Tag Archive for longmont

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.

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.

Transparency difficult for Mi-Hile supporters

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Mile-Hi Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

The noise from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes does not bother Ricky Lee Landrum one bit (Open Forum, Oct. 4). Mr. Landrum states that he lives near the airport and is a frequent golfer who plays at Twin Peaks Golf Course.

First, it’s curious that he is just now responding to my letter from three months ago. Second, Mr. Landrum fails to mention that he is an avid skydiver, as shown in his bio on the OpenStage Theatre and Company website.

The Mile-Hi jump planes operate for up to 12 hours or more a day, including every Saturday and Sunday. They climb aggressively over our homes and circle constantly over north Boulder County. It may not bother folks who are hard of hearing or who spend their days inside an air-conditioned home with the TV blaring. But for those who prefer to live with the windows open, or who spend a lot of time outdoors, the ubiquitous drone is quite irritating.

In 2007, Mile-Hi Skydiving executed a new Specialty Based Operator airport lease agreement with the city. According to the lease terms, South Parcel 11SD, which covers 180,723 square feet, will accommodate a greatly expanded skydiving center. This 20-year lease is currently inactive and will become effective when Mile-Hi breaks ground on construction of the new facility.

It is important to understand that Mile-Hi Skydiving aims to be one of the biggest skydiving centers in the country. Currently, it operates several jump planes concurrently, including two very noisy de Havilland Twin Otters. When Mile-Hi expands, presumably after the economy recovers just a bit more, we can all look forward to hearing several more jump planes operating concurrently. This news should be alarming to anyone who cares about their quality of life and property values.

Don’t treat kids like canaries

Longmont’s population aren’t experimental animals.

This November, Longmont residents will have a chance to vote on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking and the storage of fracking waste within city limits. The No. 1 criticism the opponents of this measure make is that it denies mineral rights owners access to their minerals. Right now, the minerals in question are trapped in shale rock and until the last several years, access to them was denied by technology (conventional drilling couldn’t access shale oil). Then along came unconventional, horizontal fracturing, a largely untested and controversial process exempted from many state and federal regulations. Suddenly, access is possible, but not without huge risks and expenses that are often shouldered by the public.

From increases in air, water and noise pollution, to damage to roads, increased truck traffic, huge consumption of water and costs of emergency response when problems occur, most of the expense is passed on to the public. Banning fracking within Longmont city limits won’t deny mineral rights owners access to their claims. The minerals aren’t going anywhere. They’ll still be there if and when a safer, better understood and more fully studied process for extracting them is developed. But do we really want our children to be the canaries in the coal mine while studies on the risks of fracking are being done? The National Science Foundation just awarded CU a $12 million contract to study the risks of fracking over the next five years. Shouldn’t these studies have been done before we fracked next to homes and schools instead of waiting years or decades to “prove” this method is safe (or more likely, not)?

Vote “yes” on 300 and keep this heavily industrialized process away from our residential areas. The minerals aren’t going anywhere but our community’s safety, health and well-being could be.

Government’s wake-up call: Yes on 300

OF the oil companies, BY the oil companies, FOR the oil companies

OF the oil companies, BY the oil companies, FOR the oil companies

I shall vote in favor for several reasons, but principally because it draws a bright line expressing legitimate fears of citizens who are not comfortable that the State is protecting their interests. A friend of mine says the law is the law, and we must abide by it. And she thinks we would lose the suit, so why even set up for that defeat? Well, our elected representatives can change the law. And even if we should lose the suit, the entire governmental environment will have been changed in our favor.

Both the Governor and the COGCC present as being under the sway of commercial extraction interests to the minimization of looking after the public interests. The matter will play out in the courts, but I am proud that Longmont is likely in this election to make a strong statement favoring its own health and environmental interests — a statement that will serve as a wakeup call to all three branches of State government.

Legislative: Changes to COGCC laws should be rebalanced toward public interests, including enabling local government inspection and control, and oversight by field inspectors should be adequately funded. Executive: Protective regulations based on those changes to law should be written and vigorously enforced. Judicial: In the upcoming suit, so strong an expression of municipal self-interest will certainly influence the courts’ attitudes and likely decisions. Judges read newspapers.

