Longmont

Hickenlooper: Colorado’s dishonest governor

As if it isn’t bad enough that our governor is considered a “stud” by the oil and gas industry as he blatantly ignores the health and well-being of Colorado’s residents when it comes to fracking, now he is intentionally misleading the public about the safety of fracking fluid itself.

evil_clownHis recent comments about having taken a “drink of fracking fluid” are completely dishonest and misleading. He implies that because he drank it, fracking is safe. Only when pressed on the issue did he admit that what he drank was not the toxic brew of carcinogenic chemicals that is currently used throughout Colorado, but instead a type of a “green” fracking fluid that is made up of food-grade ingredients.

And to add insult to injury, in his follow-up statements he goes on to imply that this form of fracking fluid is in the “prototype” phase which is also untrue. It’s been around for several years but at a higher price tag than the chemical-laden mixture that is being injected into our lands throughout the state now.

In other words, while the oil and gas industry is making millions of dollars fracking throughout Colorado, they are doing it with toxic fracking fluids even though a green fluid is available now — just because it’s more profitable for them. Hickenlooper and the oil and gas industry should be ashamed of their blatant disregard for our residents’ health and well-being!

Historic Roosevelt Organ Undergoes Restoration

Boulder, Colorado – First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is the proud home to a unique pipe organ, built in 1888 by Frank Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Organ Company in New York City. This year this special instrument, which is cited on the Organ Historical Society’s list, celebrates its 125th anniversary, and at the same time will undergo a major restoration and renovation that will take 18 months, beginning on Monday, February 25th.

The restoration work, which will be performed off site by Denver organ builders, Morel and Associates, includes cleaning and inspecting the 2114 pipes and replacing thousands of small leather and wooden parts and 1,860 pneumatic motors, requires disassembling the organ. Full renovation will take 18 months and is made possible by a generous gift from the Hoover family in honor of their mother Virginia Anderson.

The FUMC organ (Roosevelt‘s Opus 382) was originally built for Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in Denver. It was reinstalled in the First United Methodist Church of Boulder in 1960, having spent some years in storage. Grace’s was one of two Roosevelt organs installed in 1888, the other at Trinity United Methodist in Denver where it is still in use. Pre-electricity, the innovative Roosevelt design utilized electro-pneumatic action with a water wheel providing power to a generator connected to the console. Slightly different from a tracker organ design, when one presses a note on the Roosevelt keyboard, a wooden pin moves upward contacting a rocker arm which opens a valve allowing air to escape from a small pneumatic bellows which pulls open the valve under the pipe, allowing wind to enter and causing it to speak.  
Very few of Roosevelt’s instruments remain intact today, and almost none of those that survive are in original condition. The beautifully maintained Boulder Roosevelt still uses the original console and, besides updating to electric power, has had little other modernization. It even maintains its 19th-century pitch, just under modern day A=440 Hz, adding to its historic value but bringing challenges when accompanying brass or hand bells. It is a valuable example of American Victorian organ building: elegant, full-voiced, and constructed of the finest materials available. In choice of stops and overall tonal design, the organ is an assimilation of American, English, and French Romantic styles as well as more traditional, classic German influences. FUMC’s Roosevelt has 39 ranks, 34 stops, and 2114 pipes.

FUMC’s Director of Music, Evanne Browne, says, “Hearing this fabulous pipe organ played is an inspiring part of our weekly worship. It will be very missed for the next 18 months, but we will adjust to congregational singing accompanied by piano. Doing without the organ will only increase our appreciation of the instrument when it returns.”

The church is planning celebratory organ recitals when the work is completed. 

To learn more about the history of the Frank Roosevelt organ and see photos go to the FUMC website: http://fumcboulder.org/worship-and-music/music/organ.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is an affirming and welcoming, vibrant church family that truly loves God by loving others. We affirm that the most profound life-changing realities are characterized by words like these: kindness, acceptance, justice, compassion, forgiveness, purpose, generosity and love. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions

What does it mean to ‘rethink church’? Come and see for yourself.

None so blind as those who will not see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado

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

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

What has changed in a mere nine months?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted from EcoWatch with permission from the author.

Natural Gas: No clean energy future

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

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

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

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

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

Americans Against Fracking is composed of nearly 200 groups.:

Boulder: Make it Frack Free

Boulder Falls - Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Boulder Falls – Photo by M. Douglas Wray

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boulder Falls - Photo by M. Douglas Wray

Boulder Falls – Photo by M. Douglas Wray

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

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

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

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

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

Large Coalition Comes Together to Oppose Fracking in Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change: It comes from the bottom up

The deaths in Connecticut brought back the pain many of us have experienced after the death of a child. How much more is that pain when not only your child died but also the children of many of your friends and friends of your children? Those of us who have lost more than one relative to gun violence are sensitized to these violent events.

The responses to this and similar events have raised broader issues.

