By Julia Williams – July 23, 2017
The Colorado Tourism Office describes Colorado as a “year-round destination with unparalleled adventure and outdoor activities, a rich cultural heritage and a growing food scene.” Sounds like a pretty awesome place to live.
What it forgets to mention is the not so picturesque 129,000 oil and gas wells that fill the skyline. It fails to warn visitors that Denver was ranked the eighth most ozone-polluted urban area in America. It neglects to forewarn of the 3.4 million acres of dead trees that act as kindling for deadly and destructive wildfires.
The reality is our state is changing and it is changing fast. Climate change is here, the impacts are real, dangerous and worsening every day the COGCC continues to ignore the climate impacts of oil and gas.
Not only do we know carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change, we know methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 100 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
Natural gas is the largest source of methane emissions in Colorado. The combustion and flaring of oil and gas releases carbon dioxide and the extraction process results in significant methane emissions. Due to improper enforcement of regulations and research on methane leakage from fracked wells, Colorado has seen wells with leakage rates of over four percent. This leakage offsets any potential natural benefits over coal.
Colorado is already experiencing the impacts of climate change:
- Our average temperature has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years and projections say the state’s average temperature could be five degrees higher by 2050.
- 63 of Colorado’s 64 counties have been affected by at least one federally-declared weather disaster since 2010.
- Our wildfire season is 105 days longer than it was in 1970. In fact, the 10 largest fires in Colorado’s history have occurred since 2002.
- Climate change will impact our health through: extreme weather events, increased infectious diseases, water scarcity, worsening mental health, increased allergens, heat stress, air pollution, food shortages and more.
Not only is Colorado an oil and gas state, it is a mountain state. A state whose livelihood depends on the snow. Job security is a health issue and climate change threatens the jobs of thousands of Coloradans, especially those who work outdoors. This includes the ski and ride industry which employs over 46,000 individuals As a ski instructor, I see the direct impacts of climate change on our snowpack and how it could devastate an industry that so many of us take for granted.
It is the COGCC’s statutory obligation to protect “public health, safety, and welfare including protection of the environmental and wildlife resources.” Failing to consider the climate impacts of oil and gas is failing to uphold your statutory duties. By continuing to approve permits for new wells and failing to properly research and regulate methane leakage, you are failing to protect Coloradans.
I stand before you to say you are wasting taxpayer dollars in appealing a finding that that oil and gas leasing regulation must be done while protecting human health. Until the commission can prove substantial evidence it is upholding its statutory obligations, we demand that you cease further leasing as you evaluate cumulative impacts especially those of climate change.