Cforse is canvassing to help Don't Frack Broomfield pass a temporary moratorium on oil/gas drilling until a community impact study can be done and Broomfield citizens can vote on the appropriate path forward. Rather than repeat all the information, I'll refer you to their website and facebook page:
The industry says that they can. Neighbors and environmentalists say that they can't. The two sides argue their positions and a public debate ensues. Let's examine what both sides can agree on:
-Collectively, we are using natural gas to heat our homes, generate electricity, and fuel industrial processes. We can't simply cut off our supply of natural gas or oil.
-Nobody wants to make anybody sick. It is not the intention of the industry to pollute.
-Oil/gas development is an inherently dangerous business. Accidents happen.
-Emissions from oil/gas wells are contributing to air pollution. Air pollution in CO is a problem that needs to be remediated.
-State records show an unacceptable amount of water pollution from oil/gas development activities.
-Oil/gas development creates jobs and revenue. Jobs and revenue are important.
So, how can we meet our energy, employment and economic needs without poisoning our living space?
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) says they can do this through responsible oil/gas development, but history shows otherwise and neighbors and environmentalists don't trust them. Some neighbors and environmentalists say we should ban oil/gas drilling all together, but that leaves us without our energy source and cuts jobs and revenue.
To prove their point to neighbors and environmentalists, we asking COGA to provide, in populated areas that are drilled, continuous air quality monitoring equipment and a "reverse 911" type alert system. If the air is toxic, the equipment detects it immediately and sends a signal to the managers of any potential nearby sources of the pollution (gas well, gas station, other industrial facilities). The managers check their pollution control equipment and make sure that everything is on par. When a problem is found it is fixed immediately. If the problem isn't fixed, then law enforcement gets involved.
The alert is also sent to nearby residents so that they can take action to protect themselves and hold polluters accountable to fixing their problems. This way we can all be assured that any pollution problems that arise are taken care of in a timely fashion.
Water quality assurance requires different technology. Current monitoring standards are not good enough. Each well should be injected with a signature tracer so that any pollution can be traced to the source. Water quality monitoring equipment needs to be within 100 ft of the well, down gradient, and samples need to be taken on a monthly basis. Transparency is key to the whole process. Data needs to be readily available to the public.
Air and water quality monitoring comes with a financial cost, and the creation of more jobs and revenue. This is the cost of doing business in an industry that has the potential to poison our air and water.
One more thing. A recent accident near Windsor spewed toxic fluid up to 1,000 ft from the rig for 30 hours. This was an unanticipated event. If it happened at a well within 1,000 ft of an elementary school, the result could be catastrophic for those involved. This demonstrates the need to keep wells more than 1,000ft from anywhere where people live or congregate.
We are asking the neighbors and environmentalists to help satisfy our energy and economic needs without poisoning our living space by promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy systems and jobs. We are also asking them to accept the "drilling with monitoring, alerts, and mitigation" deal.
Ultimately we need to meet our needs without fossil fuels, but I wouldn't expect GOGA to promote that. I do expect them to hold their industry to the highest standards, prove that they are not polluting, and fix pollution problems as soon as they occur.
Many people told me I was wasting my time talking to oil and gas industry representatives. That they would be polite and agree that people should not be poisoned by oil drilling in their neighborhood, but that when it came time to actually do something, the industry would back away. I feel that it is important to open communication between adversaries. I was not prepared to ban the industry from activity until we had talked about possible alternatives. They were not interested in that conversation. The industry has shown through their actions (toxic spills and intentional emissions, law suits, lies and manipulations) a callous disregard for citizen concerns.
These concerns need to be addressed. If the industry refuses to operate in a clean and safe manner, then they have no business in my town. Cforse is now advocating for a ban on fracing within Fort Collins. We are asking city council to put the issue up for a vote on the April 2013 ballot. Let the people decide: Should we allow an industry that doesn't want to play by the rules? That needs exemption from our public health laws? That wants to put industrial facilities in our parks, golf courses, neighborhoods, 350 feet from schools and hospitals? An industry with an abominable accident and pollution record? An industry that won't even monitor it's own emissions and warn people if there is a potentially dangerous accident or toxic release?
If our city leaders are too scared to vote to protect public health and stand up to the oil companies and their cronies in Denver, then they should turn the vote over to the citizens.
The Mayor's office is issuing a response to citizen letters concerning o/g development in town... sort of. The letter (below) fails to address the stated concern. Citizens are asking for a reverse 911 type alert system that will notify nearby residents, state regulators, and well operators immediately in the case of a toxic release from a neighborhood well. The Mayor doesn't even hint at this subject, instead she notes how expensive the best monitoring equipment on the market is. Never mind that we don't need this equipment and that it is irrelevant.
The goal of the alert system is notify interested parties of a potential problem at a well and get an inspector out and get the problem fixed as soon as possible. The monitoring equipment needed to do this costs under $7,000. The cost of the entire alert system is unknown, but it should be much less than the $250k quoted in the Mayor's letter. The o/g industry should pay this expense.
The Mayor's letter is evasive and represents poor governance. Unfortunately this is typical for this Mayor's office.
Letter from the Mayor:
Thank you for sharing your concerns and ideas about oil and gas drilling in the Fort Collins area. Citizen input is an extremely important part of our process in developing effective and workable solutions to community issues.
As a city we are working diligently to address community concerns, especially in the areas of public health and the issues of air quality, water and noise pollution as well as approaches that protect and preserve the environment and the quality of life of our residents. Air toxics ambient monitoring programs are possibilities and included in the discussion but carry a cost of $250,000 - $500,000.
While the oil and gas industry is predominately regulated by federal legislation and extensive state regulations, permitting and inspections, the City of Fort Collins is working jointly with the industry and citizens to craft regulatory as well as non-regulatory actions that will meet our community goals.
Thank you for caring about your community.
City of Fort Collins
Yesterday I drove down to Boulder to meet with Tisha Schuller, President, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). COGA is the industry group representing oil and gas companies in CO. They have a large influence on state policy decisions. I met with Tisha to open a line of communication and establish a rapport, with the goal of discovering what common ground we have and how we might be able to move forward in meeting the needs of the industry and the needs of gas well neighbors.
We both recognize that we (US culture) need oil/gas in our daily lives and that it will take time to move into an energy system that dos not require oil/gas. Oil/gas developments contributes about 7% to the CO economy. Drilling is not likely to go away soon. We also agreed that nobody wants to make anyone sick and the industry should act to control its pollution. In the 30 minutes that we met, that's really about as far as we got, but agreed to meet again to continue the conversation.