Facts

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.

Some call them banks. We call them criminals.

Photo courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1136585In case you failed to notice, 2012 ended just like it began for many global too-big-to-fail banks: scandalously. Too-big-to-fail banks are those entities deemed so large that their failure could plunge the global economy into depression. Many of these players are the ones that allowed greed and compulsive gambling with borrowed money to nearly wreck the global financial system in 2008. Saving the system required U.S. taxpayers to bail out numerous big U.S. banks. Unfortunately, since the bailouts, these behemoths have become even larger, with more concentrated power over the global financial system. Therefore, too-big-to-fail banks are an even larger threat to international financial stability than in 2008. After you read the next paragraph, it will be clear that as they have become larger, the too-big-to-fail banks have also become too big to indict, even for the most egregious illegal and fraudulent behavior.

For those of you who have not followed the long parade of big banks that agreed to pay fines to avoid prosecution in 2012, here is a small sample of names, settlement amounts and offenses for which they settled. As you recognize these well-known names, remember, these are the large financial institutions on which the global financial system depends for economic growth and stability. The following are listed in the chronological order in which the settlements occurred: 1. Bank America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Bank ($26 billion), fraudulent foreclosure practices; 2. Citigroup ($158 million) and Bank of America ($1 billion), misleading the Department of Housing and Urban Development; 3. Deutsche Bank ($200 million), misleading HUD; 4. ING ($619 million), money laundering; 5. Barclays ($450 million), interest rate rigging; 6. Capital One ($210 million), deceptive marketing credit cards; 7. Standard Chartered Bank of England ($340 million), laundering money for Iran and lying to regulators; 8. Bank America ($2.43 billion), misleading investors; 9. Goldman Sachs ($12 million), a “pay to play” scheme with a public official; 10. JPMorgan and Credit Suisse ($417 million), bundling and selling troubled mortgages to investors; 11. HSBC ($1.9 billion), money laundering for drug traffickers and terrorist institutions; 12. Morgan Stanley ($5 million), violating securities laws; and 13. UBS ($1.5 billion), manipulating interest rates. Only UBS was forced to admit guilt as part of its settlement. Although the settlement agreement shielded its charter to operate, UBS admitted guilt for a single act of felony wire fraud on behalf of its Japanese subsidiary. The remaining offenders were allowed to settle without admission or denial of guilt. Many of these banks are recidivists.

Prosecutors in the Justice Department and other bank regulators chose to settle these cases instead of prosecuting for fear conviction might cause the banks to fail, thus triggering a collapse of the global financial system. Therefore, with a slap on the wrist, the too-big-to-fail banks were not held accountable for charges of fraud, misleading federal regulators, money laundering, interest rate manipulation, deceptive marketing, misleading investors and violating securities laws. With prosecution off the table, big banks have no incentive to change their behavior. Settlement payments are just another cost of doing business. The U.S. banks named above were all considered too big to fail in 2008, so they received billions of dollars in TARP bailout support. These same banks are now spending huge sums to ferociously resist reasonable regulation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.

Since the global financial system is so dependent on a small group of large, interconnected banks (oligopolists) that are too big to fail, indict or prosecute, these institutions have no fear of being held accountable for the most egregious acts of lawlessness and fraudulent behavior. Therefore, they are too big to exist in their current form and must be right-sized into smaller entities. A large number of right-sized banks will ensure a vigorous, competitive financial sector that can efficiently provide the wide range of financial products necessary to support business formation and job creation. Officials at the big banks claim their institutions must be gargantuan to efficiently finance the economy. Empirical data to support such claims is hard to find; however, proof that too-big-to-fail banks are detrimental to global financial stability is abundant. Numerous banks agreeing to pay millions or billions of dollars to settle charges of outrageous illegal behavior in 2012 alone is quite telling. Until we eliminate too-big-to-fail banks, the world will constantly be on the edge of the next greed-induced financial calamity like we experienced in 2008.

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.

Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2012
Contact:  Michael Bellmont
(303) 678-9470

 

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit against Longmont’s Charter Amendment

 

Before the ink was barely dry on the Longmont Charter Amendment, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, that prohibits hydraulic fracturing next to homes and schools in Longmont, the oil and gas industry has filed a vicious lawsuit against the People of Longmont.  This suit was brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—with brazen support from Governor Hickenlooper—to force the citizens of Longmont to allow a dangerous, industrial activity that threatens the health, safety and property of citizens in Longmont.

