Environment

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.

Commissioners rate truck traffic above people

Want to get an idea about the scale of industrialization of Boulder County?

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Let’s take a look at truck traffic alone. According to the recent “Boulder County Oil and Gas Roadway Impact Study” presented to the Boulder County Commissioners, each well fracked in Boulder County would take about 2,206 truck trips to complete. Given the commissioners’ estimate that up to 1,800 wells are conceivable in Boulder County, this equates to 3,970,800 truck trips to complete these wells. If we assume the average tractor-trailer length to be 70 feet, this gives a perspective on the scope of the industrialization being considered.

Given the report and county’s numbers, the resulting line of trucks would span from New York to Los Angeles and back over 10 times. Of course the study assumes the wells are fracked only once. In reality wells can be fracked up to 18 times. Can you imagine, from truck traffic alone, what the sky above Boulder County might look like to someone from on top of the Flatirons by the end of this process?

The study does not calculate the costs to people. What would the rise in cases of asthma cost due to ozone? What are the total costs to public and environmental health associated with the full process of gas and oil operations? It is clear that the Boulder County Commissioners need to take as much consideration into the human impacts of industrialization as they do roads. For a real picture of what this would mean we would have to include complete health impact studies and baseline air and water quality studies. For a county whose oil and gas permit moratorium expires on June 10, it sure seems like there is a lot of homework to be done.

Boulder County succumbs to bullying

Vote endangers public's health and property and puts Democracy at risk.

GARY WOCKNER is the  Colorado Program Director for Clean Water Action, Fort Collins

The environmental community — and our organization, Clean Water Action — was extremely disappointed to see the Boulder County commissioners cave in to the oil and gas industry. The commissioners could have extended the moratorium on drilling and fracking and spared the toxic pollution and trespass that this rogue industry will now splatter across Boulder County.

Fracking causes air and water pollution, has been shown to increase cancer risks, and reeks havoc on nearby homes and families. In addition, methane escaping from fracking operations and the burning of natural gas is a significant contributor to climate change.

Shame on the commissioners for not protecting their citizens. Their vote endangers the public’s health and property and further puts our Democracy at risk.

DSC_0395_EliseJonesHickenlooper 2That said, we were happy to see Commissioner Elise Jones try to persuade the other two commissioners to extend the moratorium. Commissioner Jones’ grit and leadership was apparent and appreciated a few weeks ago when she took on (and beat!) Gov. John Hickenlooper in the fracking debate at the University of Denver. And again, Commissioner Jones stood up for the publi when she supported the extension of the moratorium.

Gov. Hickenlooper is a bully, and the oil and gas industry is an even bigger bully with billions of dollars. Commissioner Jones: Please keep standing up to these bullies, and please keep speaking out against the frack attack coming into Boulder County.

Frackenlooper: No “Fair Witness”

Oil and gas lobbyists call him "a stud."

Hickenlooper 2On May 2, Gov. Hickenlooper participated in the FrackingSENSE lecture series at the University of Colorado. There he stated that he wants to be a “fair witness” of oil and gas development (particularly of fracking) in Colorado. 

The term “fair witness” was introduced in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. In this book, a fair witness is defined as an individual trained to observe events and report exactly what he or she sees and hears, making no extrapolations or assumptions. I would venture to say Hickenlooper is anything but a fair witness when it comes to fracking.

Frackenlooper ButtonConsider that he has appeared in paid advertisements for the oil and gas industry claiming that fracking is safe. He has been called a “stud” by oil and gas lobbyists, hardly an impartial reference. He intentionally misled a Senate hearing committee and the press with his claims of drinking fracking fluid, which in reality was not the kind of highly toxic and carcinogenic fracking fluid that is routinely used throughout Colorado. He has sued a local community, Longmont, for imposing a ban on fracking. He has not only continually threatened to veto just about any bills that would strengthen regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, but has pressured Democrats to kill such bills before they even reach his desk so he can avoid looking like the bad guy.

