Anne Harper and her neighbors feel powerless to stop the Encana Corporation from adding 12 gas wells within a half mile of their homes in Pleasant View Ridge – a rural community that straddles unincorporated Boulder and Weld counties.
Harper doesn’t own mineral rights on the land, so she would have no legal recourse should there be any underground chemical leaching, blocked roads, spillage, explosions, noise pollution or any other infringement on her quality of life often associated with hydraulic fracturing.
Monday, she joined more than 30 fracking opponents packing a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meeting in Greeley to charge the commission with failing to regulate energy development “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources,” as the commission states in its mission.
Coloradans Against Fracking, a coalition of 40 groups, showed up to declare that the commission is an illegitimate representative of the public interest. After delivering their message, the group walked out.
CAF’s two-page declaration accuses the COGCC of privileging the oil and gas industry while shutting out citizens’ input.
“Toxic air pollution, explosions, fires, earthquakes, and toxic spills contaminating ground water and polluting rivers and streams all continue to occur,” the declaration states. “Therefore, Coloradans Against Fracking must, in all moral conscience, reject any authority the failed Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission claims to hold.”
The meeting was convened to discuss two recommendations from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s oil and gas taskforce. The first recommendation would require oil and gas companies to consult with local governments about the location of large scale facilities. The second calls on companies to keep towns and cities in the loop about long-term extraction plans. Both are meant to facilitate more collaboration between industry and municipalities.
COGCC’s outreach meetings along the Front Range and Western Slope are designed to make space for input from local governments and other stakeholders, but activists say their voices aren’t being heard.
Harper called the COGCC “ineffective and non-communicative” with community members like herself “who have been fighting to preserve the Pleasant View area from these egregious industrial sites that will ruin our lives.”
In an email to The Colorado Independent, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Todd Hartman said COGCC “respectfully disputes these many assertions.” In response to the declaration, he “would simply point to our long record of work across all interests to strike the right balance in regulating the development of our important energy resources and protecting communities and our environment.”
The COGCC listening tour already visited Broomfield, Brighton and Rifle. After its final stop in Durango on Thursday, the commission will start drafting rules to be reviewed in formal stakeholder meetings at the end of summer or early fall.
Photo via Karen Updike, Coloradans Against Fracking.