 

We the PeopleShould large corporations, organizations and people with large amounts of money be able to have more influence than individuals? Should partisan efforts be allowed to limit which U.S. citizens can actually vote? Can we get to the point where people with differing views stop talking past each other? Even within groups of largely like-minded individuals, there is too often disrespect for opposite views on specific issues.

The various responses to mass killings tell a lot about our society. I understand why many people want to own guns. The NRA’s callous response and the repetition of trite slogans have not helped at all. The NRA once supported a ban on assault weapons. Comments about not arming mental health patients, while appropriate, will not be effective. In Connecticut and New York, the weapons were bought by other people. There seems to be a fear that banning assault weapons or large magazines will be a step to ban all firearms. This is an unrealistic concern. The Arizona sheriff recruiting 500 armed volunteers to patrol around schools is much different from having trained and seasoned law enforcement officers, who have even recently killed bystanders. An effective solution requires listening to all positions.

As discussed in the Jan. 2 guest opinion by Gordon Pedrow, big money institutions have the ability to frequently negatively impact all of us, with practical impunity for those running these companies.

Several years ago the CEOs of the largest tobacco companies and large petroleum companies clearly lied to Congress. (Congress does, however, pursue athletes for lying.) Listen to the ads from the American Petroleum Institute and the natural gas industry. When they do not lie, they omit important information.

The banks and mortgage companies allowed home loans to be made that were guaranteed to fail then passed the cost on to others and eventually the taxpayers. Several banks have just agreed to pay billions of dollars for closing on homes that they did not hold the mortgage on or whose owners were not behind on payments.

Wall Street and insurance companies created risky investments whose risks were not always identified. Individual investors and taxpayers paid the cost. A few banks aided the drug cartels by laundering their illegally obtained money and indirectly supported numerous murders. No individuals or banks were charged with criminal behavior.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, large corporations, including those controlled from other countries including China, can now try to buy elections. Large corporations with lots of money, as well as very wealthy individuals, have entirely too much influence in Congress. It is hard to believe that votes that go against the interest of the residents of this country are not directly or indirectly influenced by big money interests.

How you steal and how much you steal is important. If you steal enough money you can afford the very best legal representation. As Mr. Pedrow so aptly pointed out, the very largest companies and their CEOs/board of directors cannot be punished enough to discourage bad behavior.

Try not fully paying your employees (an all-too-common practice) and you will not face any serious consequence other than paying the employee what they are owed, with a small penalty. However, the odds greatly favor that the result will be that the employee and her family will never see all or even any of what they worked for. (By the way, they will not be able to spend that missing money at local businesses including sales tax.)

These endemic problems are all too obvious. The solution is not. There are some things we can do. We can look at where candidates are getting their support from. We can learn who makes direct sizable donations and who is contributing to their PACs — oops, we cannot do that. Too bad. We can look at the behavior of the large banks and other companies to choose where we do business. If they have paid a fine, they are probably still behaving badly.

Collectively we can promote change.

COGCC: F on Health — and listening skills

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Times Call Story was Mile-Hi propaganda

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving planes.

The “Making It Work” series highlighted local residents who make our community work, presumably in a behind-the-scenes public-service type role. I enjoyed the article about lunch lady Sandy Lenhardt, which was well deserved.

In contrast, the article featuring Mile-Hi Skydiving pilot Clayton Schultz wasn’t really about Schultz at all. Instead, it was shameful propaganda aimed at glorifying Mile-Hi Skydiving. The Mile-Hi Skydiving jump ships were highlighted, in particular the Twin Otter, which generates hundreds of noise complaints each year. Nevertheless, Schultz loves “being at a job where people are really having fun and enjoying it.” And he wants us to know that he and the others at Mile-Hi are thinking of us folks on the ground too. Indeed.

Back in 2011, Clayton and I attended a meeting with Frank Casares, owner of Mile-Hi Skydiving. I spoke on behalf of the Citizens for Quiet Skies group and explained our concerns about the incessant noise from the jump planes. The noise affects areas of Longmont and rural north Boulder County. Frank was not interested one bit in making any changes to reduce the noise impact to the community. As a result of our ongoing noise complaints, Mile-Hi Skydiving mailed us “I love airplane noise” bumper stickers.

Mile-Hi Skydiving will soon be ramping up and operating more than 12 hours a day with several aircraft, including not one but two Twin Otters. And they have plans for a significant expansion.

After exhausting other options, we are now pursuing legal action to gain relief from the noise. With your help we can prevail. If the noise bothers you, please consider making a generous donation to our legal fund. Checks can be mailed to:

Citizens for Quiet Skies
P.O. Box 19203
Boulder, CO 80308

Questions? Please join us on Facebook.

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.

The Worth of Water

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

On Sunday Jan. 9 the Longmont Republican Women held an event called “New Year New GOP” at the Well and indicated it was ‘Open to the Public.’ Well, I could hardly turn that down!

