Guest Post: An open letter to Colorado lawmakers

“We shouldn’t have to fear for our health, safety, and well-being while we’re supposed to be focused on learning,” students say 

Guest Post: An open letter to Colorado lawmakers

NOTE: The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact tips@coloradoindependent.com.Dear state legislators,

As students in Colorado, we may not be able to vote. But we will not remain quiet when matters that affect us come up at the state Capitol.

We are writing to you today with a unified voice to express our disappointment over the failure of House Bill 1352 [Ed. note: The Republican-controlled Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on May 2 killed the bill, which would have measured setbacks on oil and gas drilling from school property boundaries rather than school buildings.] Colorado students and teachers deserve a true 1,000-foot buffer from oil and gas wells.

Currently, Colorado’s laws require oil and gas activity to be 1,000 feet away from school buildings. But there is no legal limit to how far this heavy industrial activity should be from school playgrounds, outdoor lunch areas, modular classrooms, or athletic fields. HB-1352 made a commonsense adjustment to the law in order to protect us — and future students — from the impacts of oil and gas.

What are the impacts of having oil and gas activity near schools?

Between 2006 and 2015, a total of 116 fires and explosions in Colorado were reported at oil and gas operations – roughly one fire or explosion every month.* A fire or explosion near a school could have dire consequences. Just last year, a football game in Greeley, Colorado, was evacuated due to a nearby well’s valve failure. In Frederick, Colorado, an oil storage tank fire 1,800 feet from Legacy Elementary School required students and teachers to shelter in place. And we know the effects of oil and gas accidents are not restricted to 1,000 feet. A recent well blowout in Hudson, Colorado, sprayed a mist of oil, gas, and drilling waste water over an area 2,000 feet long by 1,000 feet wide.

But fires and explosions aren’t the only threat to students like us. Oil and gas activity releases pollutants into the air that are harmful to our health. Students — especially young children, who are far more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution than adults — should not have to attend school in industrial zones. As the state continues to learn about the exact impact that oil and gas drilling has on our health, they shouldn’t allow students like us to be so exposed to harmful toxins, and should give us the buffer zone required for every other industrial activity.

There are already 59 schools in Colorado that are either close to oil and gas operations or have the potential for oil and gas development within 1,000 feet of the school property. That means thousands of us are already at risk when we go to school.

Whether we’re playing in sandboxes, eating lunch at picnic tables, or training to become all-star athletes — we shouldn’t have to worry about fires, explosions, and air pollution. We shouldn’t have to fear for our health, safety, and well-being while we’re supposed to be focused on learning.

After the failure of House Bill 1352, we’re left to ask our legislators only one thing: what is it going to take for you to stand up for us, the students of Colorado?

Signed,

Esmeralda Aguilar, Student in Denver

Brenna Anders, Student at Horizon High School

Carlos Acosta, Student at New America High School

Marina Apodaca, Student at Vista Academy

Dominic Baca, Student at MSU Denver

Kaylene Barriento, Student at Hinkley High School

Joselyn Campo, Student at Abraham Lincoln High School

Torrie Carter, Student at Vista Academy

Karen Castillo, Student in Denver

Dana Chavez, Employee at a Denver elementary school

Charles DeHerrera, Student at University of Denver

Cexochitle Delatorre, Teacher at Alameda International High School

Sonia Del Real, Parent at Escuela de Guadalupe

Tony Diego, Parent at Edgewater Elementary

Jocelyn Dominguez, Student at New America High School

Virginia D’Orazio, Teacher at Thornton High School

Ashoya Edwang, Denver

Asnok Edwang, Denver

Jessica Espinoza, Student at MSU Denver

Felicia Frantz, Teacher at Alameda International

Zoey Frantz, Student at Rose Stein Elementary

Stacey Garay, Student at Hinkley High School

Lynette Garcia, Student at University of Colorado Denver

Kendra Hamblin, Teacher at Erie Middle School

Gema Hernandez, Commerce City

Moses Izeta, Teacher at ACE Community Challenge Charter School

Cristian Lora, Student at Thornton High School

Elena Madrid, Parent in Westminster

Tara Majuk, Aurora

Andres Martinez, Teacher at Thornton High School

Cora Martinez, Student at Hinkley High School

Alondra Ibarra Martinez-Kimble, Student at Hinkley High School

Xioana Mejias, Student at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts

Alissa Minatta, Teacher at Mountain Phoenix Community School

Cian Mitchell, Student at West Gate Community School

Amelea Montoya, Student in Westminster

Arianna Montoya, Student at Alameda High School

Rich Norris, Parent at Jeffco Schools

Lupita Ortega, Student at Abraham Lincoln High School

Lorena Osorio, Parent at Westminster High School

Kynell Perry, Aurora

Erin Ressel, Parent at Jeffco Schools

Griselda Reyes, Denver

Angel Rocha, Denver

Nancy Rodriguez, Parent at Foster Elementary

Maria Rojas, Parent in Westminster

Franchesca Ruehrwein, Parent at Arvada West

Elena Santos, Student at Hinkley High School

Mark Sherman, Teacher at Dakota Ridge High School

Victoria Small, Teacher at Mountain Vista Community School

Cittali Solis, Student at Alameda International

Tiffany Stewart, Parent at ACE Community Challenge School

Andrea Syko, Parent at Emory Elementary

Linda Symank, Teacher at Thornton High School

Malik Turner, Student at Vista Academy

* Blair, Benjamin D., et al. “Is reporting “significant damage” transparent? Assessing fire and explosion risk at oil and gas operations in the United States.” Energy Research & Social Science 29 (2017): 36-43.Photo: Older vertical wells 200 feet from homes next to Silver Creek Elementary School in Thornton, Colorado. Photo by Ted Wood/The Story Group.

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About the Author

Concerned Denver area students

1 Comment

  1. Paul Noel Fiorino on said:

    A very impressive list of brave Students,Teachers and Parents who
    Are asking for help from those now
    Running for office to address their
    Concerns. Maybe vote Unaffiliated for the Legislators, or for Governor. Children Must have a healthy environment and it is time to clean up
    Colorado for ALL.

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