Tag Archive for oil and gas drilling

COGA turns to Boulder Weekly with latest spin

The industry feebly attempts to remove egg on its collective face from flood coverage.

Editor’s Note:  The following appeared in the Boulder Weekly in response to a letter to the editor by Doug Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association  Flanders is the Director of Policy and External Affairs for COGA.  In layman’s lingo, he’s the go-to guy when COGA needs someone to trash those in Colorado who seek to protect their communities from the known dangers of fracking for oil and gas to health and the environment .


Flared gasOh, Mr. Flanders! I can’t figure out whether you’re wringing your hands in distress and bewilderment or in delight at being able, yet again, to take pot shots at the environment.  Yes, I wrote environment. I did not mean “environmentalists.”

I know a thing or two about the oil and gas industry. Once upon a time I had an insider’s look at it. So before you drip away in self-praise at your community-assistance motives, let me point out that your industry has a 40-plus-year history of spending millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to repair a badly bruised and battered public image. (Remember the 1970s?)

While those who are benefiting from the “assistance” that your mega-billion-dollar companies have contributed towards relief, auditors will find those write-offs buried in your accounting under a derivative of public relations.

You know that your alleged compassion and generosity goes well beyond helping your fellow man and his environment. If there were such genuine caring, your industry wouldn’t be creating the environmental chaos that you inflict each and every day.

Methane released into the air that is damaging to human health as ozone and to the climate even more than carbon dioxide. Chemicals thrust into the ground and brought back up that are causing serious illness to children and adults alike. Total disregard of communities’ rights to self-determination. Perhaps we should do an amputation of your industry’s collective middle finger. Would that it were just that easy.

Your partner-in-crime Tisha Schuller looked to be agonizing when interviewed during television reporting on oil spills, tanks tipped and overturned, berms that allegedly contain contamination washed into farmland and waterways in the aftermath of the flooding. While Ms. Schuller was telling the viewing audience “Don’t worry, be happy,” the cut-aways were showing such images. Now really, Mr. Flanders, do you expect us to believe her — and you?

So as a reaction to your public relations disaster from the flood, you pulled out your Rapid Response Team to come up with an approach to remedy the bruises from falling on your faces. Those dastardly ordinary citizens — moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends — all those people who dare to point out the obvious and according to you and your mouthpieces are using a disaster to drive home a reality that you don’t want in public consciousness. Your industry causes damage — to people’s health and safety, to the environment, to the climate, to the air we breathe and water we drink and use to grow our food. And you will continue to cause that damage until you are stopped. We plan to do just that. And we will do it with truth, justice and the truly American way — not with lie on top of lie on top of lie, not by calling in chits with elected officials, not with lawsuits where the only intent is to deprive people and communities of their rights and well-being. You are on the wrong side of history, Mr. Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the wrong side.

 

Crocodile tears don’t wear well on Big Oil

Tisha Schuller, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has been busy making the public relations rounds these days. And she’s promised to remain busy all summer as she goes from editorial board to editorial board with her latest talking point: polarizing.

What has Ms. Schuller (and the oil and gas industry) so motivated? Fracking, of course. Or more accurately, public opposition to fracking, a highly toxic and dangerous extraction method that threatens the health of every man, woman and child nearby or downwind of the volatile organic compounds that are released.

 

Fracking  near Mead CO

 

“Out in the boonies,” for the most part, and away from populated areas, until recently, the oil and gas industry had the luxury of operating under the radar of the air traffic control of the Front Range.

We should have been paying closer attention. But then, those in powerful places really didn’t want you to know very much. It might raise your eyebrows; bring frowns to your forehead; make you question. It might even activate you.

The West Slope has been fighting the fallout from fracking for oil and gas for years. Trying to preserve their health and their way of life, our friends on the other side of the Rockies have been battling their county commissioners, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, elected officials and don’t forget Big Oil, tirelessly and with determination, while most of the rest of us were leading our lives in “blissful ignorance” to the looming threats.

Ah, Ms. Schuller, I’m sure you long for the good old days, when all you had to do was keep an eye on the politicians in Denver to be sure that enough of them were on the same page as you.

So you tell your tale of woe to the newspapers so that your message, “We’re the good guys,” will be delivered by reporters not organizations that Big Oil has created and financed (Longmont Times-Call, “Colorado Oil and Gas Association seeks to depolarize local drilling disputes,” June 4, 2013).

With the inside media track, you write more of the same in the Denver Post. You moan and wring your hands about how abused the oil and gas industry is when all they do is provide you with, well, “everything.” You claim that “drill, baby, drill” is not you. If there even is such a thing, it comes from “extremists” on your side.

You claim that anyone against the vile consequences of horizontal hydraulic fracking is an “extremist” on the other side. Big Oil is no “villain.” They are your mommy and daddy taking care of your every need. “You’ll realize we were right when you grow up.”

But you, COGA and all of your industry members and the 501(c)(4)s that carry out your public relations and advertising directions, who execute your carefully crafted talking points are the “moderates.” Oh, please!