At this same conference Hickenlooper stated that “if we find unhealthy air quality around a community and something coming out of a well that is an issue, we will put the brakes on faster than you can imagine.” Oh really? NOAA recently reported air quality in Weld County that is worse than Los Angeles and Houston and is directly related to oil and gas activity, yet there is no slowdown on activity there. And a recent gas leak near Parachute allowed a carcinogen to seep into the ground near a large creek that feeds into the Colorado River, and I have yet to hear of any “brakes” being applied there.

Probably the most alarming statement that Hickenlooper made at the FrackingSENSE event is that the science on the impacts of fracking is far from settled and that scientists don’t know the impacts of wells on air and how that might affect the health of nearby residents. If this is true, then why are we continuing to drill, baby, drill? Shouldn’t we be implementing the precautionary principal and putting the brakes on fracking until we know the answers to these important questions? Shouldn’t we be putting state money toward studies that would answer these questions instead of toward costly lawsuits against residents who are trying to protect themselves? Instead, Hickenlooper’s appointee to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Urbina, specifically testified against HB 1275 that would have produced a study on health impacts.

The fact that our governor is saying one thing but doing completely the opposite leads me to believe that he is certainly no fair witness to oil and gas development and fracking but instead is a colluding representative of the industry.

Stand up and fight, Colorado!

No-fracking-logoOur founders stressed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their Declaration of Independence. A recent survey found the happiest Americans live in Hawaii. Coloradans are second! The unhappiest people live in West Virginia. I think I know why: degradation of the environment and poor health.

I grew up in the 1940s and ’50s in Nitro, W.Va., in the Kanawha River Valley, home to a huge chemical industry. Cancer rates were high, particularly liver and lung cancer. The chemical plants sat outside our city limits, so there was no local control over what they did to our environment. The paint on our houses and cars faded from the chemicals in the air, the water stank and was unpalatable.

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal Courtesy EcoWatch

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal
Courtesy EcoWatch

Alternatives for West Virginia workers included working in the coal mines. Explosions, collapses and “black lung” took their toll. The coal industry has mined the coal easiest to reach, so they’ve begun blowing up the beautiful West Virginia hills to get at the coal. They let what’s left roll down into the streams, fouling the water, killing the fish and causing landslides onto private property.

Why are West Virginians the unhappiest Americans? Their land, air and water have been degraded by corporations seeking profits without regard to the health and safety of their workers and other citizens.

I hope more Colorado residents will join Longmont and Fort Collins in drawing the line in the sand between us and the oil and gas industry: You cannot ruin our beautiful state, destroy our precious, scarce water resources, pollute our formerly pristine air for your profit. You have a right to extract the minerals you have purchased, but not at the expense of the health and safety of present and future Coloradans. Stand up and fight, Colorado!

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea on fracking

Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea (photo courtesy of ClearingTheFogRadio.org)

What a rare and wonderful event to have a nationally known and highly regarded scientist come to Longmont to speak to a group of concerned citizens!  The day-long conference sponsored by Our Longmont began with a keynote address by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, the Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University and a highly regarded expert of the history of hydraulic fracturing and its present practices.  In 2011, TIME Magazine named him one of its “People Who Mattered.”  His widely published research on computer simulation and physical testing of complex fracturing processes provides the very latest information on the controversial process of fracking.

In a very engaging lecture with numerous slides, Dr. Ingraffea showed that the deleterious effects of the process of fracking are not in fact controversial.  Only someone ignorant of the widely published research could hold that view, and that includes data made public and researched by oil companies, themselves, as well as independent research scientists.  Among the more disturbing disclosures he offered was the very latest on fracturing technology’s saturation approach to drilling.  Gone are days of drilling single wells that are miles apart, or even drilling just a single well pad.  Dr. Ingraffea showed how the most economical and profitable drilling is now done on wells so closely spaced that the lateral drill shafts are only 500 feet apart.  Companies lease miles of land and then drill literally everywhere within it.  This means there would be explosions of shale every 500 feet.  It’s easy to see that no urban area could maintain its residences or general habitat if it was subjected to saturation drilling.  Why, then, are public officials in Colorado saying that only a few more regulations should make everything ok?  That is absurd.

