Tag Archive for oil

Water for energy

While two former governors and our incumbent exult in the value of increased energy production, our supply of water is affected drastically. It has become necessary to remind our excited political leaders that you can’t drink oil. James Bond proved that at the conclusion of “Quantum of solace.” Double 07 allowed the villain a can of oil as his only liquid refreshment to get him through the desert. The results were deadly. Other deadly factors in the struggle of water for energy are:

Increased temperature. A recent report from the University of Colorado indicates our supply of water will be drastically affected by a projected two-degree increase in average temperature in the next 30 years, see http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/climate-change/Documents/COClimateReportOnePager.pdf .

Irrigated agriculture. A dramatic decrease in the Texas, high plains, Oglala Aquifer—so named depending on where you stand—will force farmers to convert to dry land farming which is adversely affected by drought. See http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-f8C11009320. Also reported by the AP, Lubbock, TX Aug. 12, 2014. The aquifer runs from the Dakotas to Texas, and supplies the Mid-west breadbasket. It may last another 50 years, but some counties will run dry in 15 years unless recharging is increased.

Drought. Recharging is affected by draught and it is not keeping up with pumping out. All of California, most of the southwest and a good quarter of Colorado is in severe drought condition.

Fracking. “Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle.

Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally-sourced freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid. About half of this water returns to the surface, where it is stored in steel containers until it can be injected deep underground in oil and gas waste wells.

“No one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply.” http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers.

“Fracking companies begin slow shift to recycling wastewater.” See James Osborne, The Dallas Morning News, August 14, 2014

The “closed hydrologic cycle”. Yet the fact that Colorado is classified as semi-arid, a euphemism for “near desert,” is lost in the political battle over fracking. Many years ago I worked on a project for the Water Resource Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and learned this simple fact: The amount of water on earth is constant.

“Water on the Earth is part of a closed system called the hydrologic cycle. Water evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain or snow, collects in oceans, lakes and rivers and freezes as ice. No new water is created and it does not leave the system.” Except by fracking.

(USGS – http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle.html)

Excess fossil fuels? In a guest opinion, Congressman Gardner described how our exploding wealth of fossil fuels should be used to enhance foreign policy. Specifically, our government should force Putin to back off Europe because we would be able to resupply our allies with the natural gas they currently get from Russia. Rep. Gardner’s interest in water resources safety is zero.

Jobs? How many of those wonderful jobs generated by fracking are more than temporary? Anyone driving through the state can answer this question. Just about any road goes past oil and gas equipment erected to suck out the product. But I’ve driven up and down I-25 since I moved here in 1976 and not seen a single worker at a drilling rig.

The recent political compromise between elected officials and the fossil fuels industry solves nothing. Agreement on distance of fracking wells from humans misses the point. Our goal was to become energy self-sufficient and our most important natural resource is water.

Relevant history. As we all stood in lines for gasoline, President Jimmy Carter identified an energy crisis and increased funding for renewable energy. Then, the defense department’s share of federal energy consumption was over 98%. President Reagan ignored the problem by cutting renewable energy research 75% and increasing defense spending to drive up budget deficits. It was an amazing feat of legerdemain.

Who represents the people? Our governor joined the oil and gas lobby. Two former governors returned from political asylum to join the fray. As a card carrying member, Rep. Gardner lives in fantasy land. The Republican candidate for governor drops back 35 years to the bankrupt years of Reagan ignorance. He punts proclaiming it’s too early to invest in renewable energy. The conservative Republican alliance with the fossil fuels industry ignores conservation, its own founding principle.

The other day a friend asked if our emphasis on fracking would de-emphasize research on renewable energy. I’ll let you connect the dots. This latest panacea for energy consumption has a potential life expectancy in decades. It’s a neck and neck race as to which resource will run out first: fossil fuels or the aquifer wasted to free them.

Bill Ellis lives in Longmont. Reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net

1778 Lincoln St., Longmont, CO 80501

303-772-7687

Lessons to Be Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fracking effects are not partisan

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

As you probably know from ads and flyers, seven ex-mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose “Yes On 300”. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “Fracking” before November 2011 when the issue first arose on Mayor Coomb’s watch. This gang of seven aren’t experts- they are shills for the Oil & Gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place- the recycling bin.

