Tag Archive for Longmont ballot measure

Our Longmont, others act to protect fracking ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 11, 2013

CONTACTS:
Kaye Fissinger, 303-678-7267 (Our Longmont)
Michael Bellmont, 303-678-9470 (Our Longmont)
Bruce Baizel, 970-903-5326 (Earthworks)
Shane Davis, 303-717-4462 (Sierra Club)
Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036 (Food & Water Watch)

Coalition Acts to Protect City of Longmont’s Ban on Dangerous Hydraulic Fracturing

LONGMONT, CO – Today, a coalition of community, public health, consumer and environmental organizations filed a motion in the Weld County District Court to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Longmont’s ban of the oil and gas practice known as “fracking” and related surface activities, such as storage of toxic post-fracking fluids. This ban was instituted by the citizens of Longmont in an amendment to the City Charter, Article XVI , the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

The people of Longmont by an overwhelming vote of 60% (more than 25,000 people), voted in the November, 2012 election to amend the City Charter to ban fracking, affirming their intention “to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water.” This historic ballot measure was spearheaded by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

“We are taking this action because we hope to affirm the rights of citizens and communities to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for themselves and future generations,” said Michael Harris, Director of the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law Environmental Law Clinic. He continued, “We are honored to represent Our Longmont, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club and Earthworks.”

The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals certain inalienable rights. These rights are expressed in the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, which requires that oil and gas resources be extracted in a “manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare.”

“The extraction process of hydraulic fracturing has not been proven to be safe,” said Kaye Fissinger, managing member of Our Longmont. “Further, the State of Colorado has created a situation where the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry has an inherent conflict of interest. It cannot simultaneously foster the development of oil and gas and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”

“The dangerous, toxic practice of fracking has been a matter of grave importance to the people of Longmont since October of 2011,” said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont. “To assure the protection of those in our community, Our Longmont undertook a petition drive to place the charter amendment on the ballot. In November, our citizens exercised their rights to self-determination, also guaranteed under Article XX of Colorado’s Constitution. In light of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s attack, it is necessary that citizens participate in the judicial process to guarantee our constitutionally protected rights. It is for this reason Our Longmont and others have moved to intervene,” Bellmont said.

Food & Water Watch provided invaluable assistance to Our Longmont throughout the effort to qualify and pass Longmont’s charter amendment. Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Regional Director for the organization, said, “We were delighted to be able to help the citizens of Longmont prohibit the dangerous industrial practice of hydraulic fracking and are pleased to be able to continue to support them. We have every confidence that the courts will reject the claims of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and preserve Longmont’s constitutional and home rule rights.”

According to Eric E. Huber, Senor Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, “This lawsuit could have a precedential effect throughout Colorado as other communities work to pass similar prohibitions on fracking and the disposal of its waste products within their boundaries.”

Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said, “The citizens of Longmont took this action because they don’t trust state regulators to protect them. Rather than sue communities acting to protect their public health, industry and the state should be addressing legitimate community concerns by putting the public’s health before industry profits.”

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a constitutional 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 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. www.ourlongmont.org,

Food & Water Watch is a consumer organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water. It’s essential that these shared resources be regulated in the public interest rather than for private gain. www.foodandwaterwater.org,

Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide, including 160 members in the City of Longmont. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. http://rmc.sierraclub.org

For 25 years, Earthworks has been dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions. http://www.earthworksaction.org.

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.

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.

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.

Put Fracking Issue on November Ballot

Photo courtesy of ErieRising.com

This could be Longmont – wells and chemical storage tanks in your neighborhood.

We the people of Longmont are circulating a petition to put the issue of fracking on the November ballot. This will give Longmont residents the opportunity to indicate where they really stand. Do you want fracking within the city limits? You will be able to vote on this issue in November if our petition drive collects enough signatures.

You will find petitioners at many public places and events in Longmont over the next month. We’ll also be on downtown sidewalks, in front of businesses that have allowed us to collect signatures, and going door to door in neighborhoods. You must be a registered voter and resident of Longmont to sign.

I want to emphasize that this is a citizens’ initiative. It has no relation to any government office. It is not sponsored by any political party or candidate. It has no relationship to the Occupy movement. We are ordinary citizens who believe that Longmont residents should decide if fracking should be allowed within city limits.

Many public officials and businesspeople have pretended to know what Longmont residents want on this issue. They say they are representing the public interest, but in fact everyone has been guessing about what the people of Longmont really want.

We say, let the people decide. We urge you to speak for yourself by signing the petition and by voting in November.

The ballot issue proposes a ban on fracking within Longmont city limits.

It would further ban the storage or disposal of materials and wastewater connected with fracking, including a ban on open waste pits. A citywide referendum is a reasonable action, given that every person in Longmont will be affected by whatever decision is made on fracking.

Go to www.OurLongmont.org for more information on the petition.