Tag Archive for fracking

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.

Lessons to Be Learned

I think one of the factors in passing Initiative 300 to ban fracking is that many in Longmont are tired of having out-of-town big businesses spending large sums of money to influence Longmont issues. This would not have been so bad had the oil and gas interests made any attempt to provide pros and cons and state their positions and the reasons for their position. Instead, just like the telecom industry on the fiber optics issues, glossy fliers inundated our mailboxes with very little truth.

Certainly there are many things to consider in a complex issue. The oil and gas industry, in the fliers they mailed, and by their compliance, the seven former mayors, failed to take seriously the considerations of the community. No mention of lost property values and quality of life. These cannot be denied. One council person said it affects only a few people, something like a tax paid by the few and the unwilling. I don’t think that is how we should support our neighbors.

It remains a question as to whether the former mayors just signed on without a chance to vet the fliers or whether they agreed with everything that was contained in each flier. I do not have a problem with former mayors or city managers joining in the debate as long as misinformation is not part of the discussion.

The argument that the fracking process has not caused any contamination or harm to people is totally misleading. Contamination has occurred right here in Longmont. It is a distinction without a difference. Whether the contamination occurred because of deep underground activity or at the surface does not change the pertinent facts. Any industrial process is prone to mishaps. Having the mishap occur next to homes of schools is not acceptable.

Benzene exposure may not be any greater than that encountered at a service station, but we all should have the right not to be exposed by the actions of others. What is a real concern is the undisclosed other chemicals. While some companies are willing to disclose, most are not or only under very limited circumstances. My guess is that no one knows the toxicity of many of these chemicals and certainly not the toxicity of the mixtures. This is already an issue with Longmont water and other water departments when they try to plan for response to a release that affects our water. You cannot plan to treat chemicals whose identity you do not know.

I am glad Longmont stood up on principle. It is a principle the 81 other communities that have objected to fracking in their communities should also stand up for. Personally, I believe fracking can be a viable process when done correctly and in appropriate locations. Accidents will happen, but strong precautions are needed and easily afforded by this extremely profitable industry. We must insist that Oil and Gas Conservation Commission act in a responsible manner that makes decisions in the interest of all Colorado residents.

It was particularly grievous that threats of increasingly large dollar amounts were presented for loss of mineral rights and used at the last minute as a scare tactic. Nowhere was the loss of surface value and property values discussed. Nowhere was it mentioned that some families would be unable to move because they could not get enough money for their homes to buy an equivalent house somewhere else. It was also not lost on many of us that none of the former mayors, the governor, members of the Oil and Gas Commission, or drilling companies management volunteered to live near a fracking site.

Maybe there is a lesson somewhere in this. If you want to gain public support, be straightforward and discuss pros and cons. Do not tell mistruths or half-truths. Then you may have a better chance of gaining the outcome you desire. This should also apply to commercials for and against candidates. Are we teaching our young that telling lies to get a desired outcome is acceptable?

There are maybe other lessons to be learned from this year’s elections. In a large number of elections, money did not win the election, but it did smear the democratic process. Unfortunately this money was used to smear candidates and mislead voters and non-voters alike. I saw in this paper a few days ago that it is illegal in Colorado to provide false information to influence the outcome of initiatives, and I assume, selection of candidates.

Bob Norris has lived in Longmont since 2000. He has spent 30 years as an environmental consultant and a long time ago did research on hydraulic fracking leading to two U.S. patents.

Don’t frack me, bro

“Colorado is over 100,000 square miles in area. Longmont is 22 square miles in area. Now ask yourselves why this tiny 22 square mile city is so important to frackers that they can’t simply go elsewhere in the 100,000 available square miles and frack to their heart’s content. The answer is (of course) the infrastructure that is already in place here: roads, power, water – it’s all here. So drilling here is cheaper than other places where these fracking essentials would otherwise need to be developed. But frankly, nobody wants to look out their windows and see the wells, pumps and tanks; hear, see and smell the equipment and trucks; watch nearby property values erode due to proximity to fracking operations; and generally have the quality of our lives eroded. Especially so since quality of life is what we are here for.

