Anti-fracking group threatens ballot measure

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Residents of the region who oppose using hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling say they will try to mount a ballot measure to ban fracking within the city limits of Colorado Springs.

Fracking is a process by which drillers mix sand, water and chemicals and inject the material into the well to jar loose deposits that otherwise wouldn't be recoverable.

The debate has heated up locally because Ultra Resources of Houston wants to drill within the city limits on 18,000 acres it bought last year out of a developer's bankruptcy. The land was part of the Banning Lewis Ranch that flanks the city's east side.

Colorado Springs fracking

Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights, formed Aug. 31, issued a lengthy statement of their goals and explanations of how they arrived at those goals this morning. Essentially, there's suspicion that fracking could befoul groundwater and cause other environmental damage.

They say they'll show up at the City Council meeting today. Since this matter isn't on the agenda, they'll be given the normal three to five minutes to speak during public comment, presumably.

Here's the release issued by the group:

Citizens for Community Rights Initiating Petition Campaign
To Place A Rights Based Charter Amendment Banning Fracking On Ballot In The Spring or Fall of 2013
The Colorado Springs City Council, the Council’s Oil and Gas Committee and the City Planning Commission have all consistently ignored most of the input from its citizens on the oil and gas drilling and fracking issue.
There has to date only been one city council meeting where significant public input was allowed, and even then for only 3 minutes per person. At the end of the presentations City Council ignored all of the recommendations and simply voted to accept the recommendations of the Oil and Gas Committee.
The City Oil & Gas Committee did not allow public input at its meetings, even from its alternates. After the rather controlled “town hall” meeting, at which people were only allowed to meet as a whole group for 30 minutes or so, it was easily apparent, and also from the committee’s own report, that the vast majority of the people in attendance wanted strict regulation of oil and gas drilling and fracking (if it were allowed at all) in Colorado Springs. Yet the committee continues to recommend only very limited regulation of oil and gas drilling and fracking.
The Colorado Springs City Council has not analyzed the economic impact of oil and gas drilling and fracking on the City of Colorado Springs, even though oil and gas drilling is likely to harm our tourist industry and at least some property values, create very few jobs for local people, and cause an increase in the cost of many city services such road repair and hiring and training of emergency crews. (See the attached flier titled, False Promises and Hidden Costs: The Illusion of Economic benefits from Fracking by Food and Water Watch at www.foodandwaterwatch.org.)
The UCCS study titled Advanced Drilling and Regional Energy Management: The Impacts of Oil Drilling in El Paso County, which was very much touted by the press, is in some ways informative, but is also in many ways misleading and very biased, sounding many times like a mouthpiece of the oil and gas industry.
The study states for example: on p iii, “Sources were limited to …authorities and/or …professionals in the field of oil drilling.”
Page 66 is an environmental white wash. It states, “The following technological advancements have been implemented to address the environmental concerns discussed: properly cased and sealed wells…monitoring…replacing open waste pits with closed-loop systems…