Saturday, August 26, 2017

Colorado Communities Ready To 'Go To War' Against State and Frackers

A drilling rig operates in Erie in 2015.
Frack operations just outside Erie, near Denver. These wells are ruining the life quality of homeowners and destroying home values.

Little wonder now we learn (Denver Post,  Aug. 24, p. 1A)   Colorado residents are fed up  and not going to take it any more.  They are fed up with what they see as the state’s failure to protect people and the environment and are now prepared to fight fossil-fuel development inside their towns by making new rules requiring odor control, bigger setbacks and company disclosure of underground oil and gas flowlines.

They better be loaded for bear because the industry and state government are ready to fight back. As far as the state is concerned, it doesn't give a rat's ass about citizens' well being, air quality or noise pollution. It's all about grabbing oil and gas and making as much money as possible.

According to Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) lackey Dan Haley in a Denver Post interview:

The odor ordinance? We will see how that is applied in Erie.  It clearly was an effort to go after oil and gas. It will have broader impacts if it is applied aggressively.”

Referring to an odor-control measure in Erie, that allows police to hit companies with tickets for foul fumes, and which takes effect next week.

And Thornton’s latest 750-feet setback and flowline-removal rule, Haley said, is a case where “you have a City Council passing illegal regulations after a very limited stakeholder process.”

Says WHO? Why is protecting life quality and health by employing rational offsets an "illegal process"? Other states (e.g. NY) and communities (Pittsburgh) already have totally banned fracking so why not any degree of leverage here in CO?

Haley again, showing the state's and industry's true stripes:

"Oil and gas is where it is. It has been there a long time. It does not respect municipal boundaries. And while locals certainly have control over land use and some surface issues, it is best because oil and gas is of statewide interest that the state is the regulator of this industry. If you create this patchwork of rules, you will cause millions of dollars of investment to go elsewhere.”

So, in other words, if you plunk  $700,000 down for a new home and oil and gas operations commence, with rumbling noise from drilling going on all day and night, tough luck! The oil and gas was there before your home and since the state has dibs on all of it. They get to do whatever the hell they want to get it, even intruding on your living space and fouling it up.

This is a big deal. Over the past year, based on Denver Post data (Business, Aug. 20, p. 4K): about 6 in every 10 new homes started  in metro Denver carried a price tag between $400,000 and $600,000. A record low 28 percent were priced under $400,000.  And as the piece noted, "calling a $400,000 home attainable" is a stretch.  To be specific, the annual income needed to qualify for a mortgage at that price - assuming a 10 percent down payment- would be $94,000. Add on the fact that the home is usually the biggest fraction of a family's net worth can you can understand why Coloradans are peeved at oil and gas operations encroaching.

You can also understand why more citizens want to hold the state and its legislators accountable. Erie, Broomfield, Thornton and Lafayette are each developing map submission rules, with leaders saying the fatal April 17 house explosion in Firestone makes this a no-brainer.  It should! Two people were killed in that explosion because a gas well pipe was not properly shut off. .Broomfield residents also will vote on whether to change their charter to require protection of health, safety and the environment as preconditions before drilling inside city limits can be done.

According to Erie trustee, Mark Gruber:

We have statutory authority over land use. All we’re asking the industry to do is what we ask everyone else to do in our town: Show us what you’re going to build. Just tell us what is underneath the ground. How does that impact your operations?"


What is happening in this state, especially in southwest Weld County, is that municipalities are having to pass ordinances based on legal positions that they believe are firm — with the knowledge that the Colorado Oil and Gas Association or the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will take them to court. It seems like anything anybody tries to do at the local level ends up in the Supreme Court of Colorado. That’s not a cooperative, partnering environment.”

Colorado Municipal League executive director Sam Mamet is even more direct:

"What is the concern? It is citizens who are concerned about the drilling activity and everything related to it that is affecting their daily lives.   The mapping issue, sadly, has been brought to the forefront because of Firestone. The state, as well as local governments, are driven primarily by one fact only: Nobody wants to see this tragedy happen again.”

Citizens are also frustrated that Colorado lawmakers have failed to address  their concerns about underground pipelines. Legislation that would have required oil and gas companies to disclose the location of each flowline, gathering pipeline, and transmission pipeline - died. The option to even  put information out on a public website with a searchable database faced industry opposition, was dead on arrival. Meanwhile, more and more homeowners find their biggest investments rendered worthless.

Erie residents filed more than 119 complaints about odors from drilling near homes before compelling local leaders to respond. According to Monica Korber, 57, part of a group that is pushing for the mapping requirement:

"You are sitting out on your patio and – whoof – it is  like you are at a truck stop. And it is causing respiratory problems. “I’ve never had asthma before. Now I have asthma.”

She carries an inhaler and said she is hoping local police will protect residents where state officials have not. Obtaining maps of underground pipelines is crucial to prevent worse harm, she said. Adding:

We’d simply like to know what we’d possibly be exposed to if there are leaks, and we don’t want to be another Firestone,”

Will the state comply? Based on past recent history it's doubtful. In every recent case, whether trying to impose a drilling moratorium - as Longmont has - or trying to increase well offsets, the state Supreme Court has ruled for the frackers, and COGA etc.

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