So when you stop to think about it, this fight is really between quality of life and profit motive, and haven’t we had enough of that? Haven’t we already seen what big money always seems to want to do, without concern for what kind of place our children grow up in, or the kind of place we call home? Enough already with the greed motive. Isn’t it about time that simple quality of our lives is seen as a higher priority than the profits of others that don’t even live here? Let’s be honest: Hickenlooper wouldn’t let them drill in his backyard. Why should we let him allow them to drill in ours? Go drill on the rest of the 100,000 miles and leave us alone. If you had planned to vote “no”, I invite you to reconsider your position and vote “Yes” on 300. The quality of your family’s lives depend on it. And what’s that worth to you?

Silent Spring of Our Generation

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I read an editorial in the Denver Post today that lectured the City of Longmont on why they should not bother to protect themselves from a toxic industry.

It occurred to me that opposing fracking may well be the Silent Spring of our generation. Silent Spring, for those who are not familiar with it, was a ground-breaking 1962 book by the naturalist writer Rachel Carson, who was curious about mass bird deaths. Her search led her to the impacts of the widespread use of the toxic pesticide DDT. That awareness led to concern for public health, which led to the book, which led to a movement, which led, eventually, to the banning of DDT.

Al of which was met, of course, by vicious industry attacks, personal slanders, lobbying, and lawsuits and posturing and gnashing of teeth by the people who made money off of making DDT. The attacks and distortions, not incidentally, continue to this day.

By the way, it is worth noting now through the benefit of hindsight, that economic life, Western Civilization, and the agricultural industry did not come to a screeching halt as a result of regulating DDT, as the defenders of the toxic DDT warned ominously back at the time.

The lessons of the book, alas, were not fully learned, though, because we still are confronted by an ever-increasing and ever-more toxic and reckless array of chemicals released into our environment with little scrutiny, regulation, or accountability. One of the latest toxic threats running amok – with regulatory forbearance, government subsidy, and a personal waiver (the so-called Halliburton loophole) from the environmental rules that everyone else has to follow – is fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing as most of us now know is the practice of breaking up rock far underground by injecting millions of gallons of water down every single hole, using a process of high-pressure injection that contaminates the water with thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals.

We are told by industry that it is safe and responsible to do this, to inject all that toxic stuff into the ground. That’s hogwash. What fracking is, is insane. And idiotic. The notion that we can inject billions of gallons of toxic water into the ground, without that water someday, some way coming back to bite us on our collective butts is idiotic. The fact that the contamination occurs thousands of feet deep underground doesn’t make fracking safe; it only makes it deeply idiotic.

We were told fracking is safe by the same breed of lobbyists and executives who told us that cigarette smoking was safe – a lie they repeated over and over in the halls of Congress for years after the time that members of Congress were the only people in the nation who didn’t roll their eyes and groan at the transparency of those lies – and told long after they themselves were aware of their own evidence to the contrary. The track record of harmful industries lying to us, buying our politicians, suppressing evidence of harm, and bullying anyone who dare opposes them is overwhelming. The fact that we still grant the assurances of these self-interested polluters with even a shred of credibility is absurd.

Don’t let their smokescreens and threats cloud the issue though; the key answer is not complicated at all: Fracking is unsafe at any speed.

As the lies and myths and threats and rationalizations for allowing ourselves to be inundated by toxic water washed over me, I realized that Fracking is the DDT of this generation. And we must fight it the same way. With zero tolerance for chemical self-destruction.

So when I read the Denver Post editorial today – in which the Post opposed the Longmont fracking ban – it was painfully clear that the reasoning cited by the Post’s editorial Board was tenuous and specious, following in the footsteps of tenuous and specious rationalizations made in the past to divert public action away from reasonable civic self-defense. Don’t ban fracking they said, because it might be expensive to enforce; because it might get challenged in the courts; and because fracking has not yet caused a crisis within the City’s limits. Emphasis on that qualifier: not yet.

What a wagon-load of horse apples.

In its haste to protect Longmont residents from themselves; however, the Post did not address the most important question: is banning fracking the right thing to do? Let’s answer that question for them now: banning fracking, and banning it now, is the right thing to do. And furthermore, it is within the rights of local jurisdictions to protect themselves from toxic assault, particularly when the State and federal Governments refuse to do so.

The Post apparently prefers that the citizens of Longmont should delay dealing with fracking until after it becomes a crisis. The Post recommends that the City delays dealing with the threat until it is too late: delay until the drilling permits are pulled and the well heads are going up. That’s some lousy advice from the Post.

