Sent from HYDRAE
On December 4, 2012, a mom of two toddlers from Lafayette, a dad of two teenage girls from Louisville, a mom of two teenage boys from Boulder and an auntie from Niwot, participated in an act of peaceful direct action at the Boulder County Commissioners’ hearing on oil and gas development.
These upstanding and courageous citizens are so concerned about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on our health, quality of life, community well-being, this place we call home, our property values, and our children’s future that they accepted the risk of arrest to raise awareness that Boulder County is about to become a sacrifice zone to the oil and gas industry.
We are facing an industry that is run amok, wreaking havoc on our planet, poisoning our children’s very life support systems and decimating communities in which they operate, coupled with a corrupt political system that prioritizes corporate profits over people’s and the planet’s well being. Not only Boulder County, but Colorado, the U.S. and, indeed, the entire planet is under assault from the oil and gas industry. As the industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, people across Colorado, the U.S. and worldwide are organizing to defend themselves and their communities against the abuses of the oil and gas industry.
In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.” Time and time again throughout our nation’s history, people who stood their ground for justice were mocked and ridiculed only to eventually become celebrated. Sometimes the right thing to do is take a stand against unjust laws. Now is one of those times! With climate change and the poisoning of our life support systems, the urgency has never been more profound.
Community members have participated in the public process as structured by the Boulder County commissioners for the past year. The public’s overwhelming opposition to hydraulic fracturing and pleas to the commissioners to take a stand have fallen on deaf ears. The commissioners say their hands are tied and they must follow state law. Hence, the commissioners directed staff to update the county’s regulations concerning oil and gas extraction.
County staff has been working in collaboration with the oil and gas industry and the state regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), tasked with both regulating and promoting oil and gas extraction (a clear conflict or interest) to update the county’s regulations. The County Commissioners are now preparing to lift the moratorium.
The COGCC has failed to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental and human health impacts in accordance with their mission statement. According to an analysis of 1,000 spill reports to the COGCC, 43% of all operator spills in Colorado resulted in groundwater contamination, 57% of all protective berms failed to prevent secondary industrial liquid waste migration, 2.4 billion square feet of surface has been contaminated. In Weld County, from 2003-2012, a combined 1.7 million gallons of toxic water and oil releases were never recovered. The Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer in Greeley was contaminated with toluene and thermogenic gas by an oil and gas operation in 2009, and the list goes on.
Hydraulic fracturing releases carcinogenic emissions into the air, contaminates ground water and aquifers, and compacts and contaminates the soil. Many scientists believe the methane emissions associated with hydraulic fracturing are worse for global warming than coal.
Communities where hydraulic fracturing takes place are overrun by semi-truck traffic. The industry’s transient worker population leads to pressure on the rental market, drives down vacancies and drives up rates. It is well documented that crime rates increase where these transient worker populations are located. The heavy industrial, toxic process of hydraulic fracturing decreases property values, and there are issues with lenders not wanting to make loans on property with or in proximity to wells, as well as insurance companies not wanting to insure. Costs such as road wear and tear are externalized to the community. Wells must be monitored and maintained into perpetuity, placing the cost on future generations.
Oil and gas extraction is inherently a boom and bust industry, leaving behind environmental and economic ruin.
Hydraulic fracturing enjoys exemptions from many federal level environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and more. You would think that would raise a few…thousand…red flags!
Hydraulic fracturing uses 5-10 million gallons of water per frack, and wells can be fracked multiple times. With the chemicals added and the elements the water interacts with deep inside the earth, including naturally occurring radioactive materials, the water is turned into toxic waste that must be permanently removed from the hydrological cycle. This toxic waste water is deposited into “injection wells” bored into the earth (a whole, horrible topic unto itself). Our planet has a finite amount of fresh water, upon which life depends. Turning it into toxic waste is a crime against humanity.
Hydraulic fracturing is an inherently dangerous, heavy industrial, toxic process with risks that include catastrophic and irremediable damage to the environment and public health. These risks cannot be properly resolved, nor can they be mitigated through regulation. Pursuing regulation, as the commissioners are doing, is sanctioning the poisoning of our air, water and soil, along with the myriad other detrimental impacts of oil and gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, to our community. Allowing this to happen in our community (or anywhere) is unconscionable.
