FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 13, 2014
Catherine Collentine (303)454-3363 (Sierra Club Colorado Campaign Representative)
Kelly Giddens (503)866-5962 (Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins President)
Bruce Baizel (970)259-3353 (Earthworks Energy Program Director)
Kevin Lynch (303)871-6039 (Environmental Law Clinic Professor)
GROUPS JOIN LAWSUIT TO DEFEND FORT COLLINS FRACKING MORATORIUM
FT. COLLINS, CO- Today Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks filed a motion to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit against the City of Fort Collins in order to defend the City.
The Association is trying to overturn a five year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” The Fort Collins moratorium on fracking passed as Ballot Measure 2A with 56% of the vote in November 2013 and was adopted as a City Ordinance.
“It is important to us as an organization that the moratorium is upheld. The voters of Fort Collins voted for a 5 year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in order to allow time for the results of studies in progress to be published and interpreted before deciding whether or how to allow “fracking” or the storage of hazardous waste in our community. This lawsuit, designed to overturn the moratorium, is a blatant attempt by COGA to bypass the will of the voters and possibly jeopardize public health, safety and property values in our community,” said Kelly Giddens of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.
“The industry so far has refused to come forward with any company that would actually be harmed by this limited time-out on fracking. If some company does intend to frack in Fort Collins, we’d like to know about it,” said Kevin Lynch of the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic, which represents the citizens’ groups. “Regardless, we think there is no good reason not to wait and see the results of ongoing health and safety studies before the City decides whether or not to allow this industrial practice into its residents’ backyards.”
Over the past decade Colorado has experienced a boom in oil and gas drilling. Colorado currently has more than 50,000 active oil and gas wells covering much of the state’s landscape. The unconventional drilling practice of fracking is employed in 95% of Colorado oil and gas operations and has raised health and safety concerns for communities. Across Colorado’s northern plains, oil and gas companies are increasingly operating not only in sparsely populated areas, but also in towns and suburbs. Fort Collins is located 65 miles north of Denver and close to Colorado’s most productive oil and gas field.
“In response to the increase in drilling nearby, Fort Collins voters used the ballot box to protect their community from fracking,” said Catherine Collentine, Colorado Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. “This industry operates with little regulation, monitoring or enforcement at the state or federal level. Citizens and local governments have every right to protect themselves, that’s why we’re stepping in to help.”
In the November 2013 election, three cities, including Fort Collins, passed moratoriums on fracking. Additionally, two cities have passed bans on fracking, one in 2013 in Lafayette and one in 2012 in Longmont. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has sued four of the five cities to reverse these limits on fracking.
“Apparently the oil and gas industry thinks there’s such a thing as too much democracy,” said Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “In Fort Collins and across the country, wherever voters choose to wait-and-see on fracking, industry sues to overturn the vote. Such bullying tactics simply confirm that the industry is losing the public debate.”
For more information on Sierra Club’s efforts to protect communities from harmful oil and gas operations go to http://content.sierraclub.org/naturalgas ; and to http://rmc.sierraclub.org/ ; and for Earthworks visit http://www.earthworksaction.org/ and for Citizens for a Healthy Ft. Collins see http://www.healthyfoco.com/.
Oil and fracking chemicals spill into Colorado’s floodwaters
TXsharonFracking equipment overwhelmed by floodwaters in Weld County, Colo, northeast of Denver.
Heavy rains returned to Colorado on Sunday and hampered rescue efforts after last week’s flash floods. The confirmed death toll has risen to seven, and hundreds are still unaccounted for. An estimated 1,500 homes are destroyed. Some 1,000 people in Larimer County, north of Boulder, were awaiting airlifts that never came on Sunday — they were called off because of the foul weather.
The floods have also triggered other problems that have gotten a lot less media attention: Fracking infrastructure has been inundated and its toxic contents have spilled out. Pipelines that transport fossil fuels are sagging and snapping under pressure. Tanks that store chemicals and polluted water are being overwhelmed and toppling over. Oil and gas wells are flooding.
Lafayette-based anti-fracking activist Cliff Willmeng said he spent two days “zig-zagging” across Weld and Boulder counties documenting flooded drilling sites, mostly along the drainageway of the St. Vrain River. He observed “hundreds” of wells that were inundated. He also saw many condensate tanks that hold waste material from fracking at odd angles or even overturned.
