Evaluating the performance of the Colorado Legislature and Governor John W. Hickenlooper in their duty to protect Coloradans from the harmful impacts of fracking.
The facts included in this report card demonstrate that the Colorado State Legislature and Governor John W. Hickenlooper have failed to protect the people of Colorado from the harmful impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas. Because recent scientific studies have shown that fracking operations jeopardize human health and the environment with the introduction of enormous quantities of toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has banned fracking. Vermont has also banned the practice, as have the countries of France, Scotland, and Bulgaria. Other states, such as Maryland, and countries, such as Wales, have adopted, or are considering, moratoria and bans on fracking. Coloradans deserve the same protection as the citizens of these states and countries, but, due to the failure of our legislature and Governor to take meaningful action, we continue to suffer increasing risk to our lives, our property, and our democratic rights as the State of Colorado issues more permits for more wells to be drilled and fractured near homes and schools, all while denying local communities their right to restrict these dangerous operations.
Protecting Our Climate—F
Fracking for natural gas, as well as the processing, storage, and distribution of natural gas releases climate-altering methane into the atmosphere. Over a 100-year period, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a climate disruptor. Fracking for oil also releases methane, while the consumption of oil is a leading source of the carbon pollution damaging Earth’s climate. Climate change threatens our state with more floods, forest fires, and drought—diminishing our natural resources, destroying homes, and placing additional burdens on Colorado taxpayers and water rate payers.
Protecting Colorado’s Water—F
Oil and gas operators have, on average, spilled 200 gallons of petroleum chemicals per day over the past decade. Over 700,000 gallons of toxic liquids have remained in Colorado soil after initial cleanup, often contaminating groundwater.
In 2014, operators reported almost two spills per day in Colorado, with over 10 percent of those spills contaminating groundwater. And, even after the devastating floods of 2013 inundated fracking operations and released over 90,000 gallons of oil and produced water into Colorado’s rivers and waterways, our state government still allows operators to drill new wells in Colorado’s flood plains, risking more contamination when the wells and tanks are flooded again. The University of Missouri found contamination of the Colorado River with endocrine-disrupting chemicals near sites where fracking spills had been reported and supposedly remediated. Toxic oil and gas industry spills like the one at Parachute Creek require massive cleanup operations that can take months or even years.
Protecting Colorado’s Air Quality—F
Recent studies by the University of Colorado, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others have found that oil and gas fracking operations contribute to grossly elevated levels of carcinogenic benzene in the air over the Front Range. Researchers recently measured benzene levels almost 8 times higher than government agencies had estimated.
The American Lung Association has recently rated the air quality for Front Range counties with D’s and F’s, due to ozone pollution. Over half of ozone-precursor emissions in northeastern Colorado can be traced to oil and gas production. As a result of increased pollution from fracking operations, air quality in our nine-country Front Range region is out of compliance with federal standards, placing Colorado at risk for penalties and sanctions, as well as health-care burdens.
Protecting Colorado’s Public Health—F
Studies have shown that toxins released into the air and water by fracking operations are linked to harmful short- and long-term health effects including neurological problems, cancer, and birth defects.
Ozone-precursor pollution from fracking operations aggravates asthma and other serious health problems, and diminishes the length and quality of human life—especially for children and the elderly. Victims are forced to miss school and work, while additional burdens are placed on healthcare service providers and public health programs.
Protecting Colorado’s Public Safety—F
Fires, explosions, and spills occur frequently at fracking sites in Colorado. At least seven fracking-related fires occurred on the Front Range in 2014, including one that killed a Halliburton employee. A recent fire and explosion at a fracking waste disposal facility near Greeley caused oil tanks to fly into the air. The resulting fire took hours to put out and caused four nearby homes to be evacuated. That same waste-disposal facility was linked to earthquakes in the Greeley area last year. The US Geological Survey has associated the increasing number of earthquakes in fracking regions with the disposal of billions of gallons of toxic waste into injection wells. Earthquakes threaten public safety, destroy property, and can damage infrastructure, including roads and dams.
Protecting Colorado’s Natural Environment—F
Oil and gas production is reducing the viability of rare species like the sage grouse. Habitats for deer are being fragmented and compromised by access roads and drilling pads. Our scenic values are increasingly marred by rigs and tanks, and our streams and rivers are contaminated by spills. The impacts of fracking operations on water quality, air quality, soil, and scenic values threaten Colorado’s tourism, fishing, hunting, ranching, farming, and brewing industries.
Protecting Coloradan’s Property Rights—F
The oil and gas industry is permitted to drill and frack for oil and gas against the will of surface owners and neighbors. Home values can plummet as a result of fracking taking place on or near a property, and access to loans and property insurance is sometimes denied to surface owners. Operators may also demand that mineral-rights owners lease now, against their will, or face the threat of state-mandated “forced-pooling” of their property.
Protecting Colorado Voters—F
In 2012 and 2013, voters in the cities of Longmont, Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder passed ballot measures placing moratoria or bans on hydraulic fracturing out of concern for their health, environment, well-being, and economy. Since that time, most of these communities have been sued by the industry, based on the premise that state law allows only the state to regulate oil and gas production.
The Colorado Legislature and Governor Hickenlooper have taken no action to protect these communities and others from lawsuits invalidating the will of voters or local governments. While the 2015 legislature was in session, the state of Colorado issued permits for almost 1000 new wells, in addition over 4000 permits awarded to the industry last year. Our legislators and our governor have failed to act on citizens’ pleas to stop the threat of preemption-based lawsuits when local voters and governments adopt measures to protect their residents from the harmful impacts of fracking. Local governments are still forced to spend taxpayer money to defend their voters’ rights, or surrender their rights to the oil and gas industry.
Written and compiled by Lauren Swain, 350 Colorado Fracking Specialist
CAF Report Card Sources:
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 see 2
 US Environmental Protection Agency, Overview of Greenhouse Gases-Carbon Dioxide Emissions, updated May 7, 2015. http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.htmlhttp://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html
 Howard, Brian Clark, “Amid Drought, Explaining Colorado’s Extreme Floods” National Geographic, September 13, 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130913-colorado-flood-boulder-climate-change-drought-fires/
 Finley, Bruce. “Colorado faces oil boom “death sentence” for soil, eyes microbe fix.” The Denver Post. May 4, 2014.
 see 6
 Finley, Bruce. “Oil and gas spills surge, two a day, residents often not notified.” The Denver Post. July 14, 2014. http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_26233762/oil-and-gas-spills-surge-two-day-residents
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 see 22
 US Geological Survey. “Induced Earthquakes: Featured Research Projects” May 1, 2015. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/
 McKinnon, Taylor. “1.7 Million Acre Fracking Plan Draws Protest in Colorado.” Center for Biological Diversity. April 28, 2015. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2015/fracking-04-28-2015.html
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 Conlin, Michelle and Grow, Brian. “Special Report: US builders hoard mineral rights under new homes.” Reuters. October 9, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/us-usa-fracking-rights-specialreport-idUSBRE9980AZ20131009
 Harder, Abby. “Compulsory pooling laws protecting the conflicting rights of neighboring landowners.” National Conference of State Legislatures. October 24, 2014. http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/compulsory-pooling-laws-protecting-the-conflicting-rights-of-neighboring-landowners.aspx
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