and the wildfires and drought that have begun to plague our state and others in recent years,” said Micah Parkin, Colorado and Regional Organizer for 350.org.

A report issued by Food & Water Watch reveals that the industry may be poised to export as much as 40 percent of current U.S. consumption of natural gas and oil overseas to foreign markets, posing new questions for states that allow fracking to take place.

“Colorado’s oil and gas industry is threatening our health, safety and property in order to export natural gas overseas to foreign markets,” said Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Regional Director for Food & Water Watch. “Fracking has absolutely nothing to do with energy security and everything to do with the oil and gas industry looking for new and creative ways to turn a profit. That’s definitely not a burden Coloradans needs to take on.”

For more information, visit: http://www.protectourcolorado.org

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Protect Our Colorado is comprised of the following organizations: Patagonia, Lighthouse Solar, Colorado Progressive Coalition, 350.org, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley, Holy Terror Farm, Foodshed Productions, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Our Longmont, Adams County Unite Now, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, The Mother’s Project, Frack Free CO, Community for Sustainable Energy, Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group, East Boulder County United, Frack Files of Weld, Frack Free Loveland, Conscious Global Leadership, The Question Alliance, Frack Free Boulder, Denver Community Rights, Routt County Frack, Frack Free Fort Collins.

COGCC: F on Health — and listening skills

Editor’s Note: The following address was given before the COGCC’s hearing on oil and gas setbacks. The public was limited to only two-minute presentations. The Oil and Gas Industry tried to prevent that, also.

Fracking  near Mead CODr. Theo Colborn recently published her second peer reviewed study of Natural Gas Operations.  Weekly air samples for over a year were taken 0.7  mile (that’s 3,696 feet) from a well pad in Garfield County.  More than 50 airborne chemicals (some present in all samples) were detected – most known to have multiple health effects on humans when present in as little as parts per billion – 30 of those are known endocrine disruptors that particularly and profoundly affect children ….here is a copy for you.

I am here on behalf of 25,000 voting citizens of Longmont, who by their action on November 6th unequivocally told you the following:

 

  1. You have a mandate to oversee exploration and production of oil and gas in a manner consistent with the protection of public health and safety
  2. By your own admission neither the current nor proposed setbacks consider human health impacts — and you have not conducted or proposed a single such study
  3. Yet – Article 2, Section 3 of the Colorado Constitution guarantees all citizens “safety” as an inalienable right
  4. Therefore, until appropriate, objective, and adequate health impact studies are performed – no discussion of setbacks is valid or responsible…
  5. Without such studies – tinkering with setbacks here amounts to little more than a distraction from the real issue of health and appears a cynical attempt to dupe and sedate the public into believing that you have their best interest at heart.
  6. Until you give equal attention to the people’s health as you are mandated  it will be necessary for we, the people, to take safety concerns into our own hands and protect ourselves as did Longmont….and as many more cities will surely do.

Until more study can be done, short of a moratorium, I suggest a starting point for setbacks at something more than the 3,696 feet that Dr. Colborn’s study shows to be serious health hazard.

 

Tell the truth, Wendy.

As a native of Boulder County, and as the son of a man who worked in the oil and gas industry for 35 years, I feel compelled to respond to the hyperbole and melodrama of Encana Oil and Gas’s Wendy Wiedenbeck’s guest editorial (“Anti-fracking activism,” Op/ed Dec. 29). And, as the Colorado director of the national group Food and Water Watch that Wiedenbeck smears, I feel compelled to set the record straight about my organization and the community members that Wiedenbeck depicts as “extremists.”

Being almost completely devoid of facts, Wiedenbeck’s article uses emotional pleas and exaggeration. But what about the peaceful, earnest community members who she derides as “fringe activists?” These are mothers, fathers, teachers and small business people who have, until now, had no say to whether or not the oil and gas industry can put our air, water, soil and property values at risk by dangerous drilling practices like fracking.

Wiedenbeck wants sympathy, but it’s our health, our families’ safety and our communities that are threatened. Let’s examine the factual record.

There are 45,000 fracked wells in Colorado. Increasingly, the oil and gas industry — with the blessing of Governor Hickenlooper — is drilling merely a stone’s throw from our homes, schools, public parks, rivers and streams.

Warning sign on oil and gas condensate tank near homes in Evans COFracking and its associated activities threaten our health. Nearly 25 percent of the chemicals used in fracking could cause cancer; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular system; and more than 75 percent could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system. With these scientifically documented dangers, why is Governor Hickenlooper’s state regulatory agency permitting companies like Encana to drill wells next to elementary schools in Erie, where data from a recent NOAA study found levels of propane ten times higher than in Los Angeles?

Fracking contaminates groundwater. According to an analysis done by the Denver Post of the state’s own regulator agency’s data, oil and gas has contaminated groundwater over 350 times in the past 5 years. On average, there is more than one spill a day across the state.

It takes 1-5 million gallons of water to frack a well. Each well can be fracked multiple times. Multiply that across the 45,000 wells in Colorado and you get a sense of the sheer volume of water that is being laced with thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals and pumped into the ground. In effect, this water is removed from the hydrological cycle forever. Having just experienced one of our state’s most severe droughts, when 62 out of 64 counties were declared in a state of disaster, it seems unconscionable to continue such wanton destruction of our precious water resources.

Fracking drives down property values. There have been reported cases of home values dropping up to 75 percent due to nearby fracking activity. Increasingly, banks are not granting mortgages to property owners whose land carry oil and gas leases.