On November 6, 2012, over 25,000 people, 60 percent of Longmont voters, representing all demographics and all political philosophies spoke loud and clear that it is their intention to prohibit hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the disposal of attendant wastes within the city limits of Longmont.  The citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to health, safety, and property shall not be infringed.

The legal assault by COGA is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process.  “It is unconscionable that the oil and gas industry has decided to sue the people of Longmont to recklessly endanger our health, safety and property,” said Michael Bellmont, a spokesperson for Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

Our Longmont has assembled a legal team that will assist in a vigorous and unwavering defense of the charter amendment that it placed on the ballot with the concurrence of over 8200 Longmont voters who signed the petition to qualify the measure (nearly 45% more than required).   “We will not be bullied.  We will not permit Governor Hickenlooper, who has publicly stated he will support a lawsuit and the oil and gas industry to put this dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes, schools and public parks,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Longmont.

Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is equally culpable in this decision to sue the people of Longmont after publicly declaring he will support any oil and gas company that seeks to sue citizens who want to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.  Any action that he directs the State of Colorado to take against the City of Longmont and the citizens of Longmont will be received with immense animosity and will carry a heavy political price.  Hickenlooper took an oath to represent the people, NOT the oil and gas industry.

Past the point of survival?

earth_on_fire_1062515_63098996The International Energy Agency issued its annual World Energy Outlook on Nov. 12. The Paris-based agency has 28 member nations and is acclaimed worldwide by many government agencies. The World Energy Outlook stated that North America is leading a global energy shift that will make the United States almost energy self-sufficient by 2035!

Almost all of this projected energy growth in North America, and particularly in the United States, is based on increased use of hydraulic fracturing and more efficient use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). The report clearly states that although the renewable energy segment will continue to grow, the world will still rely heavily on fossil fuels to meet its ever-expanding energy needs into the foreseeable future.

This overriding projection by the IEA is supported by most of the developed nations and driven by purely economic reasons. The United States, China and India demand a cheap and reliable energy source to satisfy their insatiable appetite for energy. The undeniable fact is growth-based economies need a cheap energy supply to grow their economies and use job creation as a publicly accepted excuse. The hydrocarbon companies, which are truly worldwide in nature, are only too happy to support this data for profit motives.

Even the projected expansion of renewables is based on the continued and increased use of government subsidies to make them competitive with relatively cheap and available fossil fuels. The World Energy Outlook report doesn’t take into consideration many of the potentially devastating consequences of expanding fossil fuel usage.

The most important of these consequences is global warming, with all the environmental factors associated with increased usage of fossil fuels. Along with the contentious climate change issues, there are other related and overlapping issues that could affect this projected scenario: social discontent, general health issues, inadequate water supplies, lack of proactive government policies, etc.

Unfortunately, the human condition is to be reactive, not proactive. I am fairly certain that we will use every ounce of fossil fuels available unless the world condition forces us to put survival ahead of profit. Most of the world depends on growth to sustain economic viability. We are culturally and socially committed to an ever-expanding population, consumption of finite resources and a dependence on profit and material growth. If we continue on this shortsighted path we could very well see the end of growth as we know it. We are at a crossroads in our human development. The question is will we do the things necessary for our very survival and maybe of the survival of the earth itself? The human species is close to becoming a cancer upon the earth that could kill the host that we owe our very existence to!

I am not trying to take a purely environmentalist position or simply suggest a doomsday scenario. I am also certainly not speaking out of technical expertise. I am simply trying to express my opinion as an observer of reality and human nature. We live in a world society where cellphones and iPods have become more important than a sustainable ecosystem. I actually believe a compromise will be worked out that will pacify the public and allow the fossil fuel companies to extract their bounty. It would take a sea change in our collective attitude to wean us off fossil fuels and close to impossible from a pragmatic standpoint. The reality is our fate may already be sealed!

Response to Denver Post’s interference in Longmont

The following is an expanded version of the response to Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll’s misrepresentation of Question 300, which prohibits hydraulic fracking and its waste products within Longmont city limits.

Colorado constitution

The Colorado Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to health, safety and wellbeing.

Recently Vincent Carroll wrote a column about the citizen-driven ballot measure, Question 300 that bans hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Longmont.  Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont agrees with one comment by Mr. Carroll:  Yes, this is a “bellwether vote in Longmont.”  However, there is little else about Carroll’s characterization of our effort upon which we can agree.

