Tag Archive for hydraulic fracturing

Longmont voters entitled to Home Rule

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Nov. 6 is Election Day. Be sure to cast your ballot for the sake of your city, county, state and nation. Tucked in amongst the myriad partisan races is Longmont Ballot Question 300. This question is worthy of your careful scrutiny because it is a proposed charter amendment.

Is this what you want in Longmont?

Ballot Question 300 deserves careful attention for several reasons: It will amend the city charter, it is an important public health and quality-of-life issue, and it was initiated by thousands of your friends and neighbors. Usually, we look to the City Council to appropriately act to protect citizens from negative impacts of heavy industrial activity. However, when a majority of our elected representatives fail to carry out their responsibilities, the city charter and state constitution provide means by which the citizens can initiate actions they believe necessary to protect their community.

Beginning last November, the City Council studied how best to regulate the negative impacts of oil and gas operations within Longmont. This is an industry that is poorly regulated and coddled by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with regulating its operations in order to protect public health and the environment. Until June, when it came time for the City Council to adopt its comprehensive regulations, it appeared that most council members were in favor of acting to protect the community from oil and gas operations. However, at the last moment, under extreme pressure from the industry’s big-money lobbyists and state politicians, a majority of the City Council capitulated to the industry and refused to support comprehensive regulations. When it really counted, only Mayor Coombs and council members Levison and Bagley were willing to adopt adequate comprehensive regulations to protect Longmont residents. Most citizens would agree that an appropriately regulated oil and gas industry can be a win for everyone.

After it became obvious that the City Council majority would approve only a weak, watered-down set of regulations, a group of citizens opted to circulate petitions to amend the charter as proposed in Ballot Question 300. More than 8,000 citizens signed the petitions. All registered voters can now have a direct say in the outcome of the proposed amendment.

This issue deserves your careful attention now for a couple of reasons. First, you need to understand what it says so that you can assess whether or not it reflects what is best for our community. Second, you should examine the merits of the amendment prior to the misinformation tsunami that will soon be launched by the oil and gas industry, along with affiliated special interests, as they try to persuade you to vote no on 300. (Do you remember the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of propaganda our community received from the cable industry when Longmont voters were considering home-rule control of telecommunication matters?) I encourage all residents to study the issues early so that you can adequately assess the veracity of information provided by both sides. Because the citizens who initiated the proposed amendment will have meager resources, it will no doubt be a very lopsided campaign.

It is easy to anticipate a few attack lines you can expect to hear from the well-funded opposition. These include: The industry will sue; Longmont has a representative form of government, so it is a City Council matter; the COGCC adequately regulates the oil and gas industry; and finally, Colorado has the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the nation.

As the attack ads appear, consider the following questions: Do you want to capitulate just because a multi-billion-dollar industry wants to resist adequate regulation and threatens to sue if it fails to get its way? If a majority of our elected representatives fail to protect our health, safety and the environment, doesn’t the city charter and state constitution provide a means for citizens to act? If the COGCC regulations are adequate, why did the governor on Aug. 15 tell the industry that new regulations are necessary for the industry’s “integrity and trust” and that citizens’ concerns about fracking must be addressed? Finally, do we care how stringent Colorado regulations are if they do not adequately protect public health, safety and the environment? Just last month, the governor admitted the state’s regulations are not adequate.

Voters, the issue belongs to you. Do your homework and cast your ballot.

Hey, Gov! Which mouth are we to believe?

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

I have found newspaper coverage about the recent oil and gas association conference in Denver somewhat baffling. On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the governor spoke at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. The Times-Call ran articles covering the speech on both Thursday and Friday with these headlines: “Hickenlooper says Longmont drilling rules must be challenged,” and “Gov. Hickenlooper: Drilling regulations need more work.”

It would appear that the governor was speaking out of both sides of his mouth last week.