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

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about- $75.00. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75.00. One hundred feet- $7500. 750 feet- $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell to you, the hell to me and the hell to Longmont.

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

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

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

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 PSI. Today it’s pushing 14,000 PSI. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the 2nd hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grand-kids drink or breath.

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

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

Vote YES on on 300

There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.

A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.

Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.

Mothers Project heads to D.C.

Local moms to attend fracking rally in D.C. and deliver letter to Colorado senators signed by constituents statewide

As the oil and gas industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their health, environment, property values, way of life, communities, and future generations from the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction, including fracking. Two Colorado mothers, Jodee Brekke and Diana Caile, are traveling to Washington D.C. this week to join a nationwide coalition of citizens, communities and organizations in a mass rally on July 28 and to hand deliver a letter to Senators Udall and Bennet signed by constituents statewide. The name of the rally and the message in the letter are the same: stop the frack attack.

“Since our elected officials and government agencies aren’t protecting our basic human and constitutional rights to clean air and water and from numerous other threats imposed on us by the oil and gas industry, then we need to call them to task,” said Ms. Brekke. Ms. Caile said, “the state is suing communities that want to keep the heavy industrial, toxic process of fracking away from neighborhoods and children’s schools. It doesn’t belong there. Period. Our government should be protecting the people of Colorado, not corporate profits at our expense.”

The Mothers Project - United for Sustainability

The Mothers Project, Inc. is launching in Colorado and is hosting the letter to the senators, written by local mothers, on their website. Founded in March, 2012, by Angela Monti Fox, mother of Josh Fox, creator of the documentary Gasland, The Mothers Project is a coalition of mothers advocating for immediate, full-scale investments in renewable energy and opposing extreme fossil fuel extraction, including fracking and its attendant impacts. Currently active in New York and Pennsylvania, where there is widespread opposition to fracking, The Mothers Project provides support to grassroots groups fighting to protect their health, environment and communities.

In addition to individual signatures, seventeen grassroots groups or nonprofit organizations fighting to protect communities through Colorado have signed on to the letter. To view the letter and add your name, go to TheMothersProject.org and click on the slide that says Calling On Mothers at the top. Send inquiries to press@TheMothersProject.org.

Participants in the D.C. rally include Bill McKibben of 350.org; Allison Chin, Sierra Club President; Josh Fox, Director of Gasland; Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibilities, plus several citizens from affected communities.

Get out of the fracking foxhole

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, so neither Republican nor Democrat is likely to be found. When under fire, there is but one common thought: survival. That and perhaps “Love thy neighbor.” Hold that thought.

Longmont is under siege and, without being overly dramatic, it is obvious to most concerned residents that in fact our city is in a foxhole and under fire from the state and oil and gas industry regulations. At the moment and under current regulations, a fracking well could be sited on a Longmont golf course, a cemetery, a park or within easy breathing distance of a school — and the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it. Is there room here for partisan politics? I think not, but it is widely assumed to be so.

I care that the Republican, Democratic and independent voters out around Union Reservoir are already seeing their property values slowly circling the drain because the city cannot at this point do one damned thing to protect them. I care that a block or two south of First Avenue there may be open tanks filled with poisonous fluids. I care that no industry will want to be anywhere near these foul pits, thus limiting our city’s ability to attract new enterprise — and I’m enraged that the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it.

I care that the laws that are now being forced down our throats were promulgated back in the ’80s when no one outside of the oil and gas industry had ever heard of fracking, and that this multibillion-dollar industry wrote its own rules, which were passed by a state Legislature where many (if not all) were bought and paid for by the rule writers. Is there anyone in state or civic government today who believes these extraordinary laws, which pre-empt county, city and local ordinances, would pass today? Would any sane politician under the golden dome even suggest such laws? And what can the city do about it? See above.

Let me be clear. I do not want to ban fracking or oil and gas drilling in Colorado or anywhere else. But think: If laws that would allow an industry to set up shop 150 or 350 feet away from a home or a school or a church were not born in a cesspool of corruption, perhaps we need a new definition of corruption. Ponder that, fellow golfers — a short wedge shot from your backyard lies a drill pad, all brought to you in the 1980s by folks in Denver now likely buried deep in some corporation’s mineral estate.

