Tag Archive for unconventional oil and gas drilling

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t let Big Oil determine our future

A good number of folks have inquired in recent months as to how I became a part of the local fracking issue. I have been deeply involved in this wonderful community of Longmont for more than 20 years (a Chamber member for most of those years, a longtime Rotarian, an advocate and fundraiser for many local nonprofits, and current board member of the Friends of the Longmont Senior Center).

My wife and I raised our two daughters in Longmont, having chosen to move from Houston, Texas, and avoid its extreme traffic, pollution and frantic pace. I have also owned and operated a local business for more than 10 years.

So why did “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont become involved with so contentious an issue as fracking in the city? It initially had little to do with fracking specifically or even oil and gas generally. Rather, it sprang from a deep concern around my perceptions that our culture is allowing the democratic process to be effectively bought by the highest bidder. A good example is the trend evidenced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gives corporations (which can always outspend individuals) the ability to donate unlimited dollars to political action committees and thus “purchase” the votes needed to further their own interests and profits.

Self-interest and profit are not in themselves good or bad. However, we all know that, without restraints, history is replete with examples of the abuse of power. In our world, power is always associated with great wealth.

The recent frenetic proliferation of the newer, “unconventional” fracking into densely populated communities like Longmont is a clear incarnation of the abuse of such power. I am personally not an advocate of “banning fracking” generally. Though it grieves me, we were all born into an unfortunate dependence on fossil fuels.

Both sides of this issue agree that oil and gas drilling, including “fracking,” is a heavy industrial operation. Interestingly, not a single other industrial activity is allowed in proximity to homes and schools in this city, and would, in fact, be illegal. Why does the oil and gas industry enjoy a special privilege that none others do? Why are their dangerous industrial operations that belong far from a healthy community like ours not only allowed, but actually forced upon us under current regulations?

Twenty-eight oil and gas companies (including Halliburton and Chevron) that are all based outside of Colorado have contributed almost $500,000 to defeat Question 300, which only prohibits fracking and its toxic waste disposal from within city limits.

Do you believe they have your and your family’s health in mind? Do you believe they care about the protection of your property? Do they have a stake in the quality of the air we and our children will be breathing for decades to come? The desire for profit is not inherently good or bad, but it can never be justified if it is elevated over the health and well-being of human beings.

If we are willing to believe the expensive, bullying, high cost, full-page ads designed to strike fear in us using fabricated, inflated projections of a lawsuit, then we will have once again fallen prey to being bought and paid for by wealthy corporations. Do not let them “buy” your vote. Tell them, “We, our children, and our health are not for sale.” Join me in voting “yes” on Question 300. Let us exercise our constitutional right to health, safety and protection of property. I can honestly say that “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont will be very glad when Nov. 7 rolls around. It will be good to return to pre-fracking days!