You do know “Energy in Depth,” don’t you? When you read about them on their website, you are given to believe that they are just a nice public service organization who will deliver, as “Dragnet’s” Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

But founding member IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America), in a 2009 internal document, wrote, “IPAA’s government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign — known as ‘Energy in Depth’ — to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”

It went on to say, “The ‘Energy in Depth’ project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy (now owned by Exxon/Mobil), Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.” Giants, all giants of the most profitable industry on earth, pretending to be the “David” in a battle against attacks from folks like the Longmont voters who banned fracking in our city.

EID was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to … attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” among federal and state associations and member companies “working closely with news media and policymakers.”

So look for the word “polarize” to repeat over and over while COGA presents itself as the only sensible entity. But don’t believe it. Don’t count on COGA to protect your health and all that derives from it.

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.

Stand up and fight, Colorado!

No-fracking-logoOur founders stressed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their Declaration of Independence. A recent survey found the happiest Americans live in Hawaii. Coloradans are second! The unhappiest people live in West Virginia. I think I know why: degradation of the environment and poor health.

I grew up in the 1940s and ’50s in Nitro, W.Va., in the Kanawha River Valley, home to a huge chemical industry. Cancer rates were high, particularly liver and lung cancer. The chemical plants sat outside our city limits, so there was no local control over what they did to our environment. The paint on our houses and cars faded from the chemicals in the air, the water stank and was unpalatable.

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal Courtesy EcoWatch

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal
Courtesy EcoWatch

Alternatives for West Virginia workers included working in the coal mines. Explosions, collapses and “black lung” took their toll. The coal industry has mined the coal easiest to reach, so they’ve begun blowing up the beautiful West Virginia hills to get at the coal. They let what’s left roll down into the streams, fouling the water, killing the fish and causing landslides onto private property.

Why are West Virginians the unhappiest Americans? Their land, air and water have been degraded by corporations seeking profits without regard to the health and safety of their workers and other citizens.

I hope more Colorado residents will join Longmont and Fort Collins in drawing the line in the sand between us and the oil and gas industry: You cannot ruin our beautiful state, destroy our precious, scarce water resources, pollute our formerly pristine air for your profit. You have a right to extract the minerals you have purchased, but not at the expense of the health and safety of present and future Coloradans. Stand up and fight, Colorado!

“Be FrackSURE” Conference Announced by Our Longmont

Be FrackSURE logo -fracksure-sm

 

Longmont, CO…Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, the organization that sponsored the city charter amendment that banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Longmont, will hold an educational conference on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and its many perils.

“Be FrackSURE:  What you don’t know may WELL hurt you,” will be held on April 27, 2013, from 9 AM to 5 PM at the Plaza Conference Center (1850 Industrial Circle, Longmont) behind the Best Western Plus Plaza Hotel.  Tickets for the event are $38 to cover the costs of the event.  Pre-registration is necessary and tickets can be purchased at www.fracksure.org.

Dr. Anthony IngraffeaOur Longmont is thrilled to have Dr. Anthony Ingraffea as the Keynote Speaker at “Be FrackSURE.”  Dr. Ingraffea is the foremost engineering authority on fracture mechanics and holds the prestigious title of Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering in Cornell University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.   “With his partners in what has become known as the Cornell Study, Dr. Ingraffea revealed that, contrary to the never-ending mythology promulgated by the oil and gas industry, unconventional gas, procured by fracking likely emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere during its life cycle than does coal,” said Our Longmont’s Kaye Fissinger.

In 2011, TIME Magazine named him one of its “People Who Mattered.”  Not only is Dr. Ingraffea among the “people who matter,” but he also recognizes that people matter in this battle with the oil and gas industry, politicians who embrace it, and regulators too closely tied to it.  When asked his position on the impacts of drilling for oil and gas using horizontal fracking, Dr. Ingraffea, with his vast knowledge in this area, unequivocally states, “Where shale gas development has not yet occurred, ban it.  Period. Where it is occurring, enact ironclad regulations, inspect for compliance with them with dogged diligence, and enforce them relentlessly with fines that really mean something.”

Dr. Geoffrey Thyne will be the featured speaker during the “Be FrackSURE” buffet luncheon.  Dr. Thyne, author or co-author of over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers, will speak to the complexities of research and the influence of industry and government in academic settings.

Breakout sessions on the health ramifications of fracking on air and water and on the economic ramifications of fracking will include notable experts Phillip Doe, Wes Wilson, Shane Davis, Pete Morton and Jeanne Bassett.  Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region Director for Food & Water Watch, will discuss ways for others to protect their communities from the dangers of fracking in urban areas where people live, work and play.

Said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont, “No day would be complete without music and Our Longmont is proud to be able to present the acclaimed Hazel Miller, who has been called a ‘force of nature’ herself.  With her ‘stunning, moving, and powerful’ voice, Hazel has been a sought after performer in Colorado for the past 24 years. Whether she is singing blues, jazz, pop, or Gospel, her voice charges the songs with a primal dose of genuine soul.”