Back to the foxhole and the siege. Council has proven thus far to be woefully inadequate in defense of this city. It is palpably obvious that certain council members have abandoned their lofty ideals, which originally gave us a 7-0 vote in favor of new regulations and now, in a bizarre dance of twisted logic, they attempt to justify their new rationale to kill the strengthened regs and negotiate under the old and weak. Here, on an issue likely larger than any ever brought before council in modern times, some have caved in and embraced the enemy.

Absent the protection of council, a new movement has grown and is seeking an ordinance that would ban oil, gas and fracking operations from all city property. Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is gathering signatures on a petition to ban these operations from within city limits. If successful, the issue would be placed on the November ballot for all Longmont residents to vote. I certainly don’t speak for this group, but firmly applaud their cause — not because I’m a Democrat or a Republican, but because I’m a Longmont resident who wants desperately to protect our values, our safety and the health of our treasured children.

You will see Our Longmont volunteers all over the city — at the library, shopping plazas, restaurants and walking down Main. Please take a moment to sign up in defense of Longmont. We are under siege and there is no room for politics of any hue. We either put aside our political differences or we will all suffer the consequences.

Let’s join hands to bring this petition to a vote in November. There is just over a month to gather 5,800 signatures and one final opportunity to get out of that foxhole.

FSSW Stand Up For BO&G

The laugh's on US

The laugh's on US

It’s hard to see how the City Council acted to ensure the safety and health of Longmont’s residents from fracking threats as described in last Saturday’s editorial, “Drilling rules show city puts residents first.” Big Oil & Gas finally showed its cards and in no time Councilors Finley, Sammoury, Santos and Witt (FSSW) folded, abandoning the new regulations which at their request had been painstakingly produced by city staff. Now why on earth, I wondered, would they do that?

A few months ago, the vote to craft new regulations was 7-0. All hands were gung-ho to beef up the old 2000 regulations in order to protect the well-being, health and safety of Longmont and its beloved residents. Go, team, go!

But slowly, things became weird.

Councilor Katie Witt, in a convoluted mush of logic turned upside down, having earlier announced she was balancing her duty to protect Longmont against her political future (shouldn’t these be one and the same?), proceeded to vote against the new regulations. So much for protecting Longmont; so much (one hopes) for her political future.

Declaring great optimism, hope and faith that TOP Drilling along with BO&G would negotiate, moderate, mediate and in general do a host of nice things they heretofore had never before done anywhere or for anyone, Ms. Witt demonstrated a novel approach to negotiations: cede everything first, then expect one’s opponents to hand back over whatever is requested.

Councilwoman Finley : limit public's time to thirty minutes

Councilwoman Finley : Frack my constituents!

Councilor Bonnie Finley’s approach was more rational, at least on the surface. She objected to the new regulations because they might bring a lawsuit, despite being told by the legal suits that the regulations were defensible, until finally faulting the preamble as a cover for her “no” vote. Councilor Bagley advised her on at least two occasions that the preamble had no effect in law, offering at one point to shorten it to a brief paragraph, but to no avail. Ms. Finley had her talking points and stuck to them, absurd as they were.

Alex Sammoury, on the team

Councilors Santos and Sammoury, to this point having supported the regulations, had remained quiet as the debate raged around the chamber, until Councilor Sammoury gently opined that an extension to the existing moratorium would give them a chance to try again for cooperation from the quaintly named Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. Despite being reminded that earlier efforts to negotiate had been rebuffed and then rewarded with threats of lawsuits from the state attorney general’s office, the motion passed. These, by the way, are the nice folks who Ms. Witt is confident will bend and bestow great favors if only asked politely.

Gabe Santos, big money's inside man

So where are we? It’s ugly. The revised regulations are tabled. A vote at the next council meeting approving the new 45-day moratorium will be held under “emergency rules,” which requires at least six “aye” votes to pass. If it does, we have more than 45 days to negotiate with TOP and the COGCC (but still under the old regulations). If two councilors — say, Finley and Witt— vote “no,” the moratorium passes but won’t go into effect until three days after the current moratorium ends.

That would leave a gap for TOP to apply for permits to drill under the old regulations — and you can bet they will not be negotiating.

In the end, the stench of BO&G permeates the chamber; in the next election, we may or may not remember this disgraceful chapter in council’s history, but by then, most or all of the players will have moved on — far and away from the drilling rigs, methane gas and gutted property values. There will be no shortage of alibis and excuses, none of which will matter a damn.