The Post claims also to be concerned with the inconvenience such a ban might impose on the City. Indeed, giving up smoking cigarettes isn’t easy either. Doing the right thing is not always convenient, particularly in the face of a well-financed and well-connected industry. Doing the right thing is not always convenient, or easy. The oil & gas industry, backed by the Governor and his Attorney General, have made clear their intent – they will fight for their right to tell towns that only the state can decide who can pollute in the local jurisdictions. We already know the state’s answer: anywhere they please, any time they please, and any way they please. And no uppity local jurisdiction shall stand in their way.

So let’s be very clear on what is at stake. The Governor has drawn a line in the sand – if local governments try to control toxic activities within their own boundaries, then the state, in tandem with industry, will muscle in with its full weight and will body-slam the locals without mercy. On this point I do agree with the Post. The state’s intent to enforce its monopoly on regulation is clear, and the industry’s litigious nature is also well-established. We can assume the City will be sued.

I say: bring it on. I say: make the Supreme Court reiterate their position that towns have no right to protect themselves from toxic pollution. I say: make the Supreme Court defend the polluters right to pollute over and over, until eventually the courts finally get the answer right, and fracking finally goes the way of DDT, along with child labor and every other indefensible abomination that was perpetuated on the citizens of this nation until enough people stood up and refused to sit down.

The question before the City of Longmont remains simple: is Longmont ready to do the right thing to protect itself? Is Longmont ready to stand up for itself, and stand up against the State and industry if necessary to do so? Or will the City back down in the face of threats and bullying by the Governor and industry? Not to mention some lecturing from the Denver Post.

I hope the City is ready to see this through. I hope the City is ready to tear a brick from the wall built around fracking.

I do agree with the Post on another point, banning fracking is effectively the same as banning drilling – this is because the vast majority of drilling being done uses fracking. However, the conclusion the Post draws from this is that we must therefore yield to fracking. Nonsense. On the contrary, it is industry that must stop fracking, not the citizens that must roll over and accept it. Industry must find a way to extract oil & gas without injecting millions of gallons of toxic water into the ground for every well, or they must stop drilling. We can be certain of one thing; industry will keep fracking until we make them stop. They will keep injecting toxins into the water until we make them change their techniques. In the meantime, every new well fracked is another well injected with millions of gallons of toxic contaminated water.

I believe in the genius of capitalism and the innovativeness of motivated entrepreneurs – which is precisely why we should stop shielding the oil & gas industry from the consequences of their toxic activities and force them to clean up their act, or get out of the business and make way for people who can move us forward without setting us back. This same belief is why I support incentives and rewards for entrepreneurs who develop truly clean and sustainable ways to power this country, and better yet, who pursue ways to use less energy and to be more efficient with the energy we do use.

The Denver Post blew a lot of smoke into a simple question, in the hopes perhaps of obscuring the simple truths from our vision: Fracking is a massively toxic industrial process, and towns have every right to protect themselves from it.

“Tens”, “Hundreds”, how far will they go?

Snake oil salesmen haven’t changed one bit.

When desperation rises, strange things happen. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the rational to the irrational. And those who are part of the “let’s frack the heck” out of Longmont team are doing a whole lot a-hoppin’ and a-skippin’ and a-jumpin’ these days.

Not satisfied with the full-page ads telling the gullible that if Ballot Measure 300 passes, it will cost Longmont “tens of millions of dollars,” the frackers on Longmont City Council have upped the ante to “hundreds of millions.” Dang, if the campaign season lasts much longer the hyperbole will get to the billions of dollars.

I laughed when it was “tens.” I rolled on the floor laughing when it became “hundreds.” Lord knows what I’ll do when they go higher. It’s probably best that I stay away from a stairwell if that happens. I wouldn’t want to bruise myself by falling down laughing.

Seriously, folks, these guys are grasping at anything to try to get you to vote against your own health and safety and that of your family and friends. They’ve already plowed over a half-million dollars against you and we’re still counting. What are they so afraid of? If oil and gas is spending so much money to try to defeat 300, then they must believe that supporters of Question 300 are not only correct about “health, safety and well-being,” but that oil and gas will lose money and nobody will have to pay them. Why would they spend all this dough if they believed that one way or the other they would make their profits?

Vote “yes” on 300 to ban fracking and its waste in Longmont. I know I will!

Why the rush to frack Longmont?