Dr. Ingraffea also provided a perspective on the real economic data about fracking.  Far from being a great boon to the economy, most wells are played out within 5 years.  Most will also eventually leak, causing environmental damage, even if they are not actively drilled again.  Dr. Ingraffea showed that the Niobrara formation, which is underneath Longmont and most of the Front Range, is nowhere near the size of the Bakken Field in North Dakota.  It is only about one-tenth the size of the Bakken, possibly even less than that.  Why should we destroy the place where we live for this small amount of oil?   It will not significantly benefit the Longmont economy, but it will wreak havoc with our way of life and our health and safety.


You can also listen to an interview of Dr. Ingraffea on ClearingTheFogRadio.org.

Public Star Night at the Little Thompson Observatory

Friday, May 17th, 2013 — 7:00 – 11:00 PM

Little Thompson Observatory

Little Thompson Observatory

Public Star Night at the Little Thompson Observatory, 850 Spartan Ave at Berthoud High School (park east of the high school; directions are posted on our website, www.starkids.org).

Our guest speakers are William Murtagh and David Stone, from the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO. The title of their talk will be: “Space Weather Storms: Are we ready for a ‘Space Katrina’”.

Our Nation is embarking on ambitious plans to modernize infrastructure which will be based on advanced technological resources vulnerable to space weather. Space weather impacts everyday life, including national security, emergency response, electric power grids, aviation, communications, global positioning system (GPS) applications, and satellite operations – technology we have come to rely on for our day-to-day activities. These recent advances in our technological infrastructure drive emerging space weather service needs undreamed of just a decade ago.

Extreme space weather

Extreme space weather

Extreme space weather storms are rare, but these low frequency events have significant consequences. Recent reports suggest the greatest natural disaster perhaps facing the Nation would be an intense geomagnetic storm. In December 2012, the U.S. National Intelligence Council presented solar geomagnetic storms as an event that could change the future course of human history. Building hazard-resilient communities is a national priority, but can we ensure the security of our high-tech community during an extreme space weather storm?

Bill Murtagh is the Program Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado. He is NOAA’s space weather lead in coordinating preparedness and response efforts with industry, national and international agencies, emergency managers, and government officials around the world.

Bill is a member of the White House Working Group on geomagnetic disturbances, guiding national policy in response to space weather storms. He regularly briefs the White House and members of Congress and their staff on vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure. He is a regular guest speaker at universities, government agencies, and national and international conferences. Bill has provided numerous interviews to major media outlets and is featured in several TV documentaries on space weather, most recently on the Discovery Channel ‘Sun Storm’, and the NOVA show ‘Secrets of the Sun’.

Solar weather forecasting

Solar weather forecasting

Before joining NOAA, Bill was a meteorologist and space weather forecaster in the U.S. Air Force. He coordinated and provided meteorological support for national security interests around the world. Bill transferred to the SWPC in 1997 as a space weather forecaster and liaison between NOAA and the U.S. Air Force. He joined NOAA in 2003 after retiring from the Air Force with 23 years of military service.

David Stone is responsible for developing the software which currently ingests and processes the GOES-13/14/15 telemetry and creates the space weather instrument data plots and imagery that is used by Space Weather Forecasters.  Modeled after NASA/JPL’s Mars Rover ingest architecture, the success and complexity of this system earned him an Outstanding Performance Award from the University of Colorado.

As a PMP certified project manager, he now leads software development teams at SWPC developing critical forecaster tools and transitioning space weather models into operational weather products.  His latest team efforts focus on designing, implementing and re-hosting a new public Space Weather website for SWPC – targeting growth from the current 5 million visitors per day to over 50 million. He has a BS – Computer Science from USMA, West Point (1989) and a MS – Computer Science (in Artificial Intelligence) from Stanford (1996).

