Colorado

Mayor Dennis Coombs running for re-election.

From the Times-Call:

Dennis Coombs, Longmont's new mayor

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

LONGMONT — Mayor Dennis Coombs announced Wednesday that he would run for re-election.

Coombs, who won his first term by a hair’s-breadth margin two years ago, is the first to enter the 2013 mayoral race and the third candidate overall for the Longmont City Council. Parks and recreation board vice chairman Rick Accountius is running for the Ward 2 seat held by departing Councilwoman Katie Witt, and Councilman Gabe Santos is defending his at-large seat.

It’s been a busy two years. In that time, among other things, Longmont has seen a new city manager, new oil and gas regulations, the first steps on the Twin Peaks Mall redevelopment — and legal action related to the last two issues. On the whole, Coombs said, he’s proud of the council’s record. But, he added, it is the council’s record and not just his own; his main role, he said, has been to help bring people together.

Read the rest at the Times-Call

Dennis’ campaign has a Facebook page – Coombs4Longmont2013 – drop by and give them a Like!

You can also find the campaign on Twitter at Coombs4Longmont

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

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

Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crocodile tears don’t wear well on Big Oil

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

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

 

Fracking  near Mead CO

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Immediate Release

Contact:      Cliff Willmeng 303 478-6613

Merrily Mazza 720 556-1286

Rick Casey 303 345-8893

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

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

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

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

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

East Boulder County United
EastBoCoUnited@gmail.com

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.

Berthoud Day Parade 2013 Photos

DSC_0121-council-web

My wife Tammi was part of the team that manned the Happy Tails Dog Ranch and Sun Pony Ranch float in the Berthoud Day Parade on Saturday June 1, 2013. I don’t have details on all the floats so this is just my photos of them as I walked the parade staging area after photographing the Happy Tails Dog Ranch crew. LOTS of great entries! Not the least of these were the equestrians – LOTS of impressive horses, rigs and riders. The Back Country Horseback folks were particularly well-done I felt.

It was fun to see all the agricultural tools – turned out in high style, looking like new in most cases and amusingly aged when not. I refer to the Jeep tow truck. What a fun vehicle!

Anyway, there’s over a hundred images – they’re hosted at Flickr so you can go there and download the 6Mpx images. (Best my little D40 will do.) If you’d like to use any or all of these images, I’d appreciate a credit of “Photo by FreeRangeLongmont” but it’s not mandatory. Please feel free to use without attribution.

Berthoud’s a great town and has a ton of spirit, I hope folks enjoy these images as much as I did taking them. Berthoud Days will be on my schedule next year for sure.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157633868233511″]

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!

Politics before the Law

redneck_sherrif_sketchHere’s a list of ‘lawmen’ that have decided to put politics ahead of the Law they swore to uphold.

I wonder how long till they find other laws they don’t ‘like’ and decide not to enforce based on some ludicrous twisting of the Constitution.

Their actions in this ‘lawsuit’ do not serve the safety of the citizens they are charged with protecting – thus a violation of their oaths of office.

Every last one of them should be removed from office immediately. Calling them ‘heroes’ is the most sublime nonsense imaginable. They’re nothing but petulant little children with guns – a threat to every citizen they have authority over.

JOHN B. COOKE, Sheriff of Weld County, Colorado
TERRY MAKETA, Sheriff of El Paso County, Colorado
JUSTIN SMITH, Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado
DAVID A. WEAVER, Sheriff of Douglas County, Colorado
BRUCE W. HARTMAN, Sheriff of Gilpin County, Colorado
KEN PUTNAM, Sheriff of Cheyenne County, Colorado
DENNIS SPRUELL, Sheriff of Montezuma County, Colorado
TIM JANTZ, Sheriff of Moffat County, Colorado
JERRY MARTIN, Sheriff of Dolores County, Colorado
MIKE ENSMINGER, Sheriff of Teller County, Colorado
SHAYNE HEAP, Sheriff of Elbert County, Colorado
CHAD DAY, Sheriff of Yuma County, Colorado
FRED D. MCKEE, Sheriff of Delta County, Colorado
LOU VALLARIO, Sheriff of Garfield County, Colorado
FRED HOSSELKUS, Sheriff of Mineral County, Colorado
BRETT L. POWELL, Sheriff of Logan County, Colorado
JAMES FAULL, Sheriff of Prowers County, Colorado
LARRY KUNTZ, Sheriff of Washington County, Colorado
BRIAN E. NORTON, Sheriff of Rio Grande County, Colorado
DUKE SCHIRARD, Sheriff of La Plata County, Colorado
JIM BEICKER, Sheriff of Fremont County, Colorado
RONALD BRUCE, Sheriff of Hinsdale County, Colorado
CHRIS S. JOHNSON, Sheriff of Otero County, Colorado
FRED JOBE, Sheriff of Custer County, Colorado
DONALD KRUEGER, Sheriff of Clear Creek County, Colorado
JAMES CRONE, Sheriff of Morgan County, Colorado
SI WOODRUFF, Sheriff of Rio Blanco County, Colorado
TOM RIDNOUR, Sheriff of Kit Carson County, Colorado
TOM NESTOR, Sheriff of Lincoln County, Colorado
STAN HILKEY, Sheriff of Mesa County, Colorado
FORREST FRAZEE, Sheriff of Kiowa County, Colorado
RICK DUNLAP, Sheriff of Montrose County, Colorado
TED B. MINK, Sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado
DAVE STONG, Sheriff of Alamosa County, Colorado
FRED WEGENER, Sheriff of Park County, Colorado
BRUCE NEWMAN, Sheriff of Huerfano County, Colorado
RANDY PECK, Sheriff of Sedgwick County, Colorado
DOMINIC MATTIVI, JR., Sheriff of Ouray County, Colorado
JOHN MINOR, Sheriff of Summit County, Colorado
SCOTT FISCHER, Sheriff of Jackson County, Colorado
PETER GONZALEZ, Sheriff of Archuleta County, Colorado
RICK BESECKER, Sheriff of Gunnison County, Colorado
CHARLES “ROB” URBACH , Sheriff of Phillips County, Colorado
ROD FENSKE, Sheriff of Lake County, Colorado
GRAYSON ROBINSON, Sheriff of Arapahoe County, Colorado
DAVID D. CAMPBELL, Sheriff of Baca County, Colorado
MIKE NORRIS, Sheriff of Saguache County, Colorado
AMOS MEDINA, Sheriff of Costilla County, Colorado
MILES CLARK, Sheriff of Crowley County, Colorado
DAVID ENCINIAS, Sheriff of Bent County, Colorado
SUE KURTZ, Sheriff of San Juan County, Colorado
JAMES (JIM) CASIAS, Sheriff of Las Animas County, Colorado
GARRETT WIGGINS, Sheriff of Routt County, Colorado
DOUGLAS N. DARR , Sheriff of Adams County, Colorado

It’s been 1920 in Colorado long enough. It’s time to remove these badged NRA puppets from public office before they cause serious trouble.

Update – this article at ColoradoPols.com underlines how completely spurious this lawsuit is and why I predict it will fail.

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.

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/.