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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.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?
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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