Strider Benston, civil rights activist

Does anyone remember when the telecom giants came to Longmont to terrorize us with the specter of “government control,” bureaucratic waste and domination? Oh! That was in 2009, and 2011. Comcast flooded Longmont with $500,000 to prevent us from using our own fiber optics system. We won round 2 that time. There is no round 2 this time

Now, the oil and gas industry has drowned Longmont with $507,000 with an identical object in mind: to manipulate, confuse, and frighten our electorate into forfeiting our health and safety, and our democratic right to home rule. The slick full color mailings and full page ads we have endured for weeks, enlisting the 7 ex-mayors as props for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, Encana, Chevron, Halliburton, and other non-local multi-billion dollar corporations can always overwhelm our citizens’ initiative, with our $24,408 of local donations and 8200 signatures gathered to put the fracking ban on our ballot. The flyers highlight partial quotations from various sources which disparage Longmont’s concerns about infrastructure damage, toxic emissions, poisonous waste dumps, and the permanent removal of countless millions of gallons of pure water from the water cycle. Farms were parched and forests burning this year. Half the country suffered severe drought. Shouldn’t we be concerned?

The new extraction methods are only 7 years old, and have not been fully studied as to the severity of damage to public health and to our environment. Many reports have surfaced about poisoned air, land and wells, earthquakes, severe health crises, and burning water. Several states, regions, and countries have banned the procedure. The National Science Foundation has just awarded CU a $12,000,000 contract to study the health effects. This study will take time. The natural gas market is glutted presently. When our City Council passed reasonable and moderate regulations this summer to protect our public health and safety, the State of Colorado and COGA sued our city the very next day. The very concept of citizen input is foreign to them.What’s the rush to frack here? In Longmont? Why now?

It seems that the immense pressures upon Longmont issue from the prodigious power and wealth of the extraction industry, which does not tolerate even the concept of democratic controls or public health and safety. They blow up whole mountains in Appalachia. Where are the watchdogs?

I am reminded of the 40 years of impunity and poisoning of the Denver Metro area with illegal Plutonium waste burning and dumping which occurred at Rocky Flats Nuclear Arsenal until citizens’ outrage, an FBI raid, and years of court proceedings finally brought production to a halt and mandated a multi Billion dollar cleanup. Decades of complicity, lies, and suppressed records between the Energy Department, the Justice Department, and defense contractors like Rockwell International, occurred without public input, scrutiny, or information, including vastly increased cancer rates among both workers and neighbors, near and far.

“Open letter to U. S. Congress, October 24, 2001

I am an FBI agent. My superiors have ordered me to lie about a criminal investigation I headed in 1989. We were investigating the U. S. Department of Energy, but the U.S. Justice Department covered up the truth…. Please read this book….” Respectfully, Jon Lipsky

“Since 1970 they burned more than 345 Tons of Plutonium-contaminated trash.” The Ambushed Grand Jury*, 2004, p. 162

There are still efforts to convert Rocky Flats into a public recreation preserve.

CDOT is planning to dig the Northwest highway right through it. Does anyone believe the oil industry will be more considerate of public health
unless we force them to? Think of your children, your property values, & your future.

Vote YES on ballot question 300. Don’t Frack Longmont!

*The Ambushed Grand Jury is available at the Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center on Quince St. in Boulder. Join them. They’re good folks.

Response to Denver Post’s interference in Longmont

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

Colorado constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

O & G will hurt Longmont economic development

Our former leaders, and some current ones, would have us think passage of Question 300 would somehow discourage business from coming here. On the contrary, every local “small” businessperson to whom I’ve spoken about fracking is dead set against it in the City. I am not at liberty to divulge any names, but elected or once elected officials need to think again. If anything were THAT rosy, I need to show them this land in Florida. It’s only wet part of the year, see. And if you trust the governor to rewrite the COGCC rule book after the coming election (up or down), then you’ve just got to look at this bridge I have to sell.

Capitulation to elevated petroleum development may say that Longmont has admitted defeat on the economic development front. While that would not surprise in the current macroeconomic environment, grabbing for any tree in the face of a tsunami isn’t always the best tactic. You could get hit by a boat.

Everything has a cost. Why don’t these “leaders” tell us what those might be? Of course, only the potential benefits get the ink. At least our former city manager has the sense and courage to remind us there could be a downside. And he should know. For many years he watched as local elected “leaders” dreamed schemes that he would somehow have to implement. And that isn’t always easy.

Blind promotion of even a “tested” technology is plainly unwise. It would be advisable to take out some insurance, but after the state’s response to the Lower North Fork wildfire this year (where a state agency was at fault), it seems unlikely anyone will replace a ruined aquifer or a depleted water supply, for starters. We could demand multibillion-dollar bonding from oil and gas operators, but no; that might “discourage business.” Whose?