Our Longmont’s “Be FrackSURE” is proud to have Patagonia as its corporate sponsor.  Patagonia, a designer of outdoor clothing and gear, explains its sponsorship of Our Longmont’s “Be Frack SURE” conference, “We give at the grassroots level to innovative groups mobilizing their communities to take action.  This is our niche: supporting people working on the frontlines of the environmental crisis.”

Our Longmont encourages everyone who is concerned about fracking and who wants to be more fully informed by experts in their fields to join with them for this interactive, informative, day-long event.  Come celebrate the progress that has been made in Colorado to restrain and prohibit the dangerous practice of fracking, and to energize our continuing efforts to keep up the fight for our health, safety, property values and quality of life in Longmont, along the Front Range and throughout all of Colorado.

Detailed information can be found at www.ourlongmont.org/be-frac-sure/.

Fort Collins: Keep Fracking Moratorium

Fort Collins fracking ban was undermined 

For Immediate Release
April 15, 2013

Fort Collins, CO – Today, three citizens groups – Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins – asked the City of Fort Collins to keep its drilling and fracking moratorium in place to protect citizens from cancer-causing fracking chemicals. The moratorium was set to expire on July 31, 2013; the vote to terminate the moratorium is set for Tuesday night, April 16th.

On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, the Fort Collins City Council passed a ban on fracking that grandfathered in the current driller, Prospect Energy LLC, allowing that driller to drill and frack on its eight currently occupied well sites in northern Fort Collins. However, three weeks later on March 19, on a flipped and contested vote, the Council passed an “Agreement” with that driller that included opening up 1,280 acres (2 square miles) of new land inside the City of Fort Collins for drilling and fracking surrounding the Budweiser brewery. The “Agreement” with the driller effectively undermines the ban and was moved forward to the Council with no public meetings or Council work session beforehand.

As a result, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Frack Free Fort Collins are requesting that the moratorium stay in place and that a new Agreement with the driller be negotiated.

Although the Council originally voted 5-2 for the ban on fracking, the vote flip-flopped three weeks later when Mayor Weitkunat and Councilmember Horak joined in an anti-environmental majority and voted to open up 2 square miles for new drilling and fracking. Ironically, in the weeks leading up to the ban, Horak publicly positioned himself in the media as an anti-fracking supporter garnering a large front-page story in the Fort Collins Coloradoan and other stories in the regional media. Horak even publicly stated that he proposed the ban and helped write the language for the ordinance. Horak was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“This will ban fracking in 99.9 percent of Fort Collins and avoid a very costly lawsuit with the current operator,” Horak said.

But three weeks later, Horak flip-flopped and voted to open up 2 square miles of land in Fort Collins for fracking. Horak’s role in the fracking ban was clouded in controversy from the beginning. A month before the vote, Horak attended a “closed-door meeting” with the Matt Lepore, State Director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. About the closed-door meeting, Lepore was quoted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan as saying:

“We didn’t want to have an open meeting,” Lepore said. “We wanted to reach out to those (on council) who we understood were maybe a little bit more undecided on their positions.”

“The moratorium needs to stay in place,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “The citizens in northern Fort Collins, especially those living around the Budweiser brewery now and in the future, are at risk of contamination from cancer-causing fracking chemicals.”

“Horak voted to open up 2 square miles of Fort Collins for fracking,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action, a national group that advocates against fracking in cities across the Front Range of Colorado. “When the public and media were watching, Horak positioned himself against fracking, but three weeks later in a quieter vote, he flip-flopped.”

“Horak deceived the public,” said Rico Moore of Frack Free Fort Collins. “His flip-flop votes do not represent the values of Fort Collins or of his very liberal and environmentally minded district.”

A map of the “Undeveloped Acreage” – 2 square miles surrounding Budweiser brewery that is now open for drilling and fracking – is here: http://water.clean.home.comcast.net/~water.clean/FoCo-frack-field-UDA.jpg.


Gary Wockner, PhD
Colorado Program Director
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CleanWaterActionColorado
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/CleanWaterCO1
Web: http://cleanwater.org/co
303-405-6755 (office)
970-218-8310 (cell)

Democracy in Action as Fracking is Voted Down in Colorado Springs

Be the Change

This article was first published at EcoWatch – Cutting-Edge Environmental News Service

If the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them. —Candidus in the Boston Gazette, 1772

Colorado Springs is Colorado’s second largest city. Perhaps unfairly, it is also known nationally as a bastion of conservative politics. Yet, a little over a week ago, on March 12, conservative and liberal—indeed people from every shade in the political spectrum—found common cause. They stood united in fighting the prospect of the oil and gas industry taking over their city, one open space at a time. They stood together at a rally on a chill-wind morning in front of the Colorado Springs City Hall, and then in a packed council chamber to testify against fracking rules and regulations that would have given the industry the keys to the city.

Fortunately, the concerned citizens of Colorado Springs prevailed in convincing the majority of city council members that fracking is not safe. Now the city must start from scratch with new rules and no drilling can take place in the meantime.