Here’s the photos I took:

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157632455665455″]

There was a lovely spaghetti & meatball dinner provided by Mark Price of Aunt Alice’s Kitchen. I love Aunt Alice’s so I know it was great food. There was also a very tasty looking dessert from the folks at the Well. I didn’t partake, just didn’t feel right mooching a meal, being a lefty and all. Besides, there was a respectable crowd (in all senses of the word of course!) gathered in the Well’s cavernous industrial space and they were hungry – not just for food either.

Joel Champion announced the formation of the Private Property Council, a non-partisan group with open membership. The mission is education and the setting up of teams ‘to do monitoring of our public officials who are elected and help move our ideas forward in legislation at all levels of the city, county and state.’

At one point Joel mentioned ‘our Democratic friends in the audience’ which prompted Peg Cage to ask him to introduce Kaye Fissinger and myself. Thank you Joel! Thank you Peg! We appreciated being allowed to attend.

Here’s all the rest of the details of those speaking.

Derrick Wilburn, Founder, Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives gave a well-polished and aggressive lecture about what the GOP needed to do to get the votes of conservatives of color. Solomon Martinez gave a report about the Northern Colorado Hispanic Relations group as well as his views on outreach. The featured speaker, Tom Tancredo – confessed to suffering from ‘Post Election Stress Syndrome’ and said it had been ‘debilitating.’ CO GOP Chair Ryan Call laid out the wreckage of the campaign like an FAA crash inspector. It was some hard talk.

I left before the question and answer period but I’d be delighted to link to any audio files from that.

New Year New GOP speaker audio files

Brought to you by: Longmont Republican Women, The Well Outreach and Worship Center, The Longmont 9-12 Tea Party

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.

Fracking protests: justified and necessary

Editor’s Note: The following OpEd, which appeared in the Longmont Times-Call on December 11, 2012, is reprinted with the author’s permission. In today’s Boulder Daily Camera, Wendy Wiedenbeck, “hired gun” spokesperson for Encana, offered the usual oil and gas industry falsehoods. However, she outdid herself with inflammatory accusations and hysteria. FRL has had several conversations with those who were in attendance at the Boulder County Commissioners’ meeting on December 4, 2012, participants and non-participants in the protest. Ms. Wiedenbeck has intentionally interpreted frustration, fear and anger at her company as a threat to her personal safety. This is propaganda of the worst sort. She has destroyed her credibility, if she had any, as well as Encana’s, if it had any, in one fell swoop. Expect a tsunami of propaganda in the months (perhaps years) to come as the industry fights for it’s state/nation-sponsored privilege to threaten the health of citizens, in Longmont, in Colorado, and around the nation.


1806885996_1d29879109I attended the Boulder County commissioners’ meeting last Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse. I was there to put pressure on the commissioners to strengthen the proposed new oil and gas regulations, extend the moratorium to allow time to adequately implement the new regulations, and to consider some way to enact a ban on fracking in our county. I was not, however, a part of the disruptive protests you may have read about or seen on the news.

I’d like to make a few comments about this, though, from the perspective of someone who has been learning about hydraulic fracturing and taking an active stance against it this past year.

First, while I don’t condone some of the hostile actions taken by a few of those involved on Dec. 4, I don’t condemn the intentions and the reasons behind such actions. While some of the disruptions came from people who are not very well informed about the work that has been done by the Planning Commission, the county commissioners and the county staff to try to lay the foundation for better regulations that might eventually help lead to a countywide ban, some of those involved were people who are deeply concerned about the health of their own families, and they are coming from a place of fear, anger and frustration. Fracking is a dangerous heavy industrial process where toxic spills and water contamination are frequent. And it uses vast quantities of water at a time when we are in a serious drought with no relief in sight.

If allowed to continue to steamroll its way through our county, our state and beyond, it will have such a serious impact on climate change that we will reach the tipping point where we can’t undo the damage to the planet within as little as 15 years. And yet our state laws make it nearly impossible for a local community to control whether, when, how or where it gets fracked. While Longmont’s residents were able to vote to ban fracking, that may still be challenged. Boulder County does not have the ability to vote on such a ban at this point.

So I share the frustration and anger about the state of the earth and the sad state of our government. And I recognize that these strong emotions and the passion behind them can and need to be expressed productively and can potentially effect great change. At the same time, there are instances when hostile behaviors and approaches can cause the intended message to get lost and the overall effectiveness of the movement to be undermined. Many of us are working on this issue from a variety of different angles, and most of us are doing it with civility and respect of our fellow citizens.

I encourage anyone who has up to this point remained uninvolved and uninformed to step up your awareness and involvement. There are many good references out there to help you understand the seriousness of this issue and how it will affect every one of us. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, watch the movie “Gasland.” Then, when it premiers later this month, go see Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.” Visit http://environmentcolorado.org/reports/coc/report-costs-fracking for a good overview of the costs of fracking and the environmental damage it is causing. The facts you will begin to uncover will help you understand the fear and frustration that is driving some of the behavior that may be hard to condone, but is based on a real threat to our community and our planet and certainly warrants such strong emotions and concern.