The citizens of Longmont didn’t choose to be a leader in the effort to assert local control over health, safety and wellbeing.  That role was thrust upon us by an industry that has no interest in our community except to extract its last dime of profits at our community’s expense.

When representative government is inadequate or a failure, the Colorado Constitution not only provides a remedy, but also provides a guarantee of citizen health, safety and welfare.

The citizens of Longmont are under attack not only from the oil and gas industry, but from our own governor.  Governor Hickenlooper is already suing us over regulations that are considerably watered down from what most in the Longmont community were expecting.  He’s also promised to sue us again if Question 300 passes.  Hickenlooper should be ashamed of himself.  But he isn’t.  He would rather serve as the spokesperson for oil and gas than represent his constituents.  He’d rather make commercials for oil and gas, and pretend to drink fracking fluid that is not even being used by the industry.

Our Longmont is a group of Longmont parents, business owners, retirees, teachers, medical providers, people from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics.  We are working to protect what we hold dear: our families, our health, our quality of life, our town.  In fact, many of us did not even know what fracking was when, one year ago, it was announced that an oil and gas company was going to frack only a stone’s throw from our homes, our children’s school and our reservoir in Longmont.

Our research revealed that scientific evidence points to the harms that fracking posed to our children, our health and our property.  Months of scientific testimony and public input was presented to our city council with deep and heartfelt pleas to protect us from the myriad dangers of fracking: the cacophonous noise, property damage, threats to our children’s health and safety, earthquakes, air pollution, and the threats to surface and groundwater from well-documented evidence from the state’s own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Eventually, we were faced with a choice:  abdicate our Constitutional rights to protect our family’s health, safety and welfare or work to keep Longmont a great place to live for our families today and for our children’s and grandchildren’s future families.  We chose the latter.

Over 100 volunteers worked for six weeks in 100 degree temperatures to collect 8,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.  The measure will give Longmont residents the right to vote on whether they want fracking 350 feet from their homes, schools and reservoir or to prohibit this method of oil and gas extraction outright.

We have now learned that the oil and gas industry has spent over $330,000 and  has contributed over a half-a-million dollars to defeat this measure.  They have outspent our citizen-led effort to protect our homes, safety and property 30 times over.

This money has come from 28 contributors, including Halliburton, Chevron, Encana.  Many of these oil and gas corporations aren’t even based in Colorado, but instead, hail from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.  Not one – not one Longmont resident has contributed to the opposition’s campaign.

Why are out-of-state oil and gas companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to strip parents, small-business owners, retirees and teachers in Longmont of their constitutional rights?  Why does the oil and gas industry feel the need to buy an election so that they can have free reign to put dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes and our children’s schools, or anywhere else their bank accounts desire?

While we wait for honest answers to these questions (and honesty is not a trademark of the oil and gas industry), we will continue what we have always done: being neighbors, parents and taxpayers in Longmont.  And we will not stop working every day to protect our loved ones from hydraulic fracking.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

By now you likely have received your ballots for the November election. If you have yet to fill it in or intend to vote on Nov. 6 at a voting station, please consider these facts.

As you probably know from ads and fliers, seven former mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose Ballot Question 300. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “fracking” before November 2011, when the issue first arose on Mayor Coombs’ watch. The seven aren’t experts — they are shills for the oil and gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place: the recycling bin.

Why in the world would a heavy industry such as oil and gas even think of drilling within sight or sound of a municipality?

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about– $75. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4,000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75. One hundred feet equals $7,500; 750 feet costs $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell with you, the hell with me and the hell with Longmont.

The regulations currently governing the O&G industry were formulated around 1985. At that time no one had likely ever considered drilling and fracking operations anywhere near a city or town. Does anyone seriously believe that if these same regulations were under consideration today they would pass? That a drilling pad could be set up within 350 feet of a school or a home? That the millions of gallons of contaminated water returned to the surface could be stored in open pits within a residential area?

How many of you remember that in 2005 Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed Congress into passing the “Halliburton loophole,” which exempted fracking operations from some of the protections of the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air acts? Think about that — a retired CEO of a company (Halliburton) that pioneered fracking technology persuades Congress to exempt the industry from such bothersome regulations because fracking was “safe, harmless and benign.” If the operation was so squeaky clean, why were these exemptions requested? Aside from the methane that leaks from every single drill site, is there another odor wafting about?