Photo credit: Scott Flora

Right to Say NO! Rally outside Colorado Springs City Hall on March 12 . Photo credit: Scott Flora

On March 12, Colorado Springs residents, in a packed council chamber, testify against fracking rules and regulations that would give the industry the keys to the city. Photo credit: Eric Verlo

On March 12, Colorado Springs residents, in a packed council chamber, testify against fracking rules and regulations that would give the industry the keys to the city. Photo credit: Eric Verlo

On March 12, Colorado Springs residents, in a packed council chamber, testify against fracking rules and regulations that would give the industry the keys to the city. Photo credit: Eric Verlo

Check out this video of the rally:

Colorado is a strong “home rule” state. That is, cities and towns with home rule charters have powers superior to the state in matters of local jurisdiction. This straightforward declaration is found in Article 20, Section 6 of the Colorado Constitution.  It says in part:

“The people of each city or town … shall always have the power to make, amend, add to or replace” their “charter” … This … “shall be its organic law and extend to all its local and municipal matters.”

“Such charter … shall supersede within the territorial limits … of said city or town any law of the state in conflict therewith.”

Predictably, the courts and legislature have made a mockery of the latter provision when it comes to the oil and gas industry having its way with the local folk. Oil and gas development has been declared by them to be a matter of supreme state concern over which the state and only the state has jurisdictional powers.

It means in practice that the industry does not need the consent of the governed, only the consent of Governor Hickenlooper, Hick to his friends. Hickenlooper, famous for speed-dialing up his political career by jumping out of an airplane as a campaign stunt and wearing an open-throated shirt under his suit except at coronations, recently told a Senate committee he had drunk fracking fluid and had found it safe.

My colleague Wes Wilson at Be the Change told me, “Hick’s drinking habits might pass for science in Louisiana, where creationism is also taught as science, but not here, where empirical evidence is still consulted and weighed, at least by those outside politics.”

No clearer demonstration of the wackiness of the Governor’s new religion of public-safety-through-selective-tasting was more evident than at a March 5 town hall meeting in Fort Collins. There Colorado State University’s Monfort Professor of Climate Science, Scott Denning, told those assembled that he had worked as a field geologist in the industry, and that fracking is a dangerous, heavy industrial activity that should not be allowed in any city. He also said that new data gathered in Weld County showed the methane (natural gas) production losses were at nine percent. Over the critical short term, the next 20 years, this makes methane 4.5 times worse than coal for climate change because of methane’s much greater heat trapping capacity.

His remarks concerning the dangers of fracking were not necessarily remarkable for their originality, for scientists and activists have made similar statements from across the country. What was remarkable was the Stepford Wives reaction of Hickenlooper’s show-case representatives on the panel—one, the second in command at the state oil and gas commission, and the other, the head of air quality for the state department of public health. They did not engage his assertions. They simply stared blankly ahead and told the audience of their agencies many accomplishments. Clearly, for them, happiness is playing housewife to Anadarko, Encana and Shell, and perhaps servicing their neighbors Noble, Anschutz and Conoco when needed.

But fortunately, in the end, the Colorado Springs City Council, several of whom had been well tutored by local activists on the dangers of fracking to their city, voted down the rules.

Enriching the tableau being played out that day in Colorado Springs was the introduction of an initiative to ban fracking within the city by a local grassroots group. It is human rights based, focusing on the constitutional guarantees of the health, safety and the general welfare of every citizen, the guarantees, they argue, that give government its only legitimacy.

They hope the city will refer it onto the ballot. If not, they will go forward with it as an initiative. To be successful, they will need to collect perhaps as many as 27,000 signatures. The citizen’s initiative, or the right of direct democracy as it’s sometimes called, is the process the citizens of Longmont, Colorado were forced to take last year to enforce a fracking ban within their city. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, are now suing the city. Incredibly, Hick is openly cheering them on.

During the Colorado Springs council meeting, a couple councilmembers provided excellent public theatre. Realtor Tim Leigh, who voted for the rules, and some would say against the people, said he was voting for the rules because he didn’t like the way the public had conducted itself, that it hadn’t been decorous enough. Someone behind me muttered he should have been present at the French Revolution. Another in the back of the room yelled that he didn’t think a “spite vote” should be considered valid. A woman sitting next to me wondered if he’d ever had to share his sand pile when he was young?

Equally entertaining was the exchange between Councilwoman Angela Dougan and the public. She had been criticized from the audience for constantly being on her cell phone during the several hours of public testimony. In explaining her vote for the rules she said she had been on her phone because she was fact checking the assertions made by the public and could find no evidence of their accuracy. This was met with moans.

I was told that Dougan, very recently, had called the police department—in a theatrical panic, perhaps, since her husband is on the police force—when she got a hand delivered flyer in her mail box from an anti-fracking grassroots group. She complained she didn’t want them to know where she lived. It is unclear if she was relieved to find out it had been a saturation effort. That she had not, in fact, been targeted by the rabble.

