Tag Archive for Question 300

Tell the truth, Wendy.

As a native of Boulder County, and as the son of a man who worked in the oil and gas industry for 35 years, I feel compelled to respond to the hyperbole and melodrama of Encana Oil and Gas’s Wendy Wiedenbeck’s guest editorial (“Anti-fracking activism,” Op/ed Dec. 29). And, as the Colorado director of the national group Food and Water Watch that Wiedenbeck smears, I feel compelled to set the record straight about my organization and the community members that Wiedenbeck depicts as “extremists.”

Being almost completely devoid of facts, Wiedenbeck’s article uses emotional pleas and exaggeration. But what about the peaceful, earnest community members who she derides as “fringe activists?” These are mothers, fathers, teachers and small business people who have, until now, had no say to whether or not the oil and gas industry can put our air, water, soil and property values at risk by dangerous drilling practices like fracking.

Wiedenbeck wants sympathy, but it’s our health, our families’ safety and our communities that are threatened. Let’s examine the factual record.

There are 45,000 fracked wells in Colorado. Increasingly, the oil and gas industry — with the blessing of Governor Hickenlooper — is drilling merely a stone’s throw from our homes, schools, public parks, rivers and streams.

Warning sign on oil and gas condensate tank near homes in Evans COFracking and its associated activities threaten our health. Nearly 25 percent of the chemicals used in fracking could cause cancer; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular system; and more than 75 percent could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system. With these scientifically documented dangers, why is Governor Hickenlooper’s state regulatory agency permitting companies like Encana to drill wells next to elementary schools in Erie, where data from a recent NOAA study found levels of propane ten times higher than in Los Angeles?

Fracking contaminates groundwater. According to an analysis done by the Denver Post of the state’s own regulator agency’s data, oil and gas has contaminated groundwater over 350 times in the past 5 years. On average, there is more than one spill a day across the state.

It takes 1-5 million gallons of water to frack a well. Each well can be fracked multiple times. Multiply that across the 45,000 wells in Colorado and you get a sense of the sheer volume of water that is being laced with thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals and pumped into the ground. In effect, this water is removed from the hydrological cycle forever. Having just experienced one of our state’s most severe droughts, when 62 out of 64 counties were declared in a state of disaster, it seems unconscionable to continue such wanton destruction of our precious water resources.

Fracking drives down property values. There have been reported cases of home values dropping up to 75 percent due to nearby fracking activity. Increasingly, banks are not granting mortgages to property owners whose land carry oil and gas leases.

Ban Fracking NowSadly, it’s not just Wiedenbeck who’s obedient to the business objectives of the oil and gas industry — Governor Hickenlooper is astonishingly out of touch with Coloradans on this issue too. He has refused multiple requests to meet with Coloradans who are concerned about fracking taking place near their homes and children’s elementary schools. He has locked citizens out of “public meetings” that he has convened to discuss the issue while gladly keynoting at the oil and gas industry’s annual summit, starring in pro-fracking advertisements, and to suing the citizens of Longmont for attempting to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.

Wiedenbeck’s attack should be seen for what it is: A desperate attempt to cover up the fact that Coloradans don’t want fracking. This was made clear when citizens in Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban this dangerous, industrial activity next to their homes and schools last November. The vote was a resounding mandate. It was especially notable because the oil and gas industry raised over half-a-million dollars to defeat the measure, including $30,000 from Wiedenbeck’s employer.

It’s unfortunate that Wiedenbeck finds it necessary to defame Colorado citizens, but it’s understandable. It’s less understandable — deplorable actually — that Governor Hickenlooper continues to dismiss, discredit and even sue mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, retirees and business owners in Colorado who do not want fracking next to their homes and schools. These are the voices of reason and common sense.

Sam Schabacker is the Mountain West Region Director for Food and Water Watch.

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?

“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!

Response to Denver Post’s interference in Longmont

The following is an expanded version of the response to Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll’s misrepresentation of Question 300, which prohibits hydraulic fracking and its waste products within Longmont city limits.

Colorado constitution

The Colorado Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to health, safety and wellbeing.

Recently Vincent Carroll wrote a column about the citizen-driven ballot measure, Question 300 that bans hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Longmont.  Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont agrees with one comment by Mr. Carroll:  Yes, this is a “bellwether vote in Longmont.”  However, there is little else about Carroll’s characterization of our effort upon which we can agree.

The citizens of Longmont didn’t choose to be a leader in the effort to assert local control over health, safety and wellbeing.  That role was thrust upon us by an industry that has no interest in our community except to extract its last dime of profits at our community’s expense.

When representative government is inadequate or a failure, the Colorado Constitution not only provides a remedy, but also provides a guarantee of citizen health, safety and welfare.