The O&G folks will tell you that fracking has been around for 60 or so years, but what they won’t volunteer is that fracking today ain’t your grandpa’s fracking. Back then, the water injected was just that — water. Today it’s a rich stew of chemicals so complex that each company considers their mix a trade secret and they fought to keep it that way, hidden from competitors, regulatory agencies, monitors, cities, towns and you — the folks whose lives may be the most violated.

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 psi. Today it’s pushing 14,000 psi. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the second hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grandkids drink and breath.

These are not — or at least should not be — partisan issues; a Republican household will be affected by the stench, noise and loss of property values every bit as much as will a Democratic household. We’re in this together, like it or not.

Longmont, let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25,000 or 30,000 votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote “yes” on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.

Seven “has been” mayors support propaganda

Editor’s note: Brian Hansen served on the Longmont City Council from 2007 to 2011.

Brian Hansen

If the seven former mayors who signed on as shills for the oil and gas industry’s assault on the residents of Longmont were aware of the horrendously expensive and deceitful attacks that would be made against Ballot Question 300, they should be ashamed at their disservice to the community.

The recently submitted Report of Contributions and Expenditures that are in the city clerk’s office shows $447,500 contributed by the oil and gas industry and not one dollar contributed by the seven former mayors who are speaking for the opposition.

By now, every voter has no doubt received multiple mailings of color brochures, complete with a photo of the former mayors against a beautiful mountain backdrop. The deceitful message in the ads is hidden in the white boxes, where fragmented quotations from respected federal officials are used to persuade you that hydraulic fracturing is “OK,” “inherently safe” and can be done “without harmful impacts.” The propagandists who prepared the ads or the former mayors (or both) must not have believed anyone would bother to verify the accuracy of the fragmented quotations.

I have looked up several of the citations, and I encourage you to do the same. I can assure you, the story told by the fragmented quotations is far from complete. The untold portion of the story includes two important omissions.

The first is numerous cautions made by the quoted speakers regarding the necessity for tough regulatory action to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of fracking. By the admission of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the commission, we know the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has never adequately regulated the industry in our state.

The second deceitful omission is a lack of candor regarding the fact that the quotations in the white boxes do not pertain to densely populated city environments. However, the propagandists want you to believe fracking is as safe in your neighborhood and near your child’s school as it is on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land, in the Gulf of Mexico or on rural farms.

But what do you expect from an industry that is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to defeat the efforts of Longmont residents to appropriately regulate their industry?

The most recent full-page color ads arriving in your newspaper are attempting to have you believe passage of Ballot Question 300 will mean millions of dollars spent by residents to acquire mineral rights within the city. The owners of the mineral rights will have the same access to extract those assets as they have had for the past 100 years, before the highly industrialized extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing. Question 300 does not take anyone’s property rights; it merely reasonably regulates the industrial process that is allowed within our neighborhoods and near schools and population centers.

Longmont needs to stand up for itself and vote “yes’ on 300.

Don’t treat kids like canaries

Longmont’s population aren’t experimental animals.

This November, Longmont residents will have a chance to vote on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking and the storage of fracking waste within city limits. The No. 1 criticism the opponents of this measure make is that it denies mineral rights owners access to their minerals. Right now, the minerals in question are trapped in shale rock and until the last several years, access to them was denied by technology (conventional drilling couldn’t access shale oil). Then along came unconventional, horizontal fracturing, a largely untested and controversial process exempted from many state and federal regulations. Suddenly, access is possible, but not without huge risks and expenses that are often shouldered by the public.

From increases in air, water and noise pollution, to damage to roads, increased truck traffic, huge consumption of water and costs of emergency response when problems occur, most of the expense is passed on to the public. Banning fracking within Longmont city limits won’t deny mineral rights owners access to their claims. The minerals aren’t going anywhere. They’ll still be there if and when a safer, better understood and more fully studied process for extracting them is developed. But do we really want our children to be the canaries in the coal mine while studies on the risks of fracking are being done? The National Science Foundation just awarded CU a $12 million contract to study the risks of fracking over the next five years. Shouldn’t these studies have been done before we fracked next to homes and schools instead of waiting years or decades to “prove” this method is safe (or more likely, not)?