Council members voting against the rules most often cited the high handedness the Governor and his staff had shown in denying any modification to the state’s regulations. Asked and denied were requests to allow the city to do its own air monitoring of fracking operations, require the installation of water monitoring wells around every gas well, place all residential areas off limits to fracking and allow the hiring of one city inspector, underwriting his salary by charging a $5,000 fee for a drilling permit review. These were the suggestions of Councilwoman Jan Martin. She characterized them as modest and reasonable. Because the Governor’s representative, Matt Lepore, had rejected them out of hand, she voted against Hick’s rules, saying she could not vote for rules that did not give any consideration to the constitutional rights of home rule cities and the concerns of local citizens.

Both council members Brandy Williams and Val Snider said they were supporting what they perceived to be the majority view that the state rules were not adequate to protect the citizens of Colorado Springs. Days earlier the local weekly newspaper, The Independent, published the results of a poll it had taken showing 51 percent of those polled supported a ban, 43 percent opposed and six percent were undecided. Phil Anschutz of Anschutz Exploration Corporation, one of his many corporations, recently acquired the Colorado Springs Gazette. He is believed to have fairly vast oil and gas holdings in the state, as he does across the nation. No poll on the merits of fracking is expected in this daily newspaper.

Rumors continue to circulate at the capitol that the industry has taken its own poll on fracking, with the results showing opposition to the way the industry and the Governor are running roughshod over citizen rights. Some have speculated this phantom poll may have played into Ultra Energy’s announcement it would not develop, at least for now, its mineral rights on 18,000 acres of Colorado Springs land in a place known locally as Banning Lewis Ranch. The city annexed it several years ago for open space after a land developer went into bankruptcy. Whether Ultra’s announcement was merely a ploy to get the city to think it was out of immediate danger from fracking is unknown. What is known is that it didn’t work.

Photo credit: Dave Gardner

Banning Lewis Ranch on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Dave Gardner

Banning Lewis Ranch on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Dave Gardner

Citizens addressing the council were often concerned about water. Several wondered how and why the industry was apparently able to get water for fracking when the city was already in drought mode with twice a week watering restrictions? Only days later, Denver Water, the largest water purveyor in the state, announced it would be draining Antero Reservoir to save 4,000 acre-feet in evaporation losses and that it too was considering twice a week watering restrictions. The reservoir’s storage of 19,000 acre-feet would be released downstream to lower reservoirs where the evaporation would be less.

Antero is a world-class, flat-water trout fishery. I’m told it receives more than 100,000 visitor days a year. It is one of the chief economic drivers in Park County, Colorado, the rural mountain county in which it is situated. Studies done at Colorado State University on recreation values suggest it may contribute more than $4 million a year to the local economy. The last time it was drained, it didn’t reopen for seven years, representing a loss of $24 million to our economy.

The best conservative estimate of how much water the industry will need to frack around 2,000 wells this year—half horizontal and half traditional—is about 16,000 acre-feet. This is four times the loss through evaporation at Antero. In fact, it approaches the entire storage capacity of Antero. If the industry continues to ramp up to where they are drilling mostly horizontally wells at a rate of more than 3,000 a year, as predicted, the water requirements could easily exceed 40,000 acre feet annually—horizontal drilling water demand goes up exponentially compared to traditional fracking.

Colorado Springs uses about 74,000 acre-feet annually. But here’s the rub, when the city uses water, half is returned to the system to be reused. When the frackers use it, they consume all of it. More accurately, they destroy it for any other use. So, from a consumption standpoint, which is what really matters, the industry in just a very few years will be using more water than Colorado Springs does today. If one adds in the prospect of refracks for the 150,000 wells expected in the state in 30 years, the demand easily exceeds that of Denver which uses 260,000 acre feet annually.

The Governor’s office and the Water Buffaloes seem unconcerned. This may partly be explained by the fact the Water Buffaloes get a substantial portion of their funding for new water projects from severance taxes paid by the oil industry to the state—life is often full of these small surprises. A larger surprise for most people is that of the 30 gas producing counties in the state, operators in only five of them even pay a severance tax to the state since local taxes paid, when combined with 19 statutory oil and gas subsidies, fully offset the severance debt. The largest surprise is that the industry pays no net severance taxes from Weld County, the fourth largest gas producing county in the U.S., proving once again, as many have argued, that tax laws are written by the rich for the rich.

Several days after I attended the Colorado Springs council meeting, I read newspaper reports of a large uncontrolled leak and probable ground water contamination in Garfield County, Colorado, near the town of Parachute. I tried to miraculously consider, for purposes of  social and environmental analysis, what if this incident was in Colorado Springs?

It seems the leak was first verbally reported in Garfield County on March 8. It was discovered by accident during unrelated excavation activity. Ten days later it was still uncontrolled and the source still unidentified. As of March 19, the state had not yet issued a cease and desist order to Williams Energy, which operates a gas plant on Parachute Creek. Despite the delay, it claimed an order was in the works. Parachute Creek empties into the Colorado River which is federally protected under the Clean Water Act. More than 60,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater and 5,000 gallons of oil had so far been recovered, but, remarkably, some would say unbelievably, the source of the leak was still unknown. To protect its water supply, the town of Parachute had closed its municipal intake on Parachute Creek. According to locals, industry leaks and spills are common though they are usually covered up and go unreported—Hick is a big supporter of the industry’s self-reporting regimen. One of the Colorado Springs activist leaders, Laurel Biedermann, told me, “if you believe in the efficacy of oil industry self reporting you probably believe in flying unicorns too.”

