By youth activist and 350 Colorado Board Co-Chair Katessia Robertson

Photo: Christian O’Rourke

My name is Katessia, I use they/she pronouns. I am 23 years old and got involved with 350 Colorado’s Youth Action Committee through an internship at 350 Colorado I started last September. I am now one of two youth voices on 350 Colorado’s Board of Directors. 

Through working with 350, I learned about environmental injustices related to the Oil and Gas industry in the state of Colorado by listening to peoples’ personal stories. These stories ranged from their children developing lung cancer after wells were introduced near their homes to cases of environmental racism. I soon got involved with the Fracking Action Committee and learned about the public commenting process at the COGCC.

The people of Colorado have submitted hundreds of public comments in opposition to permit applications, but the COGCC has only denied one oil and gas development plan since SB19-181 was passed almost 3 years ago. Even opposition from local governments on drilling has been ignored. With that being said, what power does the public have to protect themselves from oil and gas? We need our leaders to hold them accountable. 

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has approved over 5600 new oil and gas wells since Gov. Polis took office, including permits for over 1,000 fracking wells in the last few months alone, despite the objections of community members and leaders in impacted communities. These permits are especially negligent of the needs of Black, Latino, and Indigenous people in Aurora and Weld County who are already facing multiple sources of air pollution and the consequent health effects. Environmental justice includes racial justice, SB19-181 should be protecting these communities, but it has not been followed as intended.

“Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire. Because it is.” – Greta Thunberg

I wanted to share this quote because it represents how powerless and isolated it feels to be a youth at this moment in history. Youth and future generations are a disproportionately impacted community when it comes to climate change. We need to be listened to more and should be in more spaces that talk about environmental justice. We will be around longer than the people currently in power making decisions that determine the safety of our future. 

Katessia Robertson

As a youth, I am disappointed by Governor Polis’s oversight of the COGCC, and of the COGCC in general. They say they want to protect “public health, safety, welfare, and the environment” but continue to approve oil and gas drilling and fracking projects that harm our health, climate, air, and water. The government has the power to ensure a safe and clean environment for everyone, including children and future generations. 

We are disappointed as a community and expect and need our leaders to do better.  When are you going to step up and be climate leaders that speak for us? We need to act now and need support from people of all ages in this movement. We won’t stop fighting back until they stop approving permits and phase out oil and gas.

The Youth Action Committee is asking you to join us in calling out not only the harmful actions Gov. Polis and the COGCC has made, but to call out their explicit inaction too. We are asking to phase out permitting for oil and gas wells by 2030 and a just transition to a clean renewable energy future.

Ready to take action? Start by signing onto this support letter and sharing it with your community. 

Finally – I wrote Governor Polis a poem, and want to share it with you here. 

Hey Governor Polis

We need you to focus

We heard a rumor 

You’re not investing in our future

Listen to the youth 

We know the truth

Please trust us

When we call for environmental justice

Be strong climate leaders

Not earth heaters 

SB19-181 is not being followed as passed

So please stop permitting oil and gas