Out of one side of his mouth, Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a new set of state initiatives to oversee oil and gas operations to create “integrity and trust” in energy development in our state. According to the article, the focus of the initiatives includes: well-bore integrity, water sampling, fugitive methane emissions and setbacks from densely populated areas. He also remarked that public concern about hydraulic fracturing must be addressed.

After catching his breath, the governor then spoke out of the other side of his mouth. At that point, Gov. Hickenlooper threatened to take the city of Longmont to court to quash its recently adopted comprehensive oil and gas drilling regulations. He stated that the Longmont City Council should accept his word that the state rules governing oil and gas regulations have sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of local communities. These are the same rules that, when speaking out of the other side of his mouth, he said must be revised to bring “integrity and trust to the industry.”

Only a politician would even attempt to sell such convoluted logic to the public. There is no doubt in my mind which entity (state of Colorado or city of Longmont) I want protecting the health and environment in my community. The governor threatening to use the courts to keep the elected Longmont City Council from protecting its residents is unconscionable.

Having a say-so on fracking is our right!

Image courtesy of sxc.hu

The law should stand behind the people, not on top of them.

Thank you, Longmont City Council, for standing your ground against the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The regulations that Longmont has put in place regarding oil and gas drilling are weak at best, but so common sense that it’s hard to fathom how the state could oppose them. Wouldn’t everyone hope that we’d monitor groundwater for possible contamination, keep heavily industrialized operations out of residential neighborhoods and have setbacks to protect our streams? Even those who fully support the idea that fracking is safe and necessary can see that in certain settings there should be limits.

The local community should be allowed to have a say in its own health, safety and well-being. And rest assured, there are safety issues when it comes to fracking. Just this week, a blast at an Encana fracking site in Weld County killed one worker and injured three. My heart goes out to the families of those workers. Do we really want to take the chance of something like that happening right next to a school, or playground, or our own backyard?

What’s at issue here is much more than whether or not fracking itself is safe or necessary. It’s an issue about whether or not a local community has the right to protect its own best interests. The COGCC is using its power to bully our small town. And when a bully gets its way, it only makes the bullying worse. If you ask me, the fact that they are actually suing our town over these minimal, common-sense regulations just builds a better case for why we, as a community, should assert our constitutional right to ban the practice of fracking within our city limits by voting for the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act in November.

The Finley Poison Pill

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the August 16, 2012, issue of the Boulder Weekly.

Not red or blue, it’s completely clear: all about the MONEY.

I read with both amusement and a bit of consternation the article describing Longmont City Council Member Bonnie Finley’s attempt to inject a poison pill onto the November ballot.  She’s apparently so frightened that the charter amendment, The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Welfare Act, will pass and be upheld by the courts (if and when it’s challenged) that she’s looking for a method to scare the bejesus out of the Longmont electorate.  What better way to do this than to start talking about taxes, always a “four-letter word” in Longmont.

Longmont is entitled to a fair election on the issue.  Blatant voter manipulation is an abuse of the democratic process.  And that’s precisely what Bonnie Finley is proposing.  Ms. Finley ought to be ashamed of herself.  Furthermore, it’s unethical and likely also illegal for the Longmont City Council to participate in Finley’s manipulation.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Wellness Act would prohibit the extremely hazardous process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) as well as waste injection wells within the city limits of Longmont.  Fracking lowers property values, damages tax-payer funded roads, endangers our health and safety, and contaminates the air we breathe and water we drink.  But apparently, Bonnie Finley wants to derail a citizen effort to keep Longmont a great place to live so that the oil and gas industry can frack next to our homes, schools and Union Reservoir.

Finley first slipped her proposed Finley Tax into discussion during the “Mayor and Council Comments” section of the July 24 city council meeting.  Her position is predicated on her belief that mineral rights owners would be deprived of the property right to access those minerals.  Ms. Finely grossly, and probably intentionally, misreads the language of the charter amendment.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act prohibits only the extraction method of hydraulic fracking.  It does not ban oil and gas drilling by other methods.  Owners or lessees of minerals are free to use, and have used, other methods of acquisition besides hydraulic fracking.  They are not being deprived of all economically beneficial uses of their minerals.