Try to imagine a city of 360,000 people not storming city hall over such a lackluster effort. Colorado Springs has a police force of more than 600 officers, a fire department of about 400 firefighters, runs its own utilities and has a public health department. In a word, it has all the accoutrements of a modern middle-sized American city. How the Governor continues to claim that he can do a better job of protecting the local population with his merry band of 16 inspectors at the oil and gas commission than the city can is simply ludicrous, it may even border on malfeasance. Is it any wonder that many cities are moving toward an outright ban?

To make the day in Colorado Springs complete, mentioning of the citizens supporting the fracking rules needs to be included. Though few in number, one stood out. Full of the insouciance that comes only when one is sure the message he is carrying will be greeted with delight by his paymasters, Shawn Paige was ripe with economic wisdom of a kind, sure that he knew the true American way. Paige, deputy director for the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by the Koch brothers, said the rules were great, just what the country needed, and that we must learn to live with risk if we want to live in heated homes. Its been suggested that someone should ask him at the next council meeting if the mess in Parachute was the kind of risk he thought the people of Colorado Springs needed to endure to have a heated home?

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

frackingad1

Lafayette Community Forum on Hydraulic Fracturing

Forum: The Hidden Risks of Fracking
When: Sunday, March 24th 2:00 – 5:00
Where: Angevine Middle School, 1150 S. Boulder Rd., Lafayette

Please join East Boulder County United on Sunday, March 24th for our forum on hydraulic fracturing. Lafayette sits on the Wattenberg Shale and is in line to see major drilling operations in the period of time to come. We boarder Erie, which now has over 150 wells and is seeing levels of propane in their air several times higher than those of Houston, Texas and ten times that of Pasadena California, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hydraulic fracturing, unchecked, will alter the daily life of our community in every possible sense.

Join us in hearing from the affected neighbors, expert Shane Davis on the full dangers of hydraulic fracturing, and Our Longmont organizers that successfully banned the process from their community in November of 2012.

Contact
Cliff Willmeng, Steering Committee, EBCU; 303-478-6613
Rachael Zatterstrom, Steering Committee, EBCU; 970-409-9820
Cliff Smedley, Steering Committee, EBCU; 303-808-0117

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.

Diverse Coalition of Coloradans Across State Speak Out Against Fracking


Editor’s Note:

Protect Our Colorado coalition designates February 27th Call-In Day to Governor Hickenlooper opposing the dangerous drilling practice of fracking and calling for a statewide moratorium.

Governor Hickenlooper’s Direct Line: 303-866-2471

To leave a message if the line is busy: 1-866-862-3237



Protect Our Colorado coalition and What the Frack?! Arapahoe deliver over 14,000 signatures to Governor’s office and state legislature calling for a moratorium on fracking

 

Audy delivers petitions to Hickenlooper, 2.27.13
Denver, Colo.— Today Protect Our Colorado, a coalition of more than 30 business, solar, farming, faith, consumer, environmental, grassroots and social justice organizations across the state, and What the Frack?! Arapahoe will deliver more than 14,000 petitions to the Governor’s office and leaders in the state legislature from Coloradans opposed to the dangerous drilling technique. The organizations are calling upon the Governor and state legislature to implement an immediate moratorium on fracking.

“Governor Hickenlooper may be willing to drink frack fluid, but Coloradans shouldn’t have to,” said Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager for CREDO, “Nor should they have to breathe cancer-causing air pollution, cope with toxic wastewater spills, or suffer the effects of fossil-fueled extreme weather. It’s time for the governor and the legislature to protect Coloradans and pass a moratorium on fracking.”

A dangerous method of extracting oil and gas from rock deep beneath the earth’s surface, fracking uses high volumes of toxic mixtures of chemicals. About 20 percent of those chemicals have been shown to cause cancer and up to 50 percent can affect nervous, immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems. 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.

“Drilling and fracking would destroy farms, orchards, and vineyards across Western Colorado,” said Jim Ramey, Director of Citizens for a Healthy Community. “Gov. Hickenlooper should be working to protect our local economy from this dangerous industrial practice.”

With over 47,000 fracked wells throughout the state, and the oil and gas industry looking to substantially expand that number in the next decade, Colorado has become an epicenter of the fight against fracking in the United States.

“Based on the body of evidence, we believe that hydraulic fracturing is an accident prone, inherently dangerous industrial process with catastrophic risks to the future of our children as well as to future generations,” said Ashley Collins with Adams County Unite Now. “As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our children as well as to protect the life support systems they rely upon, and for this reason we call upon Governor Hickenlooper and the state legislature to enact an immediate moratorium on fracking.”