The direct action at the December 4 hearing entailed a mic check, a call and response action, whereby somebody reads a prepared statement, broken down into short pieces, and the crowd repeats each piece. Nearly everyone in the packed hearing room participated by repeating the words of those leading the mic check, and it unfolded into a beautiful symbolic action of the people asserting their will in the face of unjust laws and a corrupt political system that prioritizes profit over the well-being of people and the planet. It was a beautiful thing!
The mic check started out: “We are the people of Colorado and Boulder County. We are here to announce that the time has come and gone for you to recognize that hydraulic fracturing cannot be permitted in Boulder County.” The Pledge of Resistance to Continued Hydraulic Fracturing in Colorado (http://tinyurl.com/crx5pxs), which was recently released and has over 1,000 signatures already, was also read as part of the mic check. The Pledge of Resistance is endorsed by world renowned scientists and others. Use the link to see the full list and sign the Pledge.
Some youth who had signed up to read a prepared statement during public comment were inspired to use their statement to lead a mic check of their own. Upon conclusion of their mic check, somebody yelled out “who is going to run the meeting,” as the commissioners had left the room. “We are,” said a 13-year-old boy, and what followed was spontaneous inspiration.
As they sat in the commissioners’ chairs, the boy proclaimed, “we are the future, but we are also the present…and we are fighting for our future.” He went on to say, “we pledge to protect the air, the water, the soil for future generations to come.“ It was a magically symbolic gesture unfolding before us. Imagine if it was our County Commissioners doing the right thing at this critical moment in time and taking a stand in the face of unjust laws and a corrupt political system. The young man went on to say, “alright, everybody who wants to ban fracking, put your hand in the air.” The yays had it! Everyone in the packed hearing room (except for the oil and gas representative, we suspect), put their hands up. The room then erupted with chants of “ban fracking now.”
The commissioners returned to the room and the meeting resumed. Everyone who spoke during public comment, which lasted several hours, spoke in opposition to fracking, save the representative of Encana, a multinational oil and gas corporation that has 56 approved permits to drill and frack wells in Boulder County sitting with the COGCC waiting for the moratorium to be lifted. Encana was recently fined for poisoning Boulder County residents (see attached statement on so-called “mob intimidation”). Up to 1,800 wells could be drilled in unincorporated Boulder County alone, not including wells within municipalities within the county. It would mean the industrialization of Boulder County! There are currently 14 hydraulic fracturing operations taking place in Boulder County, including some on open space.
In the end, the commissioners extended the moratorium until January 24 so they can review the regulations one more time. But there is no such thing as safe and responsible fracking! Each of them made comments that they’d like to revisit the setback regulation, how far a well must be from homes and other inhabited structures. State regulations require a 350’ setback, however there is a loophole for existing wells, some of which are located in people’s backyards. Each of them suggested that perhaps 500’ or 1,000’ would be more appropriate than the state mandated 350’. In suggesting a 500’’ or 1000’ setback, the County Commissioners are committing an egregious breach or trust with the citizens they are sworn to protect.
Commissioner Toor cited “sound science” as the reason he contradicted the will of the people (70% of Boulder County residents oppose GMOs on open space) and voted to increase GMO crops on open space. In a strange turn of events, he is pulling numbers out of thin air, based on no science at all, concerning protecting the public from the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
The only health impact assessment of hydraulic fracturing to date was done by the Colorado School of Public Health, under the direction of Dr. Lisa McKenzie. The plug was pulled on the study when the findings began to turn out unfavorable to the oil and gas industry. Governor Cuomo recently cited the findings in that study as the reason he was delaying a decision about hydraulic fracturing in New York. The McKenzie study revealed that people living within ½ mile of a well have a 66% increased chance of developing cancer.
It is unconscionable for the Boulder County Commissioners to mislead the public that they are protecting public health with a 500’ or 1,000’ setback. Those are literally random numbers that are not based on scientific findings. In fact, they fly in the face of the science there is documenting the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
To add insult to all this injury, literally, our constitutional rights are being violated.
Article 2, section 3 of our state constitution says, All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights… [including] the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
Article 15, section 8 states, "the police power of the State shall never be abridged or so construed as to permit corporations to conduct their business in such a manner as to infringe the equal rights of individuals…
It is unconscionable for the Boulder County Commissioners to ignore this litany of abuses and allow this to happen to our community. Everything that makes this a place we love to call home is threatened. Everything! The urgency has never been more profound than now. This is one of those moments in history when it is time to take a stand.
Part II coming soon...