Vote “yes” on 300 and keep this heavily industrialized process away from our residential areas. The minerals aren’t going anywhere but our community’s safety, health and well-being could be.

Ballot 300 opposition: slick word choice for slickwater

It’s poison, in the water and in their words.

This election I am casting a “yes” vote on Question 300. I just want to take a moment to share some wisdom I’ve learned over the past year about this issue: Read carefully the information you receive on any issue and pay particular attention to word choice.

For example, the opposition to 300 points out that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.” Besides that fact that this is an outdated statement and much has happened since she said this, it is also a specifically worded statement, “the fracking process itself.” When the industry refers to the “fracking process” they refer to that very moment that water, combined with toxic chemicals and sand, is injected into the well and creates the fissures underground to release the oil or gas from the shale.

Here’s what they are not referring to: Any number of days or weeks before to years after the well has been “fracked” where well-bore integrity may have failed. Any spills or accidents of the frack fluid or chemicals used in it during transport or at any time before or after the frack. The backflow of fluid from the well after it is fracked. The transfer to tanker trucks for disposal. Any accidents or spills that tanker trucks might have on the way to a disposal facility. Any spills, accidents or integrity issues at the disposal well, or the disposal pit at the well. Any leaks or spills during the lifetime of the well.

Also not included is the process by which clean, drinkable, treated municipal water is combined with toxic chemicals to create fracking fluid. Yes, “Fracking pollutes the water our families drink.” Millions of gallons of the water meant for you, for me, for our children to drink is injected with chemicals and made undrinkable. It is forever removed as a source for human consumption and it is disposed of underground because it is toxic waste.

Also brought up by the opposition is how many water wells in Colorado have been polluted by “fracking” fluid from hydraulic fracturing drilling. Well, how many people in Longmont city limits are concerned about their well water being contaminated by fracking? I know I’m not. I don’t get my water from wells. Have the people who wrote this ad even visited Longmont? I get my water from a municipal water source. I am concerned about surface and groundwater contamination, though, especially in areas where children and animals play. You need only visit the COGCC’s website to see hundreds of such contaminations; one was by Trail Ridge Middle School.

Here’s what they also aren’t talking about: Air quality in close proximity to a well. Fracking a well releases not only natural gas and oil, but also VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other toxins into the air. Some of it is captured, but some of it isn’t and over the lifetime of the well, especially a multi-well pad site, it would certainly add up. These chemicals are known to have neurological and respiratory effects and many are known to cause cancer. How’d you like to have that in your backyard for 20 years? What about 50? Many scientific studies are raising serious red flags, and even the COGCC and the CDPHE have said they just don’t know what the health effects of living in close proximity to a well are. How’s that for instilling confidence in the citizens this is forced upon?

And regardless of air and water, this is still always going to be a highly industrial activity that is damaging to property values, quality of life and has safety issues that are a concern for every resident when it occurs in close proximity to where people live and children go to school.

Read carefully. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to choose wrongly because of semantics. Vote “yes” on 300 and “Keep Longmont a Great Place to Live.”

Fracking destroys vital water

I will vote “yes” on Ballot Question 300 because it will protect our lakes, our irrigation and our drinking water from the destructive effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). I have been wondering why proposed drill sites are often close to water, such as Union Reservoir and the St. Vrain State Park wetlands. What’s the attraction? As a spokesperson for EnCana explained: “It is always our preference to identify a nearby water source because it significantly reduces our truck traffic associated with the transport of needed water to the location” (Boulder Camera). Said in another way, they jeopardize natural and other water bodies because it is cheaper and more convenient for them.

What is the water plan for the development of fracking? There doesn’t seem to be one, even though water is an invaluable resource. Water used in fracking becomes contaminated with toxins that cannot be removed. Unlike irrigation water, this water cannot be reclaimed and restored to the system. The oil companies do not dispute that. We are about to make an irreversible decision on fracking. There’s no taking it back if we find out we should not have allowed it.

How much water does it take to frack a well? It takes 5 million gallons to frack it once. Most wells are fracked several times. Even if it’s only three times, that’s 15 million gallons per well. The oil companies now say they are going to put several well heads on one well pad. That’s 75 million gallons for just one new well pad with five wells, fracked three times. These 75 million gallons must be stored somewhere since it can never be used again, and it becomes a potential source of contamination of other water sources. What are our plans for storing 75 million gallons of poisoned water? This is just for one well pad.