And, almost without saying, City Council will necessarily prosecute the suit with full enthusiasm, despite the very puzzling slick-paper statement contrary to Question 300 by previous Mayors, paid for and distributed by unnamed sources. I am pleased that all the candidates in this election cycle are paying close attention.

Averaged over the Longmont populace, a Ballot Question suit might cost me two or four bucks. I think that’s a rare bargain.

Yes on 300: Ban fracking in Longmont

The “high risk, low reward” of hydraulically fractured gas wells inside of Longmont is a compelling argument for not allowing it.

The blatant trampling of community self-determination (aka freedom) is alarming, shocking and in a word un-American when regulation of potentially harmful activity is denied the affected community. This is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of survival and common sense! Protection of community health is the highest of community responsibilities.

The risks and rewards fall into two basic areas:

Health: There are no upsides for the health of the community — period! And if you think the health issues have been overblown, then you have not done your homework. Ignorance, consideration of only one side of the evidence, trust in the “stated” good intentions of the well operators or taking TV ads at face value are not excuses. Be responsible; this is the lifelong health of children that you’re dismissing. There is a word for this kind of disregard: selfishness.

Financial: The hit on property values is obvious. The real estate community has raised this flag. And potential accidents and long-term environmental costs are born by the public sector (i.e., you and me).

I urge you to do the intelligent, the moral and the brave thing: Vote for Ballot Question 300 — ban fracking inside of Longmont.

This ballot initiative does not stop fracking anywhere except inside of Longmont. There is a place for natural gas in energy policy. However, its use should be measured, methodical and well thought out as to the full repercussions. For heaven’s sake, it should not be extracted next to our children’s schools and around our water supplies. Please think — vote yes on 300.

Fracking for oil and gas threatens health

A recent opinion piece in the Boulder Camera brought to light the struggle that two Colorado cities are facing in regulating oil and gas exploration, drilling and extraction in their cities. It was stated that Erie’s approach was more reasonable and sensible than Longmont’s. Erie is working with the oil and gas industry whereas Longmont is being sued by the state because its regulations are too strict.

My question is, who is to judge if Longmont or Erie’s approach is more reasonable or sensible? And which will protect its residents from harm?

If Erie’s leaders have chosen the most reasonable path, why are some people selling their homes to move away from the onslaught of the oil and gas industry in that town? Some of Erie’s residents say their health is being affected by noxious and toxic volatile organic compounds emanating from the oil and gas wells throughout the town, causing such problems as gastrointestinal distress, headaches, nosebleeds and asthma. One woman I know has been diagnosed with lesions on her spine that appeared after a gas well had been fracked near her home. Is this an exaggerated claim?

Is it reasonable or sensible to expose children, teachers and staff to toxic VOCs venting from a fracked well down the street from Fall River Elementary School? Is there a special air filtration system on the school that will keep them safe? Is the oil and gas company drilling in that area going to monitor the air quality or conduct health assessments? An independent study conducted by NOAA in Erie has measured higher levels of VOCs (notably ethane and propane) in the air than in urban Pasadena and Houston, although an “expert” hired by the city of Erie discounted these findings. A Colorado School of Public Health study has shown that people who live within one-half mile of these wells are likely to experience chronic and acute illness including a higher risk of cancer (Search for Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County on the Internet).

These health effects are a serious issue. Dr. Theo Colborn of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange has produced a video titled “What you need to know about natural gas production” that can be found on her organization’s website (endocrinedisruption.com). Dr. Colborn stresses that the entire process of unconventional oil and gas exploration, drilling and extraction has a detrimental effect on humans, wildlife and vegetation. Is this risk to all life forms reasonable or sensible?

I believe the recent regulations passed by Longmont City Council will not protect residents because it contains loopholes that could allow oil and gas companies to drill in the city. This is why I joined many others to gather 8,200 signatures so that Longmont residents could choose to vote to ban fracking in Longmont city limits. Does this make us fanatics and mischief-makers or environmental extremists to want to protect our air, water and soil and maintain a clean environment? We are ordinary residents — families, grandparents and business owners — who want the choice to decide whether or not we want heavy industrial drilling in our city.

