BOULDER COUNTY – Today local community and environmental groups delivered a petition representing thousands of local residents calling on the Boulder County Commissioners to declare a ban on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), utilizing the new powers from SB 19-181. This bill enabled local governments to take action as necessary to protect public health, safety and the environment from the dangers of oil and gas operations and eliminated state preemption, which courts previously cited as the reason they ruled to overturn Longmont’s ban and Fort Collins’ moratorium on fracking. Analyses by several legal experts confirm that the “public interest” to protect public health, safety, welfare, and the environment in Colorado, as redefined in SB 19-181, provides Boulder County with a sound rationale for enacting a ban on new oil and gas operations.
In speaking to the Commissioners, environmental attorney Katherine Merlin said, “SB 181 gives you the power to take reasonable and necessary actions; and I believe banning fracking is reasonable and necessary.” Merlin pointed to Colorado’s severe ozone pollution problem from oil and gas development, the resulting public health impacts on people living where the pollution accumulates in the foothills and other areas, and the dire need to reduce emissions, which she said won’t happen just by slowing accumulating pollution.
The groups, including The Lookout Alliance, 350 Boulder County, Colorado Rising, Sunrise, Earth Guardians and other local youth Climate Strike organizers, held a press conference to outline the many reasons why a ban on fracking is needed now. Then the group representatives delivered the petition calling on the Boulder County Commissioners to ban fracking and testified during the Commission’s public comment period. The petition has been signed by groups representing more than 8,000 local residents and over 1,000 individuals so far.
“We are currently threatened with an enormous 140-well drilling project in eastern Boulder County. This is an industrial-scale project that would severely impair public health, safety and welfare, and would also be devastating to wildlife, the environment, and our County open space where the project is proposed,” said Gabrielle Katz of The Lookout Alliance. “We are calling on the County Commissioners to do everything in their power to protect us from this destructive project, and all others like it.”
This renewed call for a Boulder County ban comes amidst mounting public concern regarding fracking in Colorado and increasing evidence of public health and air quality threats tied to fracking, including a CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) study released in fall of 2019 that showed significant levels of benzene and harm to the health of people living within 2000’ of fracking. Studies by NCAR and others have shown that the oil and gas industry is a top source of ozone pollution, responsible for 40% of the pollution leading to the Front Range’s F-grade air quality.
Air quality measurements taken at the Boulder Reservoir by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), through a partnership of CU Boulder and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), have shown dangerous spikes of carcinogenic benzene that are linked to oil and gas sources wells miles away in Weld County. Additionally, Researchers from Cornell and Harvard Universities and NASA all warned in 2019 that the frightening spike in global methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) emissions over the past decade was due primarily to the surge in US fracking during that time.
“Allowing more fracking in the County would be in direct contradiction to Boulder County’s efforts to address the climate crisis and the County’s lawsuit directed at Exxon and Suncor for their role in fossil fuel development that is harming County residents,” said Deborah McNamara, Campaign Coordinator for 350 Colorado, a climate movement organization. “There is widespread evidence and concern that Boulder County residents are already being harmed by existing fracking impacts, such as deteriorating air quality, benzene and other carcinogens and toxins, and climate impacts.”
More than 70% of voters in Boulder County voted in favor of Proposition 112 in 2018, indicating clear public rejection of projects like Crestone’s 140-well plan in the County. The initiative would have prohibited oil and gas development (i.e. “fracking”) within 2500’ of public open space, homes, schools, and drinking water sources.
Boulder County’s current fracking moratorium will expire in March of 2020. The groups say that a ban is reasonable and necessary to stop development of 140 new fracking wells in Boulder County proposed by Crestone Peak Resources (a fracking company owned by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board), which would undoubtedly worsen already failing air quality, increase toxin levels, and exacerbate the climate crisis.
“There is no denying that this is an emergency; children should not have to grow up unable to breathe and play outside because they live near fracking sites and are constantly exposed to pollution,” said Nick Tuta of the Sunrise Movement. “Boulder County has a responsibility to act upon their declaration of a climate emergency and to protect people and workers from this poisonous industry. We must ban fracking and commit to creating new jobs for workers that have endured the brunt of this industry’s unsafe conditions. We need a just transition and a complete ban on all fracking. Children deserve to breathe clean air, boulder county can give that to them.”
“The only reasonable option for Boulder County is an outright ban on fracking,” said youth Climate Strike organizer and Niwot High School student Sophia Chivers. “By enacting this ban, Boulder County would be protecting itself and its people from the egregious impacts of fracking, and it would be continuing to be a progressive trailblazer, leading the way for other communities to move toward a truly sustainable state, country, and eventually world.”
The Petition can be found at https://bit.ly/2QT7FAD