Mayor Coombs and Councilors Bagley and Levison held their heads above the stench and may yet prevail in seeing the new regulations passed into law. FSSW (remember them?) have done everything possible to ensure that the safety and health of Longmont and its residents are left in the hands of BO&G. Shame on them.

Balance needed

U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-3630

Oil Seepage in Pond (Foreground), Olin-Mathieson Plant in Background 1972

Most of us take a pretty one sided view of many issues.  A balanced view should be better.

Where is the balance with respect to hydraulic fracking.?  On the one hand we as a nation (and world) are a consumer of fossil fuels and will continue to be until alternate energy sources combined with greater efficiency meets our needs.  On the other hand there are risks associated with this process.  The risks are largely encountered by one group of people while very significant profits are realized by a much smaller group.

Drilling and production of oil and gas has increased dramatically over the last few years.  Currently we both import oil and export refined products.  There are advantages to not importing oil, especially from countries with limited stability.

What are the facts?  The oil and gas representatives that support hydraulic fracking appear to have either avoided some information or intentionally been misleading.

Claims that there has not been a single case of ground water contamination from hydraulic fracking are misleading.  There are several examples where groundwater has been contaminated from the necessary activities that are always associated with the process.  Where groundwater has been contaminated, the distinction is not important.

It is often stated that fracking chemicals are only 0.5 percent of the injected fluid.  This appears to be deliberately misleading.  The risk is a product of the inherent toxicity and concentration of the compound, and exposure (for example amount of water consumed over what period of time).   A concentration of 0.5 percent is 5,000 parts per million (ppm) or 5,000,000 parts per billions (ppb).  The maximum concentration limit (MCL) for benzene in groundwater set by the US EPA is 5 ppb.  We do not know the toxicity of many of the fracking chemicals, or even what they are and it may be that toxicity has not been determined for many of them.  Furthermore, the risk of a mixture may be even greater.

An article in the Times-Call claimed there was no problem because benzene and propane were well below the levels for a 10 hour exposure.  While propane has low toxicity it is ludicrous to talk about a 10 hour exposure rather than a longer term exposure.

Benzene, is a carcinogen as might be other compounds in the fracking fluid.  There is no threshold limit for carcinogens.

The proponents of hydraulic fracking have not in my experience acknowledged the disruption of the lives of families living close to the drilling sites – or the impact on schools for that matter.  Decreased home values are another problem.

It is difficult for most of us to believe what we are being told when so many obviously misleading statements have been made.

The argument has been made that the fracking industry would be challenged to operate under a different set of rules in each community and thus the need for state control.  Of course many housing contractors do operate in a number of communities with differences in construction code.  But if you do allow for some benefit for uniformity, that does not negate the need for communities to protect their own citizens, real-estate values, and schools when state organizations do not.

The state group controlling fracking (Colorado Oil and Gas Commission) has historically been largely controlled by oil and gas interests.  As a result, it is hard to see how that group will not focus on profits over other considerations.  It does not appear to me and many others that  the need for energy sources and profits has been fairly balanced with the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the communities being impacted.

We are now producing more refined fuels than we need and are exporting record amounts helping the balance of trade.  Concern has been raised that the US is likely to have insufficient storage capacity for natural gas by the end of the year.  Then why the need for drilling close to homes and schools?  Why not limit fracking to less hazardous locations including those with minimal potential for groundwater impact?

Why indeed!  Oil companies realized profits in the tens of millions of dollars. The “realized” pay for the CEO of Exxon/Mobile for 2011 was 24.6 million dollars or three times that in 2009 and four times that in 2006.  By how much has your pay increased over this time? By what factor is his pay greater than yours?   CEO pay should be higher than that for most people, but by how much?  Where is the balance?

Bob Norris
Longmont

Bob has lived in Longmont since 2000 and has been active in community issues including having served on the Longmont Board of Environmental Affairs.

Come, Exploit, Leave

I’ve resided in Longmont since 1986; in the same house north of Lake McIntosh. My kids have gone to school at Hygiene and Westview; with one now at Niwot.

I’m also an avid skier, to put it mildly; my wife would tell you it is more like addicted. So, I’m am keenly aware of the situation in the central Colorado mountains (Summit county especially) in the winters.