The doors will open at 7:00pm and the presentation will start at 7:30pm.  Weather permitting after the presentation (around 8:30 PM), visitors will be invited to observe various celestial objects through our 6” Astro-Physics Refractor, and 18” Tinsley and 24” Cole Reflector telescopes.

Public star nights at LTO are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join us for the talk and some observing afterwards.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at: www.starkids.org

Public Star Nights at the Pioneer Museum, 224 Mountain Avenue in Berthoud, home of the historical 6” Brashear Refractor from John Bunyan, are held on the first Friday of each month. If you have any questions, please call the Bunyan observatory information line at 970-532-2147 or check the museum web site at: http://www.berthoudhistoricalsociety.org/bunyan.htm

 

Sincerely,

Meinte Veldhuis, President, Little Thompson Science Foundation

Hick, job security is not guaranteed.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

If it’s not clear what our governor intends to do to bills that might inhibit oil and gas operations, then our legislators are less informed than I have believed. I hope there is sufficient spine in both houses to override any folly.

In the early 1970s the state almost mandated statewide land-use planning under HB 1041. That measure gave at least implicit authority to the state to “designate” numerous classes of lands as subject to “state interest,” meaning local land-use planning efforts could generally be ignored, if the state wished to do so. Sound familiar?

The Legislature didn’t take long to “come to its senses,” eviscerating the Colorado “Land Use (Control) Commission” by denying that body funding. At the time I disagreed with that move, but if one lives long enough sometimes a different ship comes in.

There is a difference between a matter being of statewide interest and being of interest to the state in each and every spot. Municipalities take precedence even over counties in Colorado.

Does CDOT hold sway where there are no highways? Does the Public Utilities Commission have any jurisdiction where there are no powerlines, generating facilities, pipelines, etc.? If oil and gas development is important to every individual in the state, then operations dedicated to that end are also. With modern production technology one needs not drill everywhere to withdraw oil and or gas somewhere. Best practices would dictate that in some cases, “somewhere” does not always need to be here.

I notice there are no oil wells near the governor’s mansion in Denver. Left unchecked, this governor may have drilling in Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t laugh; he doesn’t plan on abbreviating his political career just yet. Maybe legislative representatives of the people will have to do that for him.

“Be FrackSURE” Conference Announced by Our Longmont

Be FrackSURE logo -fracksure-sm

 

Longmont, CO…Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, the organization that sponsored the city charter amendment that banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Longmont, will hold an educational conference on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and its many perils.

“Be FrackSURE:  What you don’t know may WELL hurt you,” will be held on April 27, 2013, from 9 AM to 5 PM at the Plaza Conference Center (1850 Industrial Circle, Longmont) behind the Best Western Plus Plaza Hotel.  Tickets for the event are $38 to cover the costs of the event.  Pre-registration is necessary and tickets can be purchased at www.fracksure.org.

Dr. Anthony IngraffeaOur Longmont is thrilled to have Dr. Anthony Ingraffea as the Keynote Speaker at “Be FrackSURE.”  Dr. Ingraffea is the foremost engineering authority on fracture mechanics and holds the prestigious title of Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering in Cornell University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.   “With his partners in what has become known as the Cornell Study, Dr. Ingraffea revealed that, contrary to the never-ending mythology promulgated by the oil and gas industry, unconventional gas, procured by fracking likely emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere during its life cycle than does coal,” said Our Longmont’s Kaye Fissinger.

In 2011, TIME Magazine named him one of its “People Who Mattered.”  Not only is Dr. Ingraffea among the “people who matter,” but he also recognizes that people matter in this battle with the oil and gas industry, politicians who embrace it, and regulators too closely tied to it.  When asked his position on the impacts of drilling for oil and gas using horizontal fracking, Dr. Ingraffea, with his vast knowledge in this area, unequivocally states, “Where shale gas development has not yet occurred, ban it.  Period. Where it is occurring, enact ironclad regulations, inspect for compliance with them with dogged diligence, and enforce them relentlessly with fines that really mean something.”