Think of the oil and gas industry as a fisherman.  When the Longmont voters pass the hydraulic fracking prohibition, they will be effectively saying, “You can’t fish with dynamite.  You can buy a rod and reel and go fishing and eat all the fish you can catch by that method.  You just can’t blow up the lake because it’s a faster way to get a whole lot more fish.”

In essence, the charter amendment is telling the oil and gas industry and their political supporters like Ms. Finley that they can’t access and sell these minerals using an inherently harmful process to do so.  Make no mistake; fracking is harmful to children, families, the community, and the environment.  The evidence keeps mounting, much to the dismay of the oil and gas industry and those people and agencies that facilitate the industry’s wishes.

Finley is employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), which serves as the Colorado chamber of commerce.  On the CACI board of directors is the Vice President of Encana USA, with substantial interest in drilling and fracking throughout Colorado. In a war there are always “minders.”

The Finley Tax is a blatant attempt to scare voters.   Apparently Council Member Finley wants voters to make a false choice between their family’s health and safety and their wallets.   All Longmont voters should be highly suspicious of Finley’s motives in proposing this tax.   So who is she representing?  I’d say the oil and gas industry – hands down.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is made up of people like you, your families, friends and neighbors who believe in Longmont’s quality of life and want to preserve it for ourselves and our children.  Please join us by voting for the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act when you receive your ballot.

State sues Longmont to drill in residential areas

On Monday, July 30, 2012, the State of Colorado filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court to prevent the City of Longmont from implementing a ban on drilling for oil and gas in the city’s residential neighborhoods. The suit was filed by Jake Matter, Deputy Attorney General, on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

The COGCC has consistently refused to acknowledge the right of local governments and their citizens to exercise control over heavy industrial activities in their communities. The suit claims that “No possible construction of the disputed provisions of the ordinance can be harmonized with the state regulatory regime.” The state wants the court to throw out the city’s regulations without so much as a trial.

This suit is a stab in the back of every resident in Longmont. The state has essentially said, “We don’t care what you want. If the oil and gas industry wants to drill next to your homes and schools, we will allow it. It’s our right to let them and we will take you to court to shut you down.”

This is a very disturbing, although predictable, action by the State of Colorado. The state, its agencies, and its elected officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the State of Colorado, which guarantees citizens’ rights to health, safety and well-being.

The citizens of Longmont should not and will not be intimidated or bullied by any government entity. Voters in Longmont must stand firm in November and vote for the Charter Amendment, The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. The amendment prohibits the hazardous practice of hydraulic fracking and waste injection wells within Longmont’s city limits. Fracking is harmful to children, families, the community, and the environment.

It may be legal, but it’s not right!

Some, including some in the press, are confusing the actions of the Longmont City Council on oil and gas drilling within Longmont with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont‘s charter amendment (The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act). If passed in November, the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act would ban only the relatively new extraction process of directional hydraulic fracturing within city limits. It is not a blanket ban on fracking.

The many volunteers who collected more than 6,609 signatures do not consider themselves “anti-frackers,” as they are often described. They are ordinary residents who want to make sure Longmont’s people, particularly children, are protected and that schools, parks and property values are not compromised in the rush to get the last of the fossil fuel. The science is not yet in on the long-term effects of fracking.

There’s another issue, too. Should local communities have any say in what the state mandates for them? Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont thinks so. The Colorado Constitution allows home rule cities that right. We all realize that the oil and gas industry has vast sums of money to promote their interests whereas we at the local level are counting on volunteers and small donations to counter their oft-repeated and misleading claims. There comes a time when people realize that what is legal is not necessarily what is right. The abolishment of slavery and the inclusion of women as voters are testament to that principle.

Sometimes laws have to be challenged. Interestingly the lawsuit recently initiated against the city is not to be confused with this citizen-led ballot initiative. That lawsuit is the state’s protest against City Council’s updated regulations.