Ban Fracking NowSadly, it’s not just Wiedenbeck who’s obedient to the business objectives of the oil and gas industry — Governor Hickenlooper is astonishingly out of touch with Coloradans on this issue too. He has refused multiple requests to meet with Coloradans who are concerned about fracking taking place near their homes and children’s elementary schools. He has locked citizens out of “public meetings” that he has convened to discuss the issue while gladly keynoting at the oil and gas industry’s annual summit, starring in pro-fracking advertisements, and to suing the citizens of Longmont for attempting to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.

Wiedenbeck’s attack should be seen for what it is: A desperate attempt to cover up the fact that Coloradans don’t want fracking. This was made clear when citizens in Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban this dangerous, industrial activity next to their homes and schools last November. The vote was a resounding mandate. It was especially notable because the oil and gas industry raised over half-a-million dollars to defeat the measure, including $30,000 from Wiedenbeck’s employer.

It’s unfortunate that Wiedenbeck finds it necessary to defame Colorado citizens, but it’s understandable. It’s less understandable — deplorable actually — that Governor Hickenlooper continues to dismiss, discredit and even sue mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, retirees and business owners in Colorado who do not want fracking next to their homes and schools. These are the voices of reason and common sense.

Sam Schabacker is the Mountain West Region Director for Food and Water Watch.

Encana propaganda as toxic as fracking

skull-crossbonesIn “Guest Opinion” pieces of corporate propaganda, such as Wendy Wiedenbeck’s the recent post in the Boulder Daily Camera, reality gets buried by twisting the facts with half truths, misrepresentations, innuendos, and claims of innocence and victimization, that in the end amount to lies. Let’s get real about this. Wendy Wiedenbeck’s job as “community relations adviser” is to create a positive image for one of the most ruthless industries on the planet, whose only consideration is maximum profit, regardless of any ill effects to local citizens.

The laws and “”regulations” have gradually evolved to allow corporations to “legally” degrade the health of our families and our ecosystem. We have tried in vain to be heard by our elected officials at all levels of government, yet the assault on our quality of life worsens by the hour. We have tried Wiedenbeck’s “civil discourse” and figured out that it is a sham. The public forums are almost all we have left, because we are not being represented in the back rooms and the boardrooms. Now grassroots groups around the U.S. and the world are finding creative ways to fight back.

And as for Wiedenbeck’s “silent majority”, they recently spoke loud and clear in Longmont, 60% to 40%, and said “NO”, you will not be allowed to wreak havoc on the health and welfare of our community with your fracking and waste.

Wiedenbeck’s Opinion is filled with half-truths.

Example:

“I’m also guessing that they don’t know that hydraulic fracturing has been taking place in Boulder since the 1950s.”

Current fracking methods have little or no resemblance to previous methods. When Dick Cheney exempted fracking from parts of the Clean Air and Water Acts the industry took pollution and contamination to new levels.

“But there have been no signs of regret from the activists, or from the out-of-state pressure groups — such as Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C. — that encourage their behavior, train and fund them.”

Food & Water Watch did not “encourage” the behavior at the Commissioners meetings. The only “training” they have done is to show local concerned citizens how to best coordinate outreach to the community. And the only “funding” has been on an “in kind” basis. Wiedenbeck’s allegation is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit all of these concerned groups into one group, to make corporate thugs, like Encana, look good by contrast.

We’re on to you and your industry’s dirty tricks, Wendy. And that is your real concern. The citizenry has finally figured it out, and we are fighting back. Our only goal is to protect our families and communities.

He met the enemy; it is us.

earth_on_fire_1062515_63098996The high temperature on Wednesday, Dec. 5, was 67 degrees. No real precipitation for about a year. Major fires still burning in Colorado. Texas fires and drought for two full years. Country wide drought of the hundred-year variety — at least of the old variety. Extreme weather events the world over.

Global CO2 concentrations at levels not seen by man, ever. The science is in — scratch that — our communal experience is here. We are in trouble. It’s obvious! Hopefully we will get some benevolent reprieves. But we cannot count on it.

I’ve come to understand that I can live in hope only if I am doing everything I can to bring about the hoped-for result. To not be in action for one’s hopes is to be living in wishes.

Greed, ignorance, pride and denial all contribute to our weather inaction. Don’t point fingers. It is us. It is me. We have a long road to recovery. Personal action is an imperative. Pushing for and demanding community and societal action is our human responsibility. Be ready to sacrifice.

We can overcome this apocalypse. However, we must first acknowledge the situation. Then we must act. I implore those who deny there is a problem with the weather to rethink and look through the lens of your immediate experiences.

The fiscal cliff is a grain of sand compared to the wall of weather we face if we continue on our current path. Begin a new course today.

Oil and gas industry attacks democratic process

Lady Justice

Longmont is fighting back

Thanks to City Council for committing to a vigorous defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act.

This act was placed in the city charter by the will of Longmont voters who have a constitutional right to protect their health, safety and property values. Colorado oil and gas is attacking our democratic process by challenging the people’s vote and the Longmont charter in court. Their process is not safe and responsible. Their promises of revenue have not materialized in fracked communities. Roads have been damaged by heavy trucks, property values and municipal revenues have diminished, and the prospect for long-term, well-paying jobs has been lost.

There is much evidence of the horrors suffered in other communities subjected to today’s unconventional fracking. People are exposed to carcinogenic and other dangerous chemicals; methane gas is released into the air and water; water is poisoned by toxic chemicals; millions of gallons of water are used at each site and turned into toxic waste.

If you care about children or any human beings, pets and livestock, schools, your church, recreational facilities, the value of homes, parks, streets, our precious aquifer and long-term job growth, you will fight this attack by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

A vigorous legal defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act will ensure long-term economic growth and a viable future for all who live in Longmont.