Tag Archive for effects

Fracking effects are not partisan

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

As you probably know from ads and flyers, seven ex-mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose “Yes On 300”. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “Fracking” before November 2011 when the issue first arose on Mayor Coomb’s watch. This gang of seven aren’t experts- they are shills for the Oil & Gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place- the recycling bin.

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

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about- $75.00. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75.00. One hundred feet- $7500. 750 feet- $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell to you, the hell to me and the hell to Longmont.

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

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

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

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 PSI. Today it’s pushing 14,000 PSI. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the 2nd hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grand-kids drink or breath.

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

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

Health effects of fracking worrisome

Laird Cagan, MD

As a physician practicing in Longmont for the last 20 years and 10 years before that in California, I am worried about the effects of fracking in our community.

Admittedly fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is a fractious issue (pun from “Science News”). I have an interest in the problem and have done some research, but I do not claim to be an expert. I recognize that the United States needs the methane energy locked in the deep-seated shale, energy that can be tapped via fracking. However, the need for energy must be balanced against the health of our community.

There are two significant ways fracking can affect the health of Longmont residents. Methane can get into surface water as part of the fracking process, and this has been proven to occur in scientific studies (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, S.G. Osborn et al, May 17, 2011). In the water, methane can act as a toxic substance causing headaches, stomach problems and other ills. Methane can also pollute the air, where it can cause respiratory illness. Methane in the air is also 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the environment. (Science News, Sept. 8, 2012, Volume 182, No. 5, pp 20-25).

Secondly, fracking fluids come back to the surface as waste water. A 2011 report of the House Energy and Commerce Committee identified 25 of the fracking chemicals as hazardous pollutants under the Clean Air Act, nine as regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and 14 as known possible carcinogens (Science News). Furthermore, accidental and/or intentional dumping of the waste water has damaged forests and killed fish (Science News).

So with these dangers, would not federal, state and local governments protect us with regulation of the fracking process? Well, no. Fracking is not regulated to the standard of most other industries, perhaps because of the nation’s need for energy. As a result, fracking can be done almost anywhere without regard to public health, such as in the city of Longmont.

My recommendation is to support Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont (and the same should be done in all populated areas).

For the longer term, more scientific study is needed and robust regulation of the industry must be pursued.

Laird Cagan, M.D., is a Longmont resident and is a member of an internal medicine practice in the city.