Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For Immediate Release:
Contact: Ana Tinsly, Frack Free Colorado, 646-331-4765
Cliff Wilmeng, East Boulder County United, 303-478-6613

Launch petition for moratorium on new wells, home rule for local communities.
(Colorado) In the aftermath of historic Colorado floods, citizen groups reacted Friday to widespread contamination, and at least 10 major reported spills along Colorado’s front range. The groups announced a petition calling for an immediate shut down of all wells that may have been compromised, along with a thorough survey by the EPA of each affected well site. The organizations also demanded the right to decide whether or not they wanted fracking in their communities, without a threat of a lawsuit by state officials.

Colorado is home to approximately 50,000 fracking wells, with more than 12,000 sites in Weld County alone, the disaster’s epicenter. Thousands of fracked wells, abandoned pits, and old toxic spills have been compromised by the state’s deadliest flood in history. While state officials have taken a largely laissez faire approach, citizen journalists have posted hundreds of images of underwater wells, burst pipelines, and leaking tanks. For the past week, organizers from Frack Free Colorado, East Boulder County United, and local activist, Shane Davis, have been flying over the area, courtesy of Ecoflight, to survey the contamination.

Shane Davis, of the blog Fractivist.org, spoke about the devastation he saw on one of the flights, “When flying over the affected area it was very clear to me that hundreds if not thousands of wellbores and their respective onsite equipment were damaged by flood waters. Toxic water tanks were lifted right out of the ground and tossed on their sides, no doubt breaking the subsurface pipes that transport petrochemicals and fracking fluids. I could see broken flow lines discharging petrochemicals into the rivers.  It was horrific seeing thousands of oil and gas well pads underwater, broken pipes, bubbling gasses, and more near homes, agricultural areas, and organic farms. Cattle are forced onto very small pieces of land where there is no fresh water and no vegetation for them to survive.”     

Cliff Willmeng of East Boulder County United said, “The images that have been produced are now yielding to the reality of new examples of oil and gas failures that will place the public and the environment in immediate danger. As the industry is now calling for details of damage to be given to them by the public, it is clear that the extent of this disaster is far beyond the capabilities of the oil and gas industry to either assess and/or mitigate. A limited, haphazard approach lead by industry will endanger hazmat workers, and avoid the ultimate public and environmental consequences of this disaster. A full-scale governmental and scientific assessment of this disaster needs to take place now.” 

Local groups have warned for years about the dangers of fracking, a largely unregulated process that involves hundreds of chemicals, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
Fracking produces millions of gallons of wastewater, stored above ground in condensate tanks, which may contain a cocktail of chemicals, oil, grease, and heavy metals. While the Colorado Oil and Gas Association is reporting that approximately 2,000 affected wells have been shut down, experts warn that we should also be concerned about the storage tanks above ground, as well as old spills and open pits.

Dr Phillip Doe, Environmental Issues Director for Be the Change said, “We must do a thorough sampling of the area to determine the risks to nearby residences, or downstream users of the Platte River. The complete chemistry of the water that was released from these condensate tanks is unknown since it is exempted under our environmental laws. This is an opportunity to determine the efficacy of that exemption. Flooding is common in Colorado, the weather is volatile, but the larger question is what damage are we doing to ourselves, our land, our water, and our air by taking such a cavalier attitude toward fracking, a heavy industrial activity that is basically self regulated by the industry itself.”

Dr. Theo Colborn, founder of the Endocrine Disruption Society who’s study found that endocrine disrupting chemicals from nearby gas operations in Colorado negatively impacted fetal development, warned of the possible release of toxins. “Very likely there will be BETX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene) dispersed throughout the entire flood area. The BETX are the most famous of a class of toxic petroleum-derived chemicals call the aromatics. They come up from the ground with methane in the raw gas and are separated from the methane on well pads where they are stored in large condensate tanks. They are oily liquids at low ambient temperatures but will volatilize as daytime temperatures rise, thus becoming inhalable as well.”

Suzanne Speigel, of Frack Free Colorado may have come into contact with hazardous chemicals when she filmed footage of a leaking tank in Greeley, Colorado. “I could smell chemicals and I immediately felt light-headed. After a short time my head began pounding and my skin was burning. Obviously, whatever is leaking out of the tank is toxic. We know that there are many fracking wells in similar condition that need to be investigated, but with so few inspectors for the COGCC, it is concerned citizens and activists who are uncovering this damage.  We are urging the EPA to step in and conduct an investigation to prevent further contamination. This is a demonstration of our state's failure to protect us from the dangers of industrial fracking.”

The groups also called for an immediate moratorium on new permits for fracking operations and a concrete plan to move the state toward renewable energy sources. 

Ana Tinsly of Frack Free Colorado said, “We cannot continue our addiction to destructive fossil fuels, which warm our planet, contaminate our air and water, and are behind the ever-increasing and destructive natural disasters, such as the recent floods in Colorado. The technology exists now for a shift to benign and bountiful sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar. In light of the toxins released into Colorado’s streams and rivers, the question bears asking, have you ever heard of a solar spill?”

Weston Wilson, Environmental Scientist for Be the Change, “The record flood in Colorado is, most likely, the result of climate change. The late-season high surface water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the unprecedented amount of atmospheric energy released on Colorado last week is a result of our profligate fossil burning. The national weather service said we suffered a 'flood of biblical proportions' because rainfall and stream flow records here were obliterated.  Meanwhile, thousands of flooded oil and gas wells pose a long-term health risk to Coloradans returning home.  We can avoid living in a warmed climate that is so risky and costly by demanding an end a fossil-fueled calamity.  The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out rocks; we developed better tools.  Better tools are conservation, renewables, and carbon capture.”

Click here to view footage of an overturned, leaking tanker (please credit Frack Free Colorado). 
Click here to view photos of flooded wells and overturned containers (please credit LMB Photography & Video). 


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