“It’s clear that the density of the oil and gas activity there did not respect where the water would go,” Willmeng said. “What we immediately need to know is what is leaking and we need a full detailed report of what that is. This is washing across agricultural land and into the waterways. Now we have to discuss what type of exposure the human population is going to have to suffer through.” …
A spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said the agency is aware of the potential for contamination from flooded drilling sites, but there simply is no way to get to those sites while flooding is ongoing and while resources are concentrated on saving lives.
The Denver Post interviewed a farmer who ignored evacuation orders and watched as floodwaters overwhelmed a drilling operation on his land and released some oil. The newspaper also reported that at least one oil pipeline was confirmed to have been broken open by the floodwaters. From the article:
Oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen [South Platte River] flowing northeast. …
One pipeline has broken and is leaking, Weld County Emergency Manager Roy Rudisill. Other industry pipelines are sagging as saturated sediment erodes around the expanding river.
East Boulder County United, a group that fights fracking, has beenposting photographs on its Facebook page of fracking tanks and other equipment toppled over or submerged by floodwaters. Blogger TXsharon has also been posting updates and photographs.
Meanwhile, experts are beginning to discuss the links between climate change and the floods. The flooding was worsened by drought and wildfires, both of which have been linked to global warming and which left the ground dry and hard. That reduced the amount of water that the soil could absorb from the unusual late-summer inundation.
“This was a totally new type of event: an early fall widespread event during one of the driest months of the year,” Brad Udall of the University of Colorado-Boulder told National Geographic News. “As the climate warms further, the hydrologic cycle is going to get more intense.”
Climate Central notes that it “will take climate scientists many months to complete studies into whether manmade global warming made the Boulder flood more likely.” But the wild weather hitting the state lately fits general climate change projections:
An increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events is expected to take place even though annual precipitation amounts are projected to decrease in the Southwest. Colorado sits right along the dividing line between the areas where average annual precipitation is expected to increase, and the region that is expected to become drier as a result of climate change.
That may translate into more frequent, sharp swings between drought and flood, as has recently been the case. Last year, after all, was Colorado’s second-driest on record, with the warmest spring and warmest summer on record, leading to an intense drought that is only just easing.
Might the fracking industry have worsened Colorado’s floods by contributing to climate change, then spilled its toxic chemicals into those floodwaters? That would be a cruel double-punch.
Hickenlooper Faces Statewide Demands for Local Control Over Oil and Gas Development
Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm
More than 100 current and former local Colorado government officials have banded together to formally request Gov. John Hickenlooper’s help in localizing control over oil and gas development.
La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt spearheaded the effort urging colleagues throughout the state to sign onto three letters and an email that made it to the desks of Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar and Hickenlooper on Wednesday.
“Oil and gas is an important part of our economy, but we can’t have it at the expense of our water and air quality,” said Lachelt, longtime activist and founder of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.
In the letters, officials express a pressing need for a new approach to oil and gas development, one that will support health and safety and promote research to ensure long-term protection for Colorado communities.
According to Lachelt, Hickenlooper has consistently lobbied against a number of bills proposing to research and effectively minimize the environmental and overall health impacts of oil and gas development. One such measure, proposed by State Representative Joann Ginal, would have initiated a study about the impact of oil and gas extraction on human health.
“The Governor’s office squelched that as well,” said Ross Cunnif, Fort Collins City Councilmember.
Some local officials have spoken out in support of Hickenlooper’s efforts, and many have gone so far as to put that support in writing. On May 1, 122 present and former officials from across the state signed a letter encouraging Hickenlooper to stand strong in keeping oil and gas matters a state issue.
But, the officials who submitted their letters Wednesday are less interested in constraining development than in finding a middle ground, promoting development as well as safety and long-term benefits. They hope the process will recognize all voices, especially those at the local level.
“This is not an anti-oil and gas development letter,” Lachelt said. “What we’re asking is that the Governor spend time with local government officials to come to a better understanding of the folks on the frontlines of oil and gas development.”
So far, Hickenlooper has not shown this kind of support. In 2012, he sued Longmont for banning drilling for oil and gas within its residential neighborhoods. In February of this year, he announced in an interview with CBS4 that the state would sue any local government that attempted or proposed to ban fracking within its borders.
Though Hickenlooper was unavailable for comment Thursday, press contact Eric Brown assured that they would read the letters: ”We value our relationship with local governments all across Colorado. We will carefully review the letter and respond appropriately.”