If you’d like to help Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont succeed in November, your can volunteer through our website.

The fact that the lawsuit came so quickly should be fair warning to Longmont voters that we are being unfairly stomped on and we need to stand up against the challenge.

Coloradans are talking….

Washington, can you hear us now?

The following letter was delivered to the Washington, D.C. offices of Colorado Senator Mark Udall and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. The voices in the groups who signed the letter are strong and determined. It is hoped that our senators, as well as all other elected officials, will recognize that the issues raised in this letter are signature issues of our time and that elected representatives of any and all offices as well as political parties will be held accountable by the people.

As the oil and gas industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their health, environment, property values, way of life and communities form the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction, including fracking. Two Colorado mothers, Jodee Brekke of Denver and Diana Caile of Boulder, traveled to Washington, D.C. to join a nationwide coalition of citizens, communities and organizations for the Stop the Frack Attack events, beginning with Lobby Day on Wednesday, July 25, and culminating in a mass rally and march, with a crowd of 5000, on Saturday, July 28. Ms. Brekke and Ms. Caile met with staff at Senator Udall’s and Senator Bennet’s offices to deliver a letter imploring the senators to discontinue their rhetoric about the benefits of oil and natural gas extraction and to move for a national moratorium on fracking. The letter was signed by 262 Coloradans, as well as 17 grassroots groups and nonprofits from throughout the state, representing thousands more. Additionally, approximately 1500 people from throughout the country and even globally signed on to the letter in solidarity.

To:  Senators Udall and Bennet

From: The following Grassroots Groups

Earth Guardians
Erie Rising
East Boulder County United
Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights
Commerce City United
Food and Water Watch
GrassRoots Energy activist Network (GREEN)
Commerce City Unite N.O.W.
Adams County Unite N.O.W.
Be the Change
Protect Colorado Water
350 Colorado
Green Valley Ranch Fracking Resistance Group
Denver Community Rights
Lakewood Fracktivists
Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont
What the Frack?! Arapahoe

 

Colorado is under assault from the oil and gas industry. As the industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their property values, way of life, health, environment, communities, and future generations from the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction.

The heavy industrial, toxic process of oil and natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing:

  • uses millions of gallons of water per frack, turning our water into toxic waste that must be removed from the hydrologic cycle.
  • is creating a potential environmental and human health catastrophe by pumping toxic wastewater into injection wells.
  • contaminates surface/ground water and soil, spews toxins into our air, and despoils our landscape.
  • threatens the economic benefit we receive from tourism and our healthy, outdoor lifestyle branding.
  • is harmful to our health.
  • releases high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • disrupts our communities with heavy semi-truck and tanker-truck traffic (some of which carry radioactive material), noise, lights, and industrial level diesel exhaust.
  • externalizes millions of dollars in damage to our infrastructure.
  • brings with it increased crime and pressure on the housing market from transient worker populations.
  • reduces property values.
  • threatens the real estate market as lenders are increasingly unwilling to extend mortgages or refinance properties near wells, and as residents choose to leave by short selling or having their properties foreclosed on.
  • is a boom and bust activity that leaves communities devastated.

Natural gas has received a lot of attention as a bridge fuel. Natural gas is not a bridge to renewable energy, but just another dirty fossil fuel. In fact, the turn to natural gas is hurting investments in renewables. The only way we’re going to get to a healthy, sustainable energy future is by investing in healthy, sustainable energy. Promoting unconventional natural gas extraction is turning your back on renewable energy, on your constituents who shoulder the externalized costs, and on future generations.

The oil and gas industry is being propped up by taxpayer money in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, exemptions from environmental protection laws and externalized costs shouldered by the people of Colorado and those in communities threatened by this industry across the country. We expect you to fight for the health, safety and welfare of your constituents over corporate profits.

