FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 22, 2020
Patricia Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 337-532-0135
Therese Gilbert, email@example.com, 970-775-3725
GREELEY, CO – At the end of a school day in March, mothers, teachers, and community members collected signatures from parents at Bella Romero Academy in Greeley on a petition demanding Gov. Polis shut down the fracking wells behind the school. The action followed a report, from nonprofit 350 Colorado, showing elevated levels of benzene at the school on numerous occasions from October 2019 to December 18, 2019. Yesterday, on Father’s Day, the petition was delivered to Gov. Jared Polis with over 70 parent signatures and more than 1,000 supporting signatures collected online.
“As a mother, I feel helpless when our children have to go to school and they are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals,” said Patricia Nelson, whose son is a Bella Romero student. “We had to fight to have an air monitor at our school, and now we know that our children are being put in danger by this state-sanctioned project. No one can guarantee the safety of my son and his classmates, nor can they guarantee that this will not affect them for the rest of their lives.”
The fracking wells behind Bella Romero Academy have been in the national spotlight since the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved permits for 24 wells less than 700 feet from the playground in March of 2017. The controversial project was initially slated to go behind a more affluent charter school in Greeley, but when Extraction Oil and Gas was pressured to abandon this site, they purchased land behind a low-income public school further east of town. Since 2016 there have been numerous rallies, protests, and even a lawsuit in coordinated effort to stop the project from moving forward.
Patricia Nelson and Therese Gilbert, a mother and teacher in the district who submitted the signatures, are asking Gov. Polis to stop the drilling and for the state to adopt protective measures that would increase monitoring near schools. COVID-19 has exposed systematic disparities and gaps that affect black and brown communities, including access to clean air. Weld County is one of the top producing counties in the state contributing to an F rating in air quality. Bella Romero is a predominantly low-income school with the majority of the students identifying as Latino, some come from mixed-status households. Continued pollution near the school will make the students more vulnerable during a respiratory pandemic.
“The students at Bella Romero have no choice but to attend their neighborhood school,” said Therese Gilbert, a teacher in the district and founding member of Weld Air & Water. “The students at Bella Romero depend on us to keep them safe, and any risk taken with their health and safety is a risk too great.”