What the Frack?! Arapahoe’s petition for a moratorium on all new drilling applications seeks to prevent escalation of harm until the state produces a comprehensive cost benefit analysis and completes health, water and climate impact studies. These common sense steps are necessary so that decisions regarding unconventional extraction from shale can be based on objective cost and risk assessment, rather than vague industry promises. “Current objective indicators point to risk of irrecoverable, irreversible harms to Colorado health, water supplies, and climate change escalation” says founder, Sonia Skakich-Scrima.

Protect Our Colorado is diverse coalition of businesses, farmers, faith groups, solar companies, parents, and social justice, consumer and environmental organizations with members from the West Slope to the Front Range of Colorado. The coalition is comprised of the following organizations: Patagonia, Lighthouse Solar, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Valley Organic Growers Association, 350.org, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley, Holy Terror Farm, Foodshed Productions, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Our Longmont, Adams County Unite Now, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, The Mother’s Project, Frack Free CO, Community for Sustainable Energy, Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group, East Boulder County United, Frack Files of Weld, Frack Free Loveland, Conscious Global Leadership, The Question Alliance, Frack Free Boulder, Denver Community Rights, Routt County Frack, Frack Free Fort Collins. For more information, please visit Protect Our Colorado.

Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado

We the PeopleAlmost exactly nine months ago on May 22, 2012, I wrote an editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, Fort Collins Should Ban Fracking. And yesterday, on Feb. 19, a sharply divided Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to ban fracking in the City of Fort Collins.

Nine months ago the conversation around fracking was relatively new in Colorado and few people and environmental groups were directly addressing it. Now, nine months later, very much has changed—fracking is in the news constantly, many environmental groups are engaged in the fight to stop fracking and the issue is escalating wildly throughout the public across the state.

What has changed in a mere nine months?

First, the threat of fracking has increased dramatically across the residential areas of the Front Range of Colorado. The Niobrara Shale geological formation underlies much of the landscape from Fort Collins all the way around suburban Denver and 150 miles south to Colorado Springs. The advent of horizontal drilling and horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology has allowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land to be leased and eventually fracked. Much of this land is squeezing up against suburban homes, neighborhoods and even schools, and those residents are speaking out in an increasingly feverish pitch. In fact, one of the biggest segments of the population speaking out as “fracktivists” is suburban mothers. And as we see in many types of politics in a purple state like Colorado, when suburban moms take up an issue, elected officials really start to pay attention.

Second, a few activists—in part let by retired U.S. Environment Protection Agency “whistleblower” and Gasland movie star Wes Wilson—started touring the state giving dozens and dozens of presentations to local government officials, local homeowners groups and local activists about the threat of fracking. These activists spent hundreds of hours (and miles) pressing the case that fracking is a serious concern, and left unregulated, fracking could turn many suburban communities into mirrors of Weld County, Colorado (in the northern part of the state) which has more active oil and gas wells (more than 18,000) than any county in the U.S. With those wells has come health problems, air quality problems, water pollution problems, water supply problems, social problems, real estate problems and financial problems. No surprise, but this exploitative extractive industry tends to take the oil and gas—as well as all of the money—and leaves local governments and people with pollution and financial trouble in its wake.

logo_our_longmontThird, a small band of fracktivists in Longmont, Colorado, in part led by a very small contingent of activists from the environmental group Food & Water Watch, made national news when they led a successful ballot initiative to ban fracking in the November 2012 election. This ban occurred with almost no financial backing (less than $20,000), with almost no support from other environmental groups, and through the sheer grit and moxy of its leaders. Further, the Big Oil and Gas Industry spent more than a half million dollars trying to defeat this ballot initiative in a town that cast only 42,773 votes—that’s more than $10/vote. And when the vote was final, the result sent shock waves around the state. Longmont is not a raging environmental hotbed—if a ban could pass in Longmont while being outspent 25 to 1, it could likely pass in nearly any city in the state.

Follow the money will billsFinally, Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper (a former oilman), has become a lightning rod who has rapidly escalated the tension around fracking and infuriated local residents and environmental activists. His anti-environmental, pro-fracking actions—too numerous to count and catalogued elsewhere—include starring in a radio ad for the natural gas industry and recently boasting to a U.S. Senate committee that he drank fracking fluid because it is safe and risk free. Every time he speaks about the issue, he just makes it worse both for him and for the issue—his disrespectful and demeaning attitude towards environmentalists seems to be closely matched by his reckless deception of the public. It’s gotten to the point where the best way to fight fracking in Colorado is to just give the Governor the microphone and wait for him to say something inappropriate and further infuriating.

Nine months ago there was little support for banning fracking in Colorado, and there were hardly any organized groups willing to take it on. Nine months later, the situation has completely changed. Cities like Fort Collins are making clear that it makes no sense to put a ban to a vote when it is almost assured to pass, and so therefore a smart and progressive council has the obligation to pass a ban with a simple ordinance. Further, more than a dozen small ad-hoc “fracktivist” groups have sprouted up around the state pushing their local governments hard and publicly. The group that led much of the fight in Fort Collins is Frack Free Fort Collins, while some of the names of other groups around the state have been more creative like Erie Rising (in Erie, Colorado) and The Rio Grande Watchdogs (in the Rio Grande valley).

