Several letters representing broad coalitions of individuals and organizations working to enact safer setbacks from fracking, including 350 Colorado, were submitted to Governor Hickenlooper last week, calling on the Governor and the COGCC to uphold the ruling of the Colorado Appeals Court’s Martinez v. COGCC lawsuit, which ruled in 2017 that public health and safety must be prioritized over oil and gas interests. The COGCC joined with the American Petroleum Institute in appealing this decision and to date this appeal has not been dropped despite intense opposition. Nineteen Colorado cities and counties have signed an amicus brief in support of the Martinez vs. COGCC decision requiring prioritization of health and safety over oil and gas extraction. The Colorado Supreme Court heard this case on October 16th, 2018, and opponents are calling for the suspension of new oil and gas permits until the Court rules.
For over a year, hundreds of concerned Coloradans have spoken out at public hearings of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with 350 Colorado leading the effort to mobilize concerned residents of Colorado in speaking out and advocating for change at COGCC hearings. Over 1,100 complaints of illness and deaths, water contamination, and inability to sleep, work, or go outside due to sound, vibrations, and noxious odors were filed in one year alone.
141 square miles of Colorado property, nearly the size of Denver, or four times the size of Arvada, was set to be considered for forced pooling at the October 29th and 30th COGCC hearing. 350 Colorado continued to protest and offer public comment during the hearing on Monday, advocating for increased protection of public health and safety, highlighting that the failure by elected leaders and the COGCC to adequately protect public health is the reason why 172,000 Colorado voters and over 100 organizations support the chance to vote on Proposition 112 next week.
Below is the statement shared by Deb McNamara, 350 Colorado’s Campaign Coordinator at Monday’s hearing.
Over the past few months I’ve been reflecting on how truth is very rarely one sided. Yes, jobs matter. Yes, putting food on the table for our families matters. And yes, public health matters – and the stories of impacted people and communities matter too. The problem with how these issues are unfolding in Colorado right now is that you, commissioners, are unabashedly prioritizing oil and gas industry interests and perspectives above those outside of the industry calling for greater protections in our state.
Hundreds have been sharing their concerns here over this past year at these hearings. Over 1000 complaints have been filed. The Martinez v. COGCC lawsuit ruled last year that your commission prioritize public health and safety when issuing permits. And then, rather than heed that ruling your commission partnered with the American Petroleum Institute and appealed that decision and changed nothing. In 2017 alone, there were at least 13 oil and gas related fires and explosions reported in Colorado. And yet in spite of this, those of us on this side of the issue are somehow dismissed. Here we are less than a week away from a vote on Prop 112, which came into being because of the failure on the part of you, commissioners, and the failure of our elected officials to properly listen and respond to requests for more protection. We find it absolutely appalling that you are looking to approve a flurry of permits just days before Coloradans have a chance to vote on your safety standards – and that you continue to conduct business as usual even when you are in a lawsuit dictating you to conduct your permitting process otherwise.
Perhaps we should learn something from the sudden deaths among oil and gas extraction workers while opening fracking hatches. What caused at least nine oil and gas extraction workers (three of them Coloradans) to suddenly die on the job while collecting samples at fracking sites? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Exposure to high concentrations of (petroleum) hydrocarbon gases and vapors and oxygen-deficient atmospheres can pose a risk for sudden cardiac death.” Do we want that kind of risk closer and closer to our working and living spaces, or our homes and schools? Absolutely not.
Finally, commissioners – I sat behind you during the recent oral arguments in the Martinez v. COGCC case at the Colorado Supreme Court. Your lawyer made the point in his closing arguments that almost everything we do “has impacts” and the potential for harm. If you can do LESS harm, why aren’t you? Why wouldn’t you choose that? Why wouldn’t any of us choose that?
Be reminded that these requests for greater prioritization of health and safety will save lives. Please wake up to the possibility that your decisions, and your actions, can and will influence the outcome in the future.