The citizens of Longmont are under attack not only from the oil and gas industry, but from our own governor.  Governor Hickenlooper is already suing us over regulations that are considerably watered down from what most in the Longmont community were expecting.  He’s also promised to sue us again if Question 300 passes.  Hickenlooper should be ashamed of himself.  But he isn’t.  He would rather serve as the spokesperson for oil and gas than represent his constituents.  He’d rather make commercials for oil and gas, and pretend to drink fracking fluid that is not even being used by the industry.

Our Longmont is a group of Longmont parents, business owners, retirees, teachers, medical providers, people from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics.  We are working to protect what we hold dear: our families, our health, our quality of life, our town.  In fact, many of us did not even know what fracking was when, one year ago, it was announced that an oil and gas company was going to frack only a stone’s throw from our homes, our children’s school and our reservoir in Longmont.

Our research revealed that scientific evidence points to the harms that fracking posed to our children, our health and our property.  Months of scientific testimony and public input was presented to our city council with deep and heartfelt pleas to protect us from the myriad dangers of fracking: the cacophonous noise, property damage, threats to our children’s health and safety, earthquakes, air pollution, and the threats to surface and groundwater from well-documented evidence from the state’s own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Eventually, we were faced with a choice:  abdicate our Constitutional rights to protect our family’s health, safety and welfare or work to keep Longmont a great place to live for our families today and for our children’s and grandchildren’s future families.  We chose the latter.

Over 100 volunteers worked for six weeks in 100 degree temperatures to collect 8,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.  The measure will give Longmont residents the right to vote on whether they want fracking 350 feet from their homes, schools and reservoir or to prohibit this method of oil and gas extraction outright.

We have now learned that the oil and gas industry has spent over $330,000 and  has contributed over a half-a-million dollars to defeat this measure.  They have outspent our citizen-led effort to protect our homes, safety and property 30 times over.

This money has come from 28 contributors, including Halliburton, Chevron, Encana.  Many of these oil and gas corporations aren’t even based in Colorado, but instead, hail from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.  Not one – not one Longmont resident has contributed to the opposition’s campaign.

Why are out-of-state oil and gas companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to strip parents, small-business owners, retirees and teachers in Longmont of their constitutional rights?  Why does the oil and gas industry feel the need to buy an election so that they can have free reign to put dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes and our children’s schools, or anywhere else their bank accounts desire?

While we wait for honest answers to these questions (and honesty is not a trademark of the oil and gas industry), we will continue what we have always done: being neighbors, parents and taxpayers in Longmont.  And we will not stop working every day to protect our loved ones from hydraulic fracking.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

O & G will hurt Longmont economic development

Our former leaders, and some current ones, would have us think passage of Question 300 would somehow discourage business from coming here. On the contrary, every local “small” businessperson to whom I’ve spoken about fracking is dead set against it in the City. I am not at liberty to divulge any names, but elected or once elected officials need to think again. If anything were THAT rosy, I need to show them this land in Florida. It’s only wet part of the year, see. And if you trust the governor to rewrite the COGCC rule book after the coming election (up or down), then you’ve just got to look at this bridge I have to sell.

Capitulation to elevated petroleum development may say that Longmont has admitted defeat on the economic development front. While that would not surprise in the current macroeconomic environment, grabbing for any tree in the face of a tsunami isn’t always the best tactic. You could get hit by a boat.

Everything has a cost. Why don’t these “leaders” tell us what those might be? Of course, only the potential benefits get the ink. At least our former city manager has the sense and courage to remind us there could be a downside. And he should know. For many years he watched as local elected “leaders” dreamed schemes that he would somehow have to implement. And that isn’t always easy.

Blind promotion of even a “tested” technology is plainly unwise. It would be advisable to take out some insurance, but after the state’s response to the Lower North Fork wildfire this year (where a state agency was at fault), it seems unlikely anyone will replace a ruined aquifer or a depleted water supply, for starters. We could demand multibillion-dollar bonding from oil and gas operators, but no; that might “discourage business.” Whose?

I’m sure no one opposing local fracking is a wild-eyed, Boulder wannabe communist. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. I am certain no one opposing local fracking is getting a dime out of his or her stance. I wish someone would ask if the same can be said with regard to former mayors.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

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

As you probably know from ads and fliers, seven former mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose Ballot Question 300. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “fracking” before November 2011, when the issue first arose on Mayor Coombs’ watch. The seven aren’t experts — they are shills for the oil and gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place: the recycling bin.

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

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about– $75. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4,000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75. One hundred feet equals $7,500; 750 feet costs $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell with you, the hell with me and the hell with Longmont.

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

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

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

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

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

Longmont, let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25,000 or 30,000 votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote “yes” on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.