Dr. Geoffrey Thyne will be the featured speaker during the “Be FrackSURE” buffet luncheon.  Dr. Thyne, author or co-author of over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers, will speak to the complexities of research and the influence of industry and government in academic settings.

Breakout sessions on the health ramifications of fracking on air and water and on the economic ramifications of fracking will include notable experts Phillip Doe, Wes Wilson, Shane Davis, Pete Morton and Jeanne Bassett.  Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region Director for Food & Water Watch, will discuss ways for others to protect their communities from the dangers of fracking in urban areas where people live, work and play.

Said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont, “No day would be complete without music and Our Longmont is proud to be able to present the acclaimed Hazel Miller, who has been called a ‘force of nature’ herself.  With her ‘stunning, moving, and powerful’ voice, Hazel has been a sought after performer in Colorado for the past 24 years. Whether she is singing blues, jazz, pop, or Gospel, her voice charges the songs with a primal dose of genuine soul.”

Our Longmont’s “Be FrackSURE” is proud to have Patagonia as its corporate sponsor.  Patagonia, a designer of outdoor clothing and gear, explains its sponsorship of Our Longmont’s “Be Frack SURE” conference, “We give at the grassroots level to innovative groups mobilizing their communities to take action.  This is our niche: supporting people working on the frontlines of the environmental crisis.”

Our Longmont encourages everyone who is concerned about fracking and who wants to be more fully informed by experts in their fields to join with them for this interactive, informative, day-long event.  Come celebrate the progress that has been made in Colorado to restrain and prohibit the dangerous practice of fracking, and to energize our continuing efforts to keep up the fight for our health, safety, property values and quality of life in Longmont, along the Front Range and throughout all of Colorado.

Detailed information can be found at www.ourlongmont.org/be-frac-sure/.

Jones trounces Hickenlooper in debate

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones clearly won the debate against Governor Hickenlooper about “Who Should Control Hydraulic Fracturing in Colorado” that took place at CU Denver Law School. The debate was held on April 1st at Denver University’s Sturm College of Law.  The complete debate may be heard here.

DSC_0395_EliseJonesHickenlooper 2Commissioner Jones was more persuasive in advocating for local governments to have local control to ban fracking in residential neighborhoods and other places. She also had better command of the facts for why the regulatory environment needs to level the playing field between fossil fuel and renewable energy development.

“Oil and gas fracking poses many risks to our health, to our air and water, to our property values, to our quality of life. Fracking for oil and gas is an intensive process with a heavy footprint. It is not something you want near your home, your kid’s school, your parent’s nursing home or your drinking water,” Jones said.

“Why are we having an argument about drilling in cities near schools and homes? That is a ludicrous place to drill. Allowing local governments to regulate and ban if they want, works better for a renewable energy future.”

Commissioner Jones presented compelling arguments in favor of local control. Take note on the points that follow as these and others can arm Boulder County with legally defensible reasons to extend the moratorium in Boulder County after it expires in June 2013. If we don’t extend the moratorium, the City of Boulder’s land in unincorporated Boulder County will be fracked.

She also referenced a 1994 Colorado Supreme Court ruling where a uranium mining mill in Weld County was not allowed to extract uranium out of the ground because of the radiation that could be emitted and cause harm to the public. The Colorado Department of Health won the suit and the company did not sue for lost resources.

During the debate, House Bill (HB) 1269 Conflict of Interest with the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) was raised.

The COGCC was developed in 1951 at a time when there was a perceived need to foster oil and gas development. That need no longer exists as the oil and gas industry is now the wealthiest industry in the world and production continues to rapidly expand, despite public outcry against the permanent removal of what will be trillions of gallons of drinking water from the hydrologic cycle if allowed to continue in a draught state, and 9 percent or higher methane leaks that directly contribute to climate change.