One excellent source for information about the snow pack in Colorado is the “snotel” site maintained by the Department of Agriculture folks in Lakewood – Snowpack Summary graph. It is one ski industry standard sources of data about the status of the snowpack in the state. It is updated every federal business day.

I had the April 17th graph. It showed the average, that of last year (which was a record big snowfall,) and that of this year – which is a record small snowfall. The percentage of normal, as of that date, was 40%.

Since then, that has fallen to something in the 25% to 27% range. That situation has already triggered Denver Water to issue restrictions. Boulder might soon. I know a City of Ft Collins planner who is very concerned about the impact in Larimer county.

In considering the regulation of fracking, which consumes significant amounts of water, the availability of water is a major concern!

From year to year, now days, it seems that the variability in snow pack, and so water, has become large; frighteningly so Some years may be OK, a few great, and some, like the snow season we just didn’t really have.

It is really kind of like a flood plain risk. In the case of water, what are the odds of two or three tiny years in a row? At what point is there not enough water for the residents, and everybody the City of Longmont water servers?

Who knows, Longmont itself may well have to end up going on water restrictions before the summer out. This could, sadly, get fairly ugly quickly.

The other point I made to Council was that Longmont is home to major high tech companies; it has been since IBM moved in down The Diagonal in the 1965. If the situation with the water is adversely impacted by fracking, that is not good. If the fracking causes air pollution that ruins the quality of life, that is not good(!) Part of what makes Longmont very desirable to high tech is the quality of life here; it is both a brand, and a lived reality.

Longmont could end up trading a set of long term, high paying jobs for a set of temporary, not that high paying jobs.  (and make no mistake, the oil industry is a “come, exploit, leave” kind of deal!)

That’s would be a simply stupid choice!

An open letter to the Longmont City Council

Where's council?

Where's council? Might as well not be there.

Mayor Coombs and fellow Councillors:

Council, you (with the notable exception of Sarah Levinson) have lost my trust. I doubt that I’m alone in suggesting that you have betrayed your fellow citizens with your pusillanimous decision to follow a staff recommendation offering compromise and “Fast Track” permits to the oil and gas boys instead of approving an extended 6 month moratorium.

Week after week your Tuesday chamber was filled with your constituents pleading for time. How many from without the industry appeared before you in support of OCGCC regulations? None that I saw or heard.

Did those who appeared before you represent a majority of your constituents? Yes. Did you respond to their passions? No. You told them to go to hell, just as the COGCC told you a week ago when rejecting your proffers of appeasement.

Ex-City Manager Pedrow, once out of office, suggested you take a stand and fight. Instead you have chosen what you thought to be a compromise and have been solidly kicked in the butt.

Big Oil & Gas has threatened you with virtual bankruptcy if you choose to fight what at best was a modest proposal for modification of existing OCGCC standards. Offering such insulting defenses as “the state’s robust regulatory framework”- (a damned lie if ever there was one) their intention is obvious: Kill any and every effort of modification lest it spread to other communities.

You’ve been told to be good boys and girls or else; so exactly what do you now propose? More conciliation? More tinkering around the edges?

Will you forgive and offer a permit to that paragon of corporate citizenry TOP drilling which has been and still is “remediating” the benzene problem at Trail Ridge school whilst ignoring the robust discipline of the COGCC since 2009? Does their application for more drilling permits not concern you? Exactly what in hell does it take to persuade you that you are on the wrong track?

I have a suggestion. How about taking a step back and re-visiting the proposal to extend the moratorium for another 6 months? Much is happening at every level of government and within that time frame anything decided today may well appear foolish tomorrow.

It takes gonads to admit error and great political courage to stand for your constituents against the pressure of campaign dollars from entities such as Big Oil & Gas. The accusation that some of you have been so influenced has been made; please show us that those accusations are incorrect.

Why not begin a robust campaign to enlist all Front Range communities from Trinidad to Fort Collins in a concentrated effort to change state law? It may take one year or ten but this issue will never be decided at the municipal level, so face reality and work to undo what was undoubtedly a corrupt process.

Ask yourselves how it came to be that an entity such as the COGCC was given the right to tell a municipality that their regulations could be pre-empted and then answer the question without thinking of campaign dollars. The deal stank then and continues to stink- and you know it.