With fracking, threat has bred opportunity, and democracy has come alive in Colorado. While it’s profoundly unfortunate that thousands of homeowners are now threatened with the impacts of fracking, it’s also deeply important and powerful that these same homeowners and suburban moms and dads learn how to be active and informed citizens in our democracy. Not only the promise of democracy—but the responsibility of democracy—is becoming real to thousands of people who just a year earlier were likely focused on normal suburban activities.

The Big Oil and Gas Industry doesn’t care and will say and do absolutely anything to anyone in order to increase their short-term profits. But the citizens of Colorado—at least in Longmont and Fort Collins, so far—do care and are learning that they don’t deserve what they’re getting, so they’re fighting for what they want.

Stay tuned and keep watching: Democracy in Colorado is coming alive. And it’s beautiful.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Gary Wockner, PhD, represents Clean Water Action and Waterkeeper Alliance in Colorado. He lives in Fort Collins—Gary@GaryWockner.com.

Reprinted from EcoWatch with permission from the author.

Shame on Greeley’s Mayor, Council

Robert Winkler

Robert Winkler

As a 30-year risk management professional, I have supported many multi-national organizations in risk mitigation best practices, studies, and programs. Informed by my background and because my family lives in northern Colorado, home of over 19,700 poorly regulated gas and oil wells, I have serious concerns about the effects on our health, our environment, and future property values from gas and oil industry activities.

Greeley Mayor Thomas Norton and his city council failed to consider these issues in their excessive support of an economy based on oil and gas. They persist in viewing oil and gas activities solely through a prism of arguable economic perspectives.

On 1/14/2013, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), CU Boulder, and NOAA concluded that “oil and gas activity contributed about 55 percent of the volatile organic compounds linked to unhealthy ground-level ozone.” The study was published in the prestigious journal Environmental Science and Technology. In early 2012, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) stated that well pad equipment leaked or vented an estimated 4 percent of natural gas produced to the atmosphere.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) database reveals that 60 of 1,000 spills reported in Weld county last year comprised 824,000 gallons of spilled and “unrecovered” oil, 383,000 gallons of “spilled” and “unrecovered” water and up to 547,000 gallons of “spilled” and “unrecovered substances labeled “other,” including fracking fluids.

And if Greeley’s elected officials are so concerned with economics, they should also consider recent real estate data that states that property values in and around oil fields typically depreciates 25% and up to 75% when the area is completely industrialized.

Mayor Norton fails to address any of these concerns when objecting to proposed COGCC setback rules. Instead, the mayor and council members should consider why citizens who live amongst over 400 wells within the city limits are concerned about adequate setbacks. Our elected officials should be concerned with making their community a healthier and safer place to live, both now and for future generations.

In addition to a minimal half mile setback from single and multiple family homes, churches, schools, community centers , and medical facilities, the City of Greeley should immediately institute an indefinite moratorium on gas and oil development until scientific analysis and assessments determine that these processes are safe.

A Health Impact Assessment would identify and describe the effects of gas and oil development on health. Minimal increases in incidences of chronic health problems could impact thousands of people and create escalating health care costs. The assessment should emphasize segments of the population most vulnerable, specifically infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly. It should also examine occupational risks to workers and to those living closest to drilling, fracking, and completed well sites.

weld-county-gas-rig, Colorado IndependentBecause the gas and oil industry is well aware of the risks of its heavily industrialized operations, it successfully lobbied for exemption from provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Super-Fund Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Toxic Release Under Emergency Planning and Community Right To Know Act (known as the “Halliburton Loophole”).

The list of mitigations that the City of Greeley should require to protect all taxpaying citizens is more substantial that space here allows. Minimally, it should:

  • Retain independent inspectors to monitor the operations for abuses. Seventeen inspectors for entire state with only one for Weld County is ludicrous.
  • Regulate and control the complete filtration and disposal of all fluids and mud’s used in drilling and extraction of resources for contaminants.
  • Monitor Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) toxic vapor leakage around well sites with infrared photography.
  • Assure that adequate fire protection and mitigation resources are in place and regularly rehearsed in all communities to respond quickly to chemical and other disasters related to the industry’s activities.
  • Initiate industry impact fees for independent testing of all wells for aquifer depth, bore seal integrity, and water quality before, during, and for a minimum of five years after the well has been drilled and fracked.
  • Hold gas and oil companies accountable for construction, maintenance of roads and bridge infrastructure.
  • Monitor truck traffic and the behavior of transient workers employed and associated with the industry by local, county, and state law enforcement.

It’s well past time that our elected officials honor their oaths to guarantee citizen health, safety and welfare.

Don’t frack me, bro

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

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

Silent Spring of Our Generation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a wagon-load of horse apples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snake oil salesmen haven’t changed one bit.

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

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

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

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

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