Friday, January 25, 2013

How Badly Did Colorado Springs City Council Sell Out Its Citizens? 9.9 on a 1-10 Scale

Things are not looking good here on the Front Range in Colorado. Cancer incidence is increasing (likely from over 1,800 fracking wells shooting crap into the water supply), even as health care costs, treatment expenses rise, and the drought is pulverizing our land into crumbly dust.  In terms of the latter, the Colorado Springs Utilities' January water outlook received scant attention last week in one Council meeting, but it ought to have.

Right now, Colorado Springs is in a "Stage One" drought declaration. Voluntary restrictions ask customers to water no more than one day per month. In the upper Colorado River basin, snowpack Jan. 4 was 64 percent of normal. Given that the National Weather Service's three-month forecast predicts above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the northern, central and southern Rockies, it seems highly unlikely that snowpack will reach anything like normal levels.

In early summer of 2011, the city's reservoirs were at 83 percent of capacity, holding enough water to meet more than two years of demand. Since then, storage has dropped to 48 percent. If the drought persists, and the city doesn't implement restrictions it has planned, storage could drop to 25 percent of capacity by this fall, with less than a year's demand in reserve. That means if a fracking permit is issued, as the City Concil intends to do, we are all basically fucked. As one water officer who works for a local university quipped:" "By the time the water runs out we'll all be drinking recycled wastewater anyway".

For those not in the know, that means using a system that recycles the water from your toilet, and delivers it straight to your tap! Once fracking begins, that means you'll not only get the benefits of filtered shit, piss and assorted prescription drugs but also fracked chemicals. WUNDERBAR! 

In 2012, Colorado Springs received 8.11 inches of precipitation, less than half of normal. The 2012 average temperature was above normal. In its seasonal drought outlook, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts drought conditions will persist or intensify for all of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona. And yet communities in many of these regions are prepared to add water-wasting fracking to their existing water-starved regions. Let's recall each fracked well consumes millions of gallons of clean, potable water in order to fracture rock and release natural gas and shale oil. It is part and parcel of what's driving up the cancer rates throughout our once beautiful state, while also sullying the landscape.

Flash to Colorado Springs. The City Council some two months ago decided it needed more money in its coffers, to run city services, so allowed a re-zoning plan to enable Ultra Petroleum of Houston to frack away. You see, although the Springs is a military enclave and for decades has helped settle military by the tens of thousands here (using the trope that they will "add to the economy") the truth is somewhat different. What they've actually done is added social -economic costs with  more burdens to local schools - beleagured by costs even before the Ft. Hood contingent arrived, as well as burdens on local hospitals, roads-highways, not to mention crimes. (Many of the most lurid recent killings-murders, rapes, have been by miitary perps.)

So, given that the military has not exactly fulfilled the Council's fiscal ambitions for our Burg, they've gone to the frackers, even though these assholes know damned well we're in serious Stage One drought and fracking will wreak havoc on citizens' health. While a form of what we refer to generically as "fracking" has been around for years, the new method involving high-pressure and horizontal drilling, such as Ultra Petroleum has planned for Colorado Springs, is neither well-established nor well-regulated (see "Gray matters"). Even the industry admits the research is not complete enough to know what the right setbacks should be.

According to Dem U.S. Rep. Jared Polis,:"While the newly proposed 500 foot buffer zone between operators and residences is better than current rules, it is not enough. In Colorado, a commercial diesel vehicle is prohibited from idling for more than five minutes within 1,000 feet of a school. The fact that drilling operations require diesel-powered compressor pumps and engines argues for a standard at least as strict as for that of a single diesel truck."

That's an apt comment, but we should add that spills and leaks are much more common than the industry leads us to believe, and Ultra Petroleum's record is one of the worst. The company bought a bunch of land to the city's east side that was not zoned for drilling under the law. But the good ol' City council and Mayor Steven Bach are considering changing the rules for this company — and any others — to allow drilling in all zones. ALL zones! That means they could set up a frack operation right next door if they had a mind to! Cancer chemicals here we come.

A citizens voice meeting has been mentioned, but many here fear that the Council will have a sneak meeeting in private with little or no advance notice. Those of us from outside City Hall want a real public hearing, where we can hear from scientists, researchers, members of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management as well as experts on water and health, property values, infrastructure and tourism.

The citizens of Colorado Springs deserve to have their questions answered by professionals not employed by the oil and gas companies, at a public forum set up only for this subject,. This also needs to be at a time of day most people can attend, and not on the same day as the vote on the regulations is scheduled.

What we really need or ought to have done, is used a referendum like Longmont did, to ban these gas-frackers altogether.

Meanwhile, the drought goes on....and so do the cancers.

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