In light of new information coming out almost daily about the above mentioned impacts of oil and natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing, and considering full-cost accounting, as well as the fact that the industry plans to export, we implore you to discontinue your rhetoric about the benefits oil and gas extraction confers and move for a nationwide moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Oil and Gas Law Unsettled

Colorado constitutionIn a letter to the City of Longmont, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association insists that the citizens of Longmont do not have the right to protect their property, safety and health from the negative impacts of hydraulic fracking. Industry’s refusal to respect these inalienable rights is premised on their insistence that we must instead “respect the primary regulatory authority vested in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).”

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont believes that the Colorado Constitution gives all citizens the right to protect their property and live safe, healthy lives.  It is the authority to which all of Colorado’s statutes must be subordinated and thus it does not give the oil and gas industry the freedom to damage our property values, endanger our families or pollute our air and water.

Despite protestations to the contrary, case law covering the interaction between the COGCC, Colorado’s designated agency for oil and gas development, and local governments is unsettled law.  Colorado case law is a mixture of rulings that apply to dissimilar forms of municipal government. Such disparate rulings have been cobbled together and used by the oil and gas industry and the COGCC to intimidate municipalities from exercising their responsibilities to protect their citizens and their communities.

Municipal government comes in many forms, among which are counties, home rule cities and statutory towns and cities, each of which allows for different degrees of authority and independence. Among the powers afforded home-rule cities like Longmont is the authority to regulate the use of land on the basis of its impact on the community or surrounding areas and to regulate the use of land so as to provide for its orderly use and the protection of the environment in a manner consistent with constitutional rights.

The “findings” included in Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont’s proposed amendment to Longmont’s city charter identifies another constitutional protection.  “The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Longmont, certain inalienable rights, including ‘the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness,’ Color. Const. Art. II, Sec 3.”

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) violates these constitutional rights by threatening our health, endangering our children, diminishing property values and contaminating our water and air.

Frequently cited case law has not ruled on the constitutional protections afforded Colorado citizens but instead has focused on the statutory authority delegated to the COGCC.  Also, new technology and the effects of multi-well pads using directional high volume fracturing have not been considered in past case law.

The COGCC, through the Attorney General’s Office, and the oil and gas industry have been seeking a court ruling on complete preemption of municipal control for years.  The courts have refused this interpretation.  As recently as the 2012 Colorado legislative session, a senator sponsored a bill (SB-88) that would have accomplished that objective for the oil and gas industry.  The bill was killed in committee.

The arguments that are being put forth by the industry and COGCC are intended to intimidate local governments and dissuade Colorado citizens from asserting and claiming their Constitutional rights.  Such arguments are inaccurate and blatantly indicate that the issues surrounding oil and gas drilling in Colorado have not been legally settled.

Neither the courts nor the COGCC have adequately addressed the Oil and Gas Act’s legislative mandate to “foster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” (emphasis added), the first and presumably overarching restriction on all other directives contained within the Act.

The proposed Longmont charter amendment seeks to restore constitutional and statutory protections for our “health, safety, and welfare.”  It does not seek to ban all drilling for oil and gas within the Longmont city limits, but to ban only one specific, particularly harmful extraction method, hydraulic fracturing, in order to guarantee and preserve constitutionally protected individual rights to health, safety and well-being.

800 lb. gorillas, elephants, & wizards behind curtains

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council on July 10, 2012, in response to a “last-minute” attempt to dismantle oil and gas regulations that are already meager.

I speak tonight as Kaye Fissinger.  My words are solely my own and do not represent any other person or organization.

Some weeks back a gentleman approached this council at Public Invited to be Heard and minced no words in describing this Longmont City Council as the most unresponsive to its citizens as any he had ever witnessed.  He couldn’t have been more accurate and more honest.

And once again the people of Longmont who have made it clear to you that fracking in Longmont is a threat to their health, safety and welfare are being jerked around by most of you as you manipulate the process to allow for drill-baby-drill by an industry who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything but their own profits.  Not only have they no interest in the well being of people, they have no interest in the well being of this nation.  They are multinationals.  And their God is MONEY.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Anyhow.  Anytime.