The oil and gas industry is wrought with deception and lies. They are exempt from the Clean Air, Clean Water, Clean Drinking Water, Superfund acts and more. What have they got to hide? If their methods of exploration, drilling and extraction are so benign, why not allow themselves to be regulated by the laws that govern all other heavy industries in the U.S.? Yet they stand behind their coveted “Halliburton Loophole,” an exemption that was passed to avoid transparency so that the industry could “drill, baby, drill” at our expense.

I will vote yes on Ballot Issue 300 in November to ban fracking in Longmont because neither the oil and gas industry nor the governor has my health, safety and welfare in mind. I ask you to support us to keep our city a great place to live — a place where we can breathe the air without getting sick and not worry if our water supply will become contaminated — and to protect our health, our future, our Longmont.

Yes on 300 to ban fracking in Longmont

Longmont has been my home for 35 years. Like most young couples raising children, we didn’t have time to pay attention to every issue that came before City Council unless the issue became localized — personal.

There was a time when the buzz word was “infill,” developing property that already used city services. We worked with council to minimize the number of houses built near an alley. The alley was re purposed to serve the development and was given a street name. During the same period, a different development was stopped because it didn’t meet our home rule cul-de-sac and traffic codes.

We now have an industry that not only ignores our home rule zones and codes but threatens to sue if it cannot have its way to do business wherever and whenever it wants within our city. This industry threatens not only our property values but our right to clean air and water. In 2005 the oil and gas industry went rogue. With unregulated new technology, the industry is making billions of dollars. Science has not been able to keep up with the new technology but the first reports are alarming. Longmont residents paid attention, bringing tons of individual research and personal testimonials to council meetings. They urged and pleaded for home rule regulations. Because we have a mayor who allows us to talk and listens, a councilman in Brian Bagley who fought for us on the task force, we now have some regulations protecting our city.

However, these regulations and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with TOP Operating are weak and do not fully protect us. They are filled with loopholes that allow the industry and council to ignore home rule. Thus the petition drive enabling us to vote to ban fracking within our city limits. The regulations and petition drive are causing a furor at the state level. That’s OK. We are not apathetic residents.

During the petition drive folks were willing to talk and ask questions when I told them it was a nonpartisan effort. One of the big concerns was jobs. I’ve had this same concern and asked council how many jobs would be created for the unemployed in Longmont. Councilwoman Finley was the only one who responded to me but it was to send me to the Encana Oil website. No answer to the number or types of jobs to be created has come from the industry. The drilling is done in phases with TOP drilling subcontracting out the fracking.

Toward the end of the petition drive, people wanted to know why we were pursuing the effort since council passed the regulations. As the regulations stand, the little word “exemption” in the residential drilling is a huge loophole for the industry and City Council to jump through. This word will allow TOP drilling or other companies and council members to use whatever reason they want to ignore the 750-foot setback. The MOU concerning setbacks is a baseline with the owner of the mineral rights, TOP Operating Co. in this case, to protect city/public surface rights. The MOU doesn’t pertain to any other drilling companies. These are rules that can be changed at any time by council if the drilling company says it cannot get to its minerals. The vote in November is to amend the City Charter, which is law and is much more difficult and time-consuming to change.

I’m voting to ban fracking because I do not want to wait 15 to 20 years to see if the cement used by the oil and gas industry cracks, causing carcinogens to leak into our water supply, harming my 3- and 6-year-old neighbors. I don’t want to bet on whether companies will relocate in Longmont with methane in the air and the city dotted with oil wells. I don’t want council to sell the surface rights of our public lands, which I voted to purchase with my tax dollars. I’m tired of waiting to see how many jobs will be created for our residents. I can’t wait for the science to catch up to the technology used. Just like with the tobacco industry, hindsight can kill us.

