One of the many signs displayed at the COGCC hearing Monday, June 11th in Greeley. Protesters and those who offered public testimony focused on protecting children’s health and safety.

On Monday this week, 350 Colorado joined scores of other concerned Coloradans in offering public statement at the June Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearing held in Greeley. Below is one of the statements made on behalf of 350 Colorado. To learn more about Monday’s events, including a rally of protest at Bella Romero Academy – a 4th-8th grade Greeley school where fracking operations are underway less than 1,000 feet from school property – watch the Channel 2 news coverage here. 

Hello, I’m Deb McNamara, a concerned mother of three young boys. I’m speaking today both personally as well as on behalf of 350 Colorado, an organization representing 12,000 Coloradans who are calling for a safe, just and healthy future for our children and future generations.

The COGCC is charged with fostering responsible development of Colorado’s natural resources while also protecting public health and safety. However, in light of growing population along the Front Range coinciding with a spike in oil and gas production, many Coloradans including myself are concerned that public health and safety are being overlooked in favor of industry.

My oldest son is 8, and just going into 4th grade. While he isn’t a student at Bella Romero, the fact that you have issued a permit so close to a 4th-8th grade school makes me fearful for the health and safety of elementary and middle school children across the state. I was struck by County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer’s statement regarding living in proximity to a drilling operation. She said, “If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t move in next to it.” However, what choice do our children have? How can a child choose not to go to school if a drilling operation is in close proximity?

The operation at Bella Romero Academy sheds light on the mounting tension faced in our state regarding the intersection of oil and gas development with public health and safety. The COGCC states that one of your primary values is to “earn the trust of the People of Colorado every day.” You also state that the COGCC is “committed to protecting public health and the environment as you are to fostering the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas resources.”

For many of us, including myself, the trust has been broken. On your website you state that you value responsiveness, fairness and accountability, along with “improving every day.” I urge you to consider your stated values – and to remember your commitment to earning the trust of the People of Colorado. What can be done differently from today forward in order to earn back this trust?

First and foremost: drop the appeal of the Martinez court decision that directs the COGCC to prioritize public health and safety as a precondition to permitting oil and gas development.

Secondly, show the public that you are in line with current public health studies that point to increased cancer risk, asthma, birth defects and low birth weight when in close proximity to oil and gas operations. Show us that you remember that a child’s body, as opposed to an adult’s body, is more susceptible to the effects of toxicity and pollution. Show us that you remember that a child’s developing endocrine system is more susceptible to chemical interactions. Show us that you remember that the lifetime cancer risk of those living with 500 feet of a well is eight times higher than the maximum level considered acceptable by the EPA. Put health and safety first.

I leave you with a statement from one of our youth, who shares the following:

I would like to ask you this: how much do you value our future generation? How much do you want to find a cure for cancer, and stamp it out altogether? How much do you want our children to grow up happily and healthily?

If the answer to any of those questions was “a lot”, “very much”, or even “a bit”, then – please, for the sake of your children, grandchildren, and all of Colorado’s children – stop and think.

Extraction has just been permitted to begin fracking right outside Bella Romero school. For those of you who do not know, fracking is one of the worst ways of ruining the air that we breathe. Exposing children to these harmful gases at such close proximity will inevitably result in many of them developing asthma, cancer, and other serious health problems. It is widely known that numerous public health studies have shown increased rates of cancer, lung disease, endocrine system disruption and other serious impacts of people living too close to oil and gas development. These health risks are why numerous states and entire countries have banned fracking.  New York’s state health commissioner said their examination into fracking had found “significant public health risks”.

Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic exposures because of their small body size and developing brains and organs.  So to put this into perspective, the COGCC is giving permission for Extraction to site cancer-causing fracking operations right next to a school and knowingly exposing these children to toxins that could ruin their health and potentially their lives. These children are also being exposed to unacceptable risks of explosions and fires, of which there have been 15 in the last year alone, some deadly. Evacuation zones are typically ½ mile – far greater than the distance between Bella Romero and Extraction’s proposed wells.

Bella Romero has hundreds of students, and as you might expect, many families are gravely concerned about Extraction’s plans. Would any of us knowingly expose our own children or grandchildren to these dangers and potentially ruin their lives by exposing them to cancer-causing gases being pumped into the air just 1000 ft away from them, 5 days a week? I think not.

COGCC members have been made aware of these dangers and yet continue to permit drilling far closer than the best available science indicates is safe, so COGCC should expect to be held responsible when disaster strikes.

So, to conclude, I would like to ask you the same questions I began with. How much do you value our future generation? How much do you want to find a cure for cancer, and stamp it out altogether? How much do you want our children to grow up happily and healthily? And, how much do you think fracking practically in the playground of an elementary school will help and are you certain it is not causing harm?

If you only take one thing away from this, let it be this: we love our children; let them live their best and fullest lives. Prioritize children over industry profits. Drop the Martinez appeal and put in place an emergency moratorium on further permits until you are certain that your regulations are protecting public health and safety.

Thank you for your time.

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