After nine months, city staff must be beside itself.  This council majority never wanted to go down the oil and gas regulation road in the first place and did so only to appease and manipulate.

Council Member Finley has her britches in a twist about the Preamble.  Her alleged dispute with its contents is as phony as a $3.00 bill.  She won’t vote for the regulations under any circumstance.  Frankly, she should recuse herself.  She works for the Colorado chamber of commerce and an Encana vice president sits on its board of directors.  You’ll never convince me or a huge number of Longmont citizens that she is carrying water for anyone but the oil and gas industry.

Council Member Witt is a Romney Colorado operative.  She’ll take no position contrary to her candidate’s position.  So she’ll vote “NO,” no question, and will give a poor imitation of Council Member Santos’ tactics of trying to have it both ways.  He speaks about the industry and COGCC needing to put up or shut up, but he covers his eyes for the wink-wink so only the industry sees it.

What can I say about Council Member Bagley.  He wants TOP Operating to be able to drill.  And NOW he’s using his lawyerly skills to override the months of work by staff attorneys.  To what purpose?  Who benefits?

To the citizens of Longmont who listen and view these council proceedings there’s an 800 pound gorilla in this room sitting next to an elephant of partisan noteworthiness.  The oil and gas wizard behind the curtain is on full display.

Video: The Truth About FRACKING

VIDEO SHOWING
Saturday, July 7, 2012
2:00 pm – 4:45 pm
Longmont Library, Rooms A & B
409 4th Ave.

Learn about heavy industrial drilling and fracking technology. Hear about the dangers to our health, air, water resources and property values in Longmont.

Presentations by Wes Wilson, retired EPA engineer; Phil Doe, Environmental Issues Director for “Be The Change”; and Shane Davis, research biologist, Sierra Club.

More information at www.LongmontROAR.org

How much risk to take? Let the people decide.

Courtesy of David Schemel

It is the middle of the night as I write this. Many things keep me up at night. Sometimes I worry about my small business. Sometimes I worry that my children will be scarred for life by my poor parenting skills. Tonight I am awake because I’m worried about fracking. Working these past months to keep fracking and oil and gas development a safe distance from my family isn’t something I enjoy.

However, whenever I think “what is all this for?” I think of my friends, neighbors and family. I talk to my best friend in Ohio about my concerns about the chemicals in the air near oil and gas wells; about whether we could sell our home in the current market if a multi-well pad is drilled, as originally planned, near our home. She has a 5-year-old child with autism. He doesn’t speak. I tell her I know my concerns are nothing compared to her realities. But she tells me not to give up. She tells me about the many hours of sleep she loses because she wonders what caused several women on her street to give birth to children with autism. She wonders what was in the air, the water, the food she ate out of her garden. She wishes she had known and she could have done something to change her son’s lot in life.

I think about my neighbor who was an athletic, seemingly healthy, non-smoking 50-year-old who recently died of lung cancer. Another neighbor told me he had wondered in his last days if he should have gotten radon mitigation done on his home. I think of his wife, who will be haunted by all the “what ifs” about the environment he lived in that might have caused his death.

I don’t wish the “what-ifs” on anyone. And I don’t wish the “it’s too late now” on my family and neighbors. I am not the type of person who enjoys a good fight. I just want to be able to sleep at night.

I don’t think every person living next to every well will get sick and die. I don’t think the sky is falling. But I do think as time passes, we will likely find — like asbestos, lead paint, cigarettes — that living close to oil and gas wells has made some people sick. We will find that the regulations in place and the government’s ability to enforce them have been inadequate to prevent this from happening.

I understand people depend on oil and gas for their livelihood and that we all depend on oil and gas in a multitude of ways. This is a complex issue for all of us. However, I don’t think that not drilling everywhere we possibly can is the end to jobs and the economy or will guarantee we will never be free from foreign sources of energy (talk about “the sky is falling”). I believe American ingenuity and common sense can find a solution without destroying our economy or our communities in the process — and without compromising our constitutional rights to health and safety.