When oil companies say they use only a small fraction of the available water, they are talking about present usage, not future use. It is misleading because what is planned is a large expansion of drilling along the Front Range, so the percentage of water that will be used, and destroyed, by fracking companies will be much, much greater than is being used now. Anadarko, another company trying to drill wells in this area, plans to create 2,700 new wells. Multiply that 75 million gallons by 2,700, and one begins to see how massive this danger can become. Do we really have this much water to spare, to sell, to destroy? Where will we store this much contaminated water? Will local lakes and creeks become silent and accidental repositories of seepage?

The cheapest method is open pits. These are pits dug in the ground, with a tarp lining. To see what one looks like, check out the DVD “Land Out of Time,” available on the Internet. This documentary shows an open pit, surrounded by the bloated corpses of animals that drank from it. It also creates air pollution since the toxins can become airborne. Covered pits are not much better. Over time the covers will leak. The use of “injection wells” is yet another alternative, but these wells can leak, just as fracking wells can leak.

Please join me in voting “yes” on Ballot Question 300, to ban fracking and waste pits in Longmont.

Fracking for oil and gas threatens health

A recent opinion piece in the Boulder Camera brought to light the struggle that two Colorado cities are facing in regulating oil and gas exploration, drilling and extraction in their cities. It was stated that Erie’s approach was more reasonable and sensible than Longmont’s. Erie is working with the oil and gas industry whereas Longmont is being sued by the state because its regulations are too strict.

My question is, who is to judge if Longmont or Erie’s approach is more reasonable or sensible? And which will protect its residents from harm?

If Erie’s leaders have chosen the most reasonable path, why are some people selling their homes to move away from the onslaught of the oil and gas industry in that town? Some of Erie’s residents say their health is being affected by noxious and toxic volatile organic compounds emanating from the oil and gas wells throughout the town, causing such problems as gastrointestinal distress, headaches, nosebleeds and asthma. One woman I know has been diagnosed with lesions on her spine that appeared after a gas well had been fracked near her home. Is this an exaggerated claim?

Is it reasonable or sensible to expose children, teachers and staff to toxic VOCs venting from a fracked well down the street from Fall River Elementary School? Is there a special air filtration system on the school that will keep them safe? Is the oil and gas company drilling in that area going to monitor the air quality or conduct health assessments? An independent study conducted by NOAA in Erie has measured higher levels of VOCs (notably ethane and propane) in the air than in urban Pasadena and Houston, although an “expert” hired by the city of Erie discounted these findings. A Colorado School of Public Health study has shown that people who live within one-half mile of these wells are likely to experience chronic and acute illness including a higher risk of cancer (Search for Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County on the Internet).

These health effects are a serious issue. Dr. Theo Colborn of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange has produced a video titled “What you need to know about natural gas production” that can be found on her organization’s website (endocrinedisruption.com). Dr. Colborn stresses that the entire process of unconventional oil and gas exploration, drilling and extraction has a detrimental effect on humans, wildlife and vegetation. Is this risk to all life forms reasonable or sensible?

I believe the recent regulations passed by Longmont City Council will not protect residents because it contains loopholes that could allow oil and gas companies to drill in the city. This is why I joined many others to gather 8,200 signatures so that Longmont residents could choose to vote to ban fracking in Longmont city limits. Does this make us fanatics and mischief-makers or environmental extremists to want to protect our air, water and soil and maintain a clean environment? We are ordinary residents — families, grandparents and business owners — who want the choice to decide whether or not we want heavy industrial drilling in our city.

The oil and gas industry is wrought with deception and lies. They are exempt from the Clean Air, Clean Water, Clean Drinking Water, Superfund acts and more. What have they got to hide? If their methods of exploration, drilling and extraction are so benign, why not allow themselves to be regulated by the laws that govern all other heavy industries in the U.S.? Yet they stand behind their coveted “Halliburton Loophole,” an exemption that was passed to avoid transparency so that the industry could “drill, baby, drill” at our expense.

I will vote yes on Ballot Issue 300 in November to ban fracking in Longmont because neither the oil and gas industry nor the governor has my health, safety and welfare in mind. I ask you to support us to keep our city a great place to live — a place where we can breathe the air without getting sick and not worry if our water supply will become contaminated — and to protect our health, our future, our Longmont.

Vote YES on on 300

There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.

A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.

Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.