Permits for oil and gas operations in Colorado have spiked in 2018, many of them targeting schools, playgrounds, open space and residential neighborhoods. Citing lack of concern for public health and the environment, concerned Coloradans spoke in protest at today’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission public hearing in Denver. A broad group of concerned citizens including parents and their children, local community members and representatives from a host of community groups spoke, calling on the COGCC to uphold the ruling of the Martinez v. COGCC court case, which states that public health and safety must be prioritized over oil and gas interests. The COGCC appealed this ruling and has to date not dropped this appeal despite intense opposition.
Comments highlighted that the COGCC’s failure to protect the public is why the Colorado Rising statewide ballot initiative for 2,500’ fracking safety setbacks is needed. Concerned Coloradans are hoping to have a chance to vote on this issue in the upcoming midterm elections, and to enact laws to protect Coloradans, based on numerous health studies showing increased cancer, low birth weights, birth defects, respiratory distress and other serious health effects for those living or attending school in close proximity to oil and gas operations.
“While the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is charged with the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety and welfare, the COGCC continues to allow drilling less than 1000 feet from school playgrounds and has never to date refused a permit for drilling in the state of Colorado,” said Doug Henderson, representing the Sierra Club.
Colorado Senator Matt Jones spoke about an Erie mother who found toxic levels of Benzene (one of the carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking operations) in her 6-year-old’s blood after she realized that her home was surrounded by several hundred oil and gas wells, calling on the COGCC to investigate this public health concern. “It is not the job of the public to investigate these concerns, but your job,” he stated.
Members of the public cited contamination of groundwater, air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals and methane pollution as primary concerns. Concern regarding accidents including spills, fires and explosions were also cited. While the overwhelming majority of comments were directed at calling on the COGCC for increased protections, several oil and gas industry employees spoke about the need to maintain jobs in Colorado.
“We want our incoming leaders to reform the COGCC. We are calling on the new Governor and Attorney General to do more to protect Colorado communities than you each have chosen to do,” said Deborah McNamara of 350 Colorado. “We want clean, alternative energy sources and new and different jobs that will contribute to a cleaner, renewable energy future. We can do this in our state where wind and solar energy potential is plentiful.”
350 Colorado offered the following public statement:
I’m here speaking both personally about my concerns as well as on behalf of over 12,000 Coloradans who are members of 350 Colorado, a non-profit working to protect Colorado and enact solutions to climate change. We, along with a broad coalition of Coloradans, are deeply concerned about the spike in oil and gas operations in our state this year – particularly fracking operations which are encroaching closer and closer to our communities, homes and schools.
We are concerned about:
- Contamination of our groundwater.
- Air pollution associated with fracking and its negative public health impacts.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and associated health impacts.
- Methane pollution and its significant impact on climate change.
- The occurrance of and potential for accidents including spills, fires and explosions.
- And, the use of billions of gallons of freshwater, particularly in our state where drought is a real concern.
Furthermore, we are concerned that although Hundreds of people have testified at your hearings demanding that the you drop your appeal of the Court’s decision on Martinez vs. COGCC, which said that the COGCC must consider public health and safety as a precondition to permits, you continue to offer unlimited permits and appear to have no problem sitting in your seats while openly defying a court ruling specifying that public health and safety should come first when it comes to oil and gas operations.
What we want is this:
We want people, communities, public health & safety prioritized, now.
We want our incoming leaders to reform the COGCC. We are calling on the new governor and attorney general to do more to protect Colorado communities’ health and safety than you each have chosen to do.
We want you, and our state, to move to keep fossil fuels in the ground and protect our climate and future generations.
We want new forms of cleaner, renewable energy to meet our needs.
Let me be clear. We do not want to take away jobs. We DO want new jobs – and different jobs – created that will contribute to a cleaner, renewable energy future. And we CAN do this in our state where wind and solar energy potential is plentiful.
We DO want you, and our state, to move beyond the status quo and to think with big vision about the future we want for our children and grandchildren.
Our questions are as follows:
What are you, COGCC commissioners, doing that is forward thinking? Are you serving the long-term interests of our state and its residents by doling out unlimited permits?
Let us pause to consider: even though fossil fuels dominate our energy needs now, do we want to depend on them going forward when cleaner alternatives are available?
Looking for ways to take action? Sign the petition to enact fracking safety setbacks this week! In order to get on the ballot, we need 145,000 signatures by August 5th. Find a place to sign and learn more here: https://corising.org/. You can also Send a letter to protect Colorado communities from fracking.