Our children, our families and our homes are worth, well, everything. Just talk to someone who has lost a mother, brother, child to a disease, or has watched them struggle with a health issue, like severe asthma. These are not risks we should take lightly.

So this weekend, I will ask my neighbors to sign a petition for a ballot initiative to ban oil and gas wells using hydraulic fracturing from city limits. I think it’s time we put the choice into the hands of the residents on whether they want a future of “what ifs” or whether they want one less thing to keep them up at night.

Our Longmont announces Charter Amendment Drive to Ban Fracking in Longmont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2012

Contact:

Peter Champe, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, 303-241-8115

Sam Schabacker, Food & Water Watch, 720-449-7505

 

Petition Drive Announced to Stop Fracking in Longmont

If Successful, Longmont Would be the First Colorado City to Ban Fracking

 

Longmont, Colo. – Today, the Longmont ballot issue committee Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont filed a notice of intent with the Longmont City Clerk to put a charter amendment on the November ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within Longmont city limits.  This controversial oil and gas drilling method threatens health and safety, erodes property values, and pollutes water and air when done in close proximity to densely populated areas.

“The state and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association are bullying Longmont to take away their local control and the city council is not standing strong to protect the health, safety and welfare of Longmont residents, so this petition is our only recourse,” said Peter Champe with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “People who live, work and raise their families in Longmont should have a say on whether or not they want their air, water, soil and roadways threatened by the risky process of fracking and the subsequent well production. If no action is taken, existing regulations would allow hundreds of wells to be drilled in Longmont.”

For months, Longmont Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas Regulation (LongmontROAR) has been urging the Longmont City Council to pass local regulations for oil and gas drilling that cover basic protections such as prohibiting drilling in residential areas. These regulations were developed after several months of citizen input, scientific testimony, and research by city staff.  However, in the last four weeks, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Attorney General have actively sought to derail these commonsense measures to protect the health and safety of Longmont residents. The Attorney General sent a letter to the City of Longmont with a veiled threat of a lawsuit should Longmont proceed with the regulations. Then, COGA conducted a push poll to manipulate public opinion and intimidate members of Longmont’s City Council.  Unfortunately, the Longmont City Council responded to this pressure last week by putting the regulations on hold.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont was created in response to these efforts by the State of Colorado and the oil and gas industry to take away local control from Longmont citizens to protect their health, property and families. The citizens’ petition is based on the Colorado Constitution, which confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Longmont, certain inalienable rights, including “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness,” (Colo. Const. Art. II, Sec. 3). Since Longmont is a home rule city, a charter amendment can be put to a public vote with signatures from 10 percent of registered voters. Our Longmont and its allies will need to collect approximately 6,000 valid signatures from Longmont voters to qualify the measure for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If successful, Longmont would be the first city in Colorado to ban fracking.  The national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch supports communities across the country that are fighting to protect their health, safety and environment from fracking. Longmont’s case is of particular importance because it could set a precedent across the state of Colorado where many communities oppose giving the oil and gas industry free rein to frack, but are stifled by industry dominance and state law that prohibits municipalities from protecting their citizens’ health and natural resources.

“Longmont is Exhibit A for how the state of Colorado has failed its citizens,” said Sam Schabacker, who grew up in Longmont and is now the Mountain West Region director for Food & Water Watch. “Under the current state regulations, if fracking goes forward in Longmont, it could take place next to half of the city’s schools, in parks and our neighborhoods. This may mean big profits for oil and gas companies but no amount of money should trump the right to clean air, clean water, or a safe place for children to live and play. The people of Longmont deserve to be part of the decision-making process that will ultimately impact their families’ health, safety and the property values of their homes.”

A moratorium on drilling in Longmont expires on June 16, 2012. When the moratorium expires, fracking could take place throughout much of Longmont– next to homes, in open spaces and parks such as Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch and McIntosh Lake, and next to half of the city’s schools.