Please vote “yes” in November to ban fracking under the Longmont Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

Factions and “Frack-tions”

Image courtesy of sxc.hu

Zoning law has supported municipal power for nearly a century.

The uproar over oil and gas operations isn’t going away, regardless of the result of the Longmont election this November. Since I won’t be filing an “amicus” brief with the court in the COGCC suit, I will release here some of my “secondary batteries.”

The governing body of a home-rule city, in this case the Longmont City Council, has virtually unlimited authority in Colorado to regulate, limit, or prohibit one or more uses of land within it corporate boundaries (or attach conditions to such use or uses). My experience as an urban/regional planner spans some 50 cities and towns, a dozen metro districts, and three dozen counties, nearly all in Colorado. Zoning law and theory have supported this municipal power for nearly a century. What is the reasoning behind this body of (mostly) common law? The answer is, the concept of “nuisance.”

If an owner of a parcel of land in a city wants to, say, process animal hides to make piles of money, he is not likely to get far if his neighbors will endure or will probably – even possibly – endure noxious or dangerous fumes, flows, effluents, vapors, odors, or noises. Normally when the effects of a use of land in this manner fail to cross the operator’s property boundary, everything CAN be fine. But cases exist where even ugliness has defensibly prompted limitations on use(s), and even interruption of sunlight has made the cut. It should be noted that the effects of “fracking” can and do travel across property boundaries, both above the ground (usually by “accident”) and below it (by design).

What makes the petroleum crowd think it can avoid these kinds of precepts and precedent? Just because a previous occupant of the White House gave them a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for hydrofracturing, with regard to a few major federal environmental measures enforced by the dreaded and leftist EPA, they must be encouraged – forced, if necessary – to remember that in the final analysis, all politics is local. If that means a “hodgepodge” of regulations evolves, what of it? Some places will likely WELCOME drilling.

In my view, at the core of this contest is one question: does municipal zoning govern only the surface of the land? Or are the subsurface and even the air rights above it also subject to zoning? Anyone who has built or bought a condominium knows or should know that zoned air rights make up what he is selling or building. As for what is below, a gigantic land-use case from the early 1920s is instructive (Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon). There the court concluded that the owner of the subsurface owed a duty to the surface (emphasis added), and to its owner or owners above, to prevent a loss of support. Loss of support often leads to subsidence (read “sinkhole,” or worse), which can also happen as a result of oil and gas extraction. By very limited and logical, reasonable extension, this landmark decision illuminates the concept – the need – for mineral operations to tread lightly, if at all. Witness provisions in countless U.S. land patents reserving one or more minerals, together with [only] so much of the surface as is required to access the mineral estate (sic). That kind of language places a mineral owner or lessee in the legal position of operating via an easement. Whether a prescriptive (indispensable) easement, or an easement of necessity, is not truly material. Drillers, of course, consider the matter as we now encounter it, to be a true “necessity” and count on our love affair with SUV’s and other motor vehicles, to shelter any and all abuses, accidental or otherwise.

How I wish Colorado or at least its cities would by now have adopted (there’s still time!) the mechanism of a “mineral resource overlay,” as a zoning convention. Such has served states such as the Republican bastion of Wisconsin well. An overlay can operate as a means of exclusion or one for inclusion, generally by “special review” and intensive deliberation. Jefferson County (and not the “socialists over near the Flatirons) studied and considered such an overlay early in the 1970s. A thorough review of Colorado’s Constitution and statutes will reveal that Colorado’s cities enjoy significantly greater powers than do its counties.

Courts may focus on a needle’s eye, but the instant matter is a much broader issue that should receive only the most thoroughgoing consideration. For insurance, let us hope the City of Longmont henceforth includes as a condition of every future plat approval a “Covenant of Non-Development.” Many jurisdictions in Colorado apply and require such a provision; it means no mineral processing or extraction on, in, under, or through the premises forever. There is nothing new or radical there. If a developer or property owner sits atop even a partially severed mineral estate, it is thereby incumbent upon him or her to first “make a deal” with the owner of the subsurface estate PRIOR TO application for development.

It’s only right.