I’m sure no one opposing local fracking is a wild-eyed, Boulder wannabe communist. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. I am certain no one opposing local fracking is getting a dime out of his or her stance. I wish someone would ask if the same can be said with regard to former mayors.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let Big Oil determine our future

A good number of folks have inquired in recent months as to how I became a part of the local fracking issue. I have been deeply involved in this wonderful community of Longmont for more than 20 years (a Chamber member for most of those years, a longtime Rotarian, an advocate and fundraiser for many local nonprofits, and current board member of the Friends of the Longmont Senior Center).

My wife and I raised our two daughters in Longmont, having chosen to move from Houston, Texas, and avoid its extreme traffic, pollution and frantic pace. I have also owned and operated a local business for more than 10 years.

So why did “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont become involved with so contentious an issue as fracking in the city? It initially had little to do with fracking specifically or even oil and gas generally. Rather, it sprang from a deep concern around my perceptions that our culture is allowing the democratic process to be effectively bought by the highest bidder. A good example is the trend evidenced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gives corporations (which can always outspend individuals) the ability to donate unlimited dollars to political action committees and thus “purchase” the votes needed to further their own interests and profits.

Self-interest and profit are not in themselves good or bad. However, we all know that, without restraints, history is replete with examples of the abuse of power. In our world, power is always associated with great wealth.

The recent frenetic proliferation of the newer, “unconventional” fracking into densely populated communities like Longmont is a clear incarnation of the abuse of such power. I am personally not an advocate of “banning fracking” generally. Though it grieves me, we were all born into an unfortunate dependence on fossil fuels.

Both sides of this issue agree that oil and gas drilling, including “fracking,” is a heavy industrial operation. Interestingly, not a single other industrial activity is allowed in proximity to homes and schools in this city, and would, in fact, be illegal. Why does the oil and gas industry enjoy a special privilege that none others do? Why are their dangerous industrial operations that belong far from a healthy community like ours not only allowed, but actually forced upon us under current regulations?

Twenty-eight oil and gas companies (including Halliburton and Chevron) that are all based outside of Colorado have contributed almost $500,000 to defeat Question 300, which only prohibits fracking and its toxic waste disposal from within city limits.

Do you believe they have your and your family’s health in mind? Do you believe they care about the protection of your property? Do they have a stake in the quality of the air we and our children will be breathing for decades to come? The desire for profit is not inherently good or bad, but it can never be justified if it is elevated over the health and well-being of human beings.

If we are willing to believe the expensive, bullying, high cost, full-page ads designed to strike fear in us using fabricated, inflated projections of a lawsuit, then we will have once again fallen prey to being bought and paid for by wealthy corporations. Do not let them “buy” your vote. Tell them, “We, our children, and our health are not for sale.” Join me in voting “yes” on Question 300. Let us exercise our constitutional right to health, safety and protection of property. I can honestly say that “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont will be very glad when Nov. 7 rolls around. It will be good to return to pre-fracking days!

Seven “has been” mayors support propaganda

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

Brian Hansen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Opinion of one who’d know

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

The recent opinion article by former city manager Gordon Pedrow was one of the finest and most objective opinion pieces I have seen. It showed candor about the system and he very articulately expresses his reasons for voting for ballot question 300.

He demonstrated honesty and integrity in expressing his opinion on this very contentious issue. I am particularly impressed with his frankness about the system and his willingness to share it with the public.

The public expects that our elected officials and their state commissions have our interest and safety as their primary concern. To me it is obvious the public has the right to protect their health and safety, but the state leadership doesn’t want local communities setting the rules. It is extremely refreshing to see someone intimately involved with the system speaking his mind.

Colorado is one of only 24 states that even have a citizen’s initiative process under the State Constitution. Without this constitutionally guaranteed process, we wouldn’t even be talking about this issue, because it wouldn’t be on the ballot.

Although the citizen’s initiative does have its flaws, without it there would be no way to hold elected officials accountable. Expecting elected officials to do the right thing voluntarily and serve the public interest is unrealistic. Elections are about money and patronage to the power brokers. There are exceptions to this depressing view, but they are rare.

Mr. Pedrow is right that we shouldn’t have to resort to an initiative, that our commissions and elected officials should be serving the interests of the public and not the interest of private industries. Thank God for retirement, you can finally take a controversial position.