There are over 47,000 fracked wells throughout Colorado and the oil and gas industry is aggressively moving to dramatically increase that number.  Twenty percent of the known chemicals used in fracking fluid can cause cancer, 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system, and up to 50 percent can affect nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. According to a Denver Post analysis of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) database, there is more than one spill of fluids associated with oil and gas activity each day in Colorado. One well next to Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont was found to have 98 times the allowable amount of cancer-causing Benzene in the groundwater.

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.

“The COGCC states that it is charged with promoting ‘efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare,’ but they have failed to initiate a single study verifying that fracking is safe,” said Peter Champe with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “State government persistently supports the oil and gas industry’s plans to expand fracking across the state despite communities’ concerns based on mounting data that suggests significant health impacts.”

For more information and to see a copy of the petition, please visit: OurLongmont.org

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our community.  Our goal is to preserve the quality of life in our exceptional city by protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens.  By so doing we will preserve our economic vitality, our home values, our water, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for ourselves and future generations.

Food and Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume are safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

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How did we get here?

Our country is being hijacked right in front of us.

Our homes and safety are being hijacked

How did we get here?   As a nation, a state, a community, how did we get here?

How did we lose so much of our humanity that we would by word and deed and law allow the profit of the few to trump the genuine needs of the many?

How did we get to the point where our President listens to an industry and apparently accepts their lies, their propaganda, or perhaps just doesn’t want to be crosswise with it and those with whom it has sway during an election year?

How did we get to the point where our Colorado legislature allows an industry to write legislation with the likely help of organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council?  I ponder the word “exchange” in its name.  In exchange for what?

How did we get to the point where our governor, elected to represent all of the people, runs interference against communities who DO want to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens?

How did we get to the point where our Attorney General in collusion with the oil and gas industry threatens legal action against communities who dare to seek to preserve our quality of life, paramount of which is our health?  Do you know that the oil and gas industry has threatened to bankrupt communities who don’t fall in line?  It will not surprise me when they try to do the same to Longmont, even in the face very tepid regulations.

How did we get to the point where members of our own city council value business above all else?

When did we lose our humanity?

City council, restore needed regulations


Editor’s Note: The following is an Open Letter to the Longmont City Council. On May 8, 2012, Longmont’s oil and gas regulations will appear on the council’s agenda on First Reading (Consent Agenda). Several necessary regulations were removed from the Draft Regulations prepared earlier this year.

I would like to see the following provisions become part of the city’s regulation of fracking wells and other wells.

1) RESTORE THE PROVISION REQUIRING CLOSED PITS.
Open pits are a source of contamination, both through evaporation (airborne contaminants), and through undue exposure to animals and, potentially, children on nearby playgrounds. A CLOSED SYSTEM WOULD BE BEST.

2) INCORPORATE THE NEW EPA REGULATIONS ON METHANE CONTAMINATION. The EPA has just issued new regulations regarding methane leakage in fracked wells. The city should require that any wells drilled now should be in conformity to these new regulations, since the new wells will be operating when the EPA regulations go into effect.

3) DO NOT ALLOW THE OPERATION OF WELLS DURING A DROUGHT. The state already has a mechanism for declaring a state of drought, and it should be strictly observed.

4) MONITOR SMOG POLLUTION, INCLUDING ADVANCE TESTING TO ESTABLISH A BASELINE.
The city should require testing using the new technique just published by NOAA, which is able to differentiate sources of smog pollution. There should be a baseline test of Longmont’s air quality at the present time, before the moratorium is lifted, and future tests should be measured against it. I am especially concerned about the numerous medical studies published by a variety of sources–easily found with an Internet search–that show strong links between smog and an increase in asthma, stroke, and heart attacks. The recent study in Erie that commented on 10 minutes of exposure is ridiculous. If there are wells, there is going to be chronic exposure. The studies of the effects of chronic exposure to smog need a detailed review and the city needs to fund its own monitoring of smog.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. I look forward to seeing these important elements of regulation incorporated into the City of Longmont regulations.