Position statement 2/26/12
10/6/12 addendum below
The Colorado Oil & Gas Association says that oil & gas drilling in CO is safe and the industry can be trusted not to threaten public health or the environment. Unfortunately, history says otherwise. In 2011 the industry spilled more than two million gallons of toxic waste in CO and recorded an average of seven toxic spills every five days, some severe enough to force the evacuation of nearby buildings. In some cases, where drilling has moved into residential areas, people are experiencing symptoms that are consistent with those caused by the toxins that are know to be released from oil & gas sites.
The industry says that it is strictly regulated by the state. Unfortunately history says otherwise. In 2011 the state issued three fines for spills and accidents that occurred over three years ago. The fines totaled just over $500,000. To put that into perspective, imagine getting a speeding ticket that totaled less than one dollar in penalties. Is that a deterrent?
Rural CO has had to deal with this problem for too long, now the industry is moving into more populated areas and putting wells as close as 350 feet from schools and homes and baseball fields and in golf courses and right next to running trails. If history supported the industry’s claim to safety, then this would not be a concern.
Before drilling is allowed in close proximity to human activity they should prove that it would be done without impacting health or the environment. Once the industry demonstrates the will and ability to safely practice their business, then the state needs to vigorously monitor their activities and levy fines that are large enough to deter toxic pollution.
This is not the job of the industry. It is not the job of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The job of protecting public health and the environment belongs to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. The Governor and department leadership need to step up and do their job. They should require that all oil & gas development sites have air and water quality monitoring equipment that records emissions on a continual basis and reports those emissions in real time to a public website, allowing citizens to monitor activity and call on the state to enforce the law. The CDPHE needs to increase fines to a level that effectively deters crime, and they need to enforce those fines on all infractions. The Governor promised to strike “the right balance” between oil & gas development and protecting public health. The ability to verify industry practices would allow me to trust the statements that they are safe. As Ronald Reagan would say, “Trust, but verify”.
After attending the CSU Symposium on Natural Gas my position from February has been reaffirmed with greater vigor. Citizens have the Right To Know what pollution is coming from their neighborhood gas well at all times! There should be an alert system that tells your cell phone if there is a toxic release at a near by well, or a well close to your kids school, or park, or anywhere else where people are!
I spoke to a few industry representatives at the symposium. Almost all agree that citizens have the Right To Know. A few agree to the monitor and alert idea. One even said that there is no excuse, that they can afford it and they should be doing it right now!
It is up to us to hold them accountable to their word! Tell your local government elected officials - "No drilling with out continuous air and water quality monitoring reported in real time on a public website!"
The industry has now had plenty of time to reply to the request for pollution monitoring and reporting. They have shown no interest in discussing this proposal. We have no choice but to prevent them from operating in our town. Cforse is asking Fort Collins City Council to place a ballot question on the April 2013 election: Should Fort Collins ban the practice of fracing for oil & gas?