Currently the COGCC is mandated to both promote and to regulate oil and gas, a clear conflict of interest. HB 1269 would remove the promotion mandate and allow the COGCC to focus on public and environmental health and safety exclusively. This would be a much wiser use of our taxpayer dollars and would begin to give renewables a fighting chance to compete.

As introduced, the bill also redefines “waste” to allow the commission to not extract hydrocarbons under the Earth when methods and locations would jeopardize human and environmental health; and prevents members of the commission from simultaneous working for and having a financial interest in the industry they are charged with regulating.

HB 13-1269 passed the full House of Representatives, but unfortunately not without amendments, both of which watered down a superior bill.

HB 1269 now moves to the Senate.

Neshama Abraham is the founder of Frack Free Boulder.

Fort Collins: Keep Fracking Moratorium

Fort Collins fracking ban was undermined 

For Immediate Release
April 15, 2013

Fort Collins, CO – Today, three citizens groups – Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins – asked the City of Fort Collins to keep its drilling and fracking moratorium in place to protect citizens from cancer-causing fracking chemicals. The moratorium was set to expire on July 31, 2013; the vote to terminate the moratorium is set for Tuesday night, April 16th.

On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, the Fort Collins City Council passed a ban on fracking that grandfathered in the current driller, Prospect Energy LLC, allowing that driller to drill and frack on its eight currently occupied well sites in northern Fort Collins. However, three weeks later on March 19, on a flipped and contested vote, the Council passed an “Agreement” with that driller that included opening up 1,280 acres (2 square miles) of new land inside the City of Fort Collins for drilling and fracking surrounding the Budweiser brewery. The “Agreement” with the driller effectively undermines the ban and was moved forward to the Council with no public meetings or Council work session beforehand.

As a result, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins are requesting that the moratorium stay in place and that a new Agreement with the driller be negotiated.

Although the Council originally voted 5-2 for the ban on fracking, the vote flip-flopped three weeks later when Mayor Weitkunat and Councilmember Horak joined in an anti-environmental majority and voted to open up 2 square miles for new drilling and fracking. Ironically, in the weeks leading up to the ban, Horak publicly positioned himself in the media as an anti-fracking supporter garnering a large front-page story in the Fort Collins Coloradoan and other stories in the regional media. Horak even publicly stated that he proposed the ban and helped write the language for the ordinance. Horak was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“This will ban fracking in 99.9 percent of Fort Collins and avoid a very costly lawsuit with the current operator,” Horak said.

But three weeks later, Horak flip-flopped and voted to open up 2 square miles of land in Fort Collins for fracking. Horak’s role in the fracking ban was clouded in controversy from the beginning. A month before the vote, Horak attended a “closed-door meeting” with the Matt Lepore, State Director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. About the closed-door meeting, Lepore was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“We didn’t want to have an open meeting,” Lepore said. “We wanted to reach out to those (on council) who we understood were maybe a little bit more undecided on their positions.”

“The moratorium needs to stay in place,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “The citizens in northern Fort Collins, especially those living around the Budweiser brewery now and in the future, are at risk of contamination from cancer-causing fracking chemicals.”

“Horak voted to open up 2 square miles of Fort Collins for fracking,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action, a national group that advocates against fracking in cities across the Front Range of Colorado. “When the public and media were watching, Horak positioned himself against fracking, but three weeks later in a quieter vote, he flip-flopped.”

“Horak deceived the public,” said Rico Moore of Frack Free Fort Collins. “His flip-flop votes do not represent the values of Fort Collins or of his very liberal and environmentally minded district.”

A map of the “Undeveloped Acreage” – 2 square miles surrounding Budweiser brewery that is now open for drilling and fracking – is here: http://water.clean.home.comcast.net/~water.clean/FoCo-frack-field-UDA.jpg.


Gary Wockner, PhD
Colorado Program Director
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CleanWaterActionColorado
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/CleanWaterCO1
Web: http://cleanwater.org/co
303-405-6755 (office)
970-218-8310 (cell)