Thus far, Council, you appear weak, fragile and timid. For God’s sake step up to the plate and start batting! You were elected to lead, so start leading.

Fracking within our community is likely the biggest and most dominant issue you as council will ever face; that is until you are up for re-election. What you do in the coming weeks will be long remembered. To paraphrase JFK: “Think not what you can do for your political future but what you can do for Longmont”.

Sanfaçon hosting two roundtable events

Garry Sanfacon 2012

Garry Sanfacon, District 1 Boulder County Commissioner candidate

Boulder County, CO, May 2, 2012 – Garry Sanfaçon, candidate for County Commissioner (District 1), is hosting two roundtable events to bring residents together to craft our shared vision for the desirable future of Boulder County. There will be a roundtable in Boulder on May 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Unity of Boulder, located at 2855 Folsom St. and another in Longmont on May 15, 6:30-8:30, at the Longmont Public Library.

“For more than 40 years, Boulder County’s leaders have boldly marched to the beat of their own drum, and today Boulder County residents rank among the healthiest and happiest in the nation,” said Sanfaçon. “But we have social, economic and environmental challenges to address,” he said, “and it’s time to renew our vision.”

As Boulder County’s leaders were faced with decisions about growth management decades ago, they bucked the trend for sprawl and launched a vision to protect the natural environment in which we live, preserving vistas, acquiring open space, funneling growth into urban areas, and keeping rural areas rural. It has come, to a large extent, to define us as a county.

We owe our special quality of life to Boulder County’s rich history of visionary thinkers. You and I are the stewards of that legacy. Today, Boulder County is under pressure to conform to the status quo, and it is incumbent upon us to continue to build on that visionary leadership, from elected officials and citizens alike, to leave a legacy of our own: a livable, resilient, inclusive and sustainable community for future generations. “Our elected officials can’t shoulder the challenges we face alone,” said Sanfaçon, “it’s going to take all of us coming together as a community to chart a bold course forward to leave a legacy of our own for future generations.”

Is fracking really safe?

On April 30, Katherin Engelhard touted the safety of fracking. From her self-proclaimed “extensive research” she quoted, “In 65 years of hydraulic fracturing of 1.2 million wells, there’s no proven case of its contaminating drinking water.”

However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reports that between Aug. 28, 2003, and Jan. 5, 2012, there were 427 incidences of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas wells in Weld County alone. Groundwater contamination of this magnitude definitely poses a threat to drinking water.

A serious, more immediate safety threat Ms. Engelhard fails to mention is the air pollution documented by many new studies being released, such as the 2012 NOAA study demonstrating that, from 200 fracking wells, Erie’s air has more methane, propane and ethane than Houston, Texas. Another recent study (March 2012) by the Colorado School of Public Health at CU concludes that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations are 250 percent more likely to have chronic health impacts and 60 percent more likely to develop cancer mainly from exposure to airborne benzene, a known carcinogen associated with the more modern, “unconventional” fracking.

Fracking is astoundingly exempt from regulation by the EPA, Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act. Ms. Engelhard refers to the fracking her father did “in West Texas 40 years ago,” but this is definitely not your father’s fracking. Modern “unconventional” fracking (less than 10 years old) is considerably different and involves far more health, safety and environmental impacts due to the additional chemicals, newer technology and vastly greater allowable number of wells per pad. A quote Ms. Engelhard uses from the EPA claiming safety around this industrial activity was from 2004, when there was very little information on the impacts of the new “unconventional” fracking.

Sanfaçon Community Forum

Garry Sanfacon 2011

Garry Sanfacon, District 1 Boulder County Commissioner candidate

Boulder, CO– Garry Sanfaçon, candidate for Boulder County Commissioner, District 1, is hosting a community forum to help inform the public about the risks to Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, from natural gas extraction, including hydraulic facturing, commonly called fracking. The forum will take place on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6:30 -8:30 p.m., at the Nomad Theater, located at 1410 Quince Avenue, in Boulder.

The forum will consist of a presentation by leading experts on the impacts of fracking on the environment, public health, and overall community well-being, including data specific to the City of Boulder and Boulder County. They will also present data about the failure of state regulations to prevent adverse environmental and human health impacts. The experts will answer questions from the audience following their presentation. Local youth with the environmental education and youth empowerment group, Earth Guardians, will perform their latest song about fracking and, as always, remind us that their future is in our hands.

Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, is already experiencing significant adverse impacts from natural gas extraction and fracking. With over 1800 wells that can potentially be fracked in unincorporated Boulder County (that number does not include wells in incorporated municipalities within the County), this is only the tip of the iceberg. This heavy industrial, toxic activity is occurring in neighborhoods, next to schools and on County open space.

The experts presenting will be Shane Davis, Wes Wilson and Phil Doe. Shane Davis is a research biologist and leading investigator into adverse environmental and human health impacts related to fracking in Colorado. Wes Wilson was an environmental engineer with the EPA for 30 years. He was featured in the movie Gasland as a whistleblower on the EPA’s failure to regulate fracking. Phil Doe spent his career working on water issues with the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. He is currently the Environmental Issues Director for the grassroots advocacy group Be the Change, and an activist for protecting our most precious resource, water.

Hickenlooper’s oil and gas fling; Coloradans watching

Near Evans, Colorado. Courtesy of David Schemel

Governor Hickenlooper had a few particularly cozy days with the oil and gas industry the other week. First, he appeared in industry-funded ads in newspapers and on radio stations across the state, proclaiming that no water in Colorado had been contaminated by fracking. After being forced to issue a weak mea culpa amid cries of ethics violations over his unabashed hawking of the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper then claimed that fracking fluids are edible: “You can eat this — the CEO of Halliburton took a big swig of this thing. And not to be outdone, I took a swig of it myself.”

Then, the governor issued an Executive Order to create an industry-dominated task force that will examine how to take local control away from communities across the state that don’t want drill rigs near homes or their children’s schools.

And now, satisfied with a job well done, Governor Hickenlooper jetted to Houston, Texas, to be the keynote speaker of an industry conference touting fracking.

If these antics have you thinking that Governor Hickenlooper no longer represents the people of Colorado and works full-time for the oil and gas industry, you’re not off base: Governor Hickenlooper took over $75,000 from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign.

Even so, the grassroots movement that opposes fracking in Colorado is starting to win. Up and down the Front Range — from Colorado Springs to El Paso County, from Erie to Longmont to Boulder County — communities are standing up to pass moratoria on fracking. Why? Because their air quality is 10 times worse than Houston, Texas, as a result of oil and gas drilling. Or because there is a fracking well being planned 350 feet from their children’s elementary school. Or because their home values have plummeted due to proposed fracking in their neighborhood.

Grassroots, community rights organizations across the state are emerging. LongmontROAR, Erie Rising, What the Frack?! Arapahoe County and several others are talking to their neighbors, asking questions and pressing their city council members and county commissioners to say “no” to fracking. These aren’t dyed-in-the-wool activists, they are everyday Coloradans who love their families, their mountain air and their clean water. The mothers, insurance agents, pharmacists and retired people who don’t want a drill rig in their backyard or next to their child’s school are leading a fracking rebellion that is sweeping the state. And with some brass-nosed organizing, we are winning.

So when El Paso County and Boulder County — arguably the most conservative and progressive parts of the state, respectively — both pass moratoria to stop fracking in their communities, Governor Hickenlooper has a problem on his hands. A big problem that won’t make his oil and gas pals very happy.

And I make this prediction: industry-sponsored ads, slick oil and gas talking points, threatening letters from Attorney General John Suthers and the huff and puff of the oil and gas industry will not stop concerned citizens from demanding their rights to protect their children, homes and water from the harmful impacts of fracking and from organizing in a smart, strategic way to win. They will actually tick us off more and encourage us to fight harder.

The recent defeat of Senate Bill 88, which would have stripped communities of their local control to protect their water and citizens from fracking, is Exhibit A of this burgeoning grassroots movement. After generating thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls, dozens of regular citizens crammed into an obscure committee meeting on a Thursday afternoon to defeat this industry-sponsored bill.

Governor John Hickenlooper

So I encourage all Coloradans to get involved with this movement to ban fracking. For a first step, email Governor Hickenloopertoday and ask him to pull his misleading industry ads. He’s done enough for the industry. It’s time he sticks up for Coloradans for a change.

This article was first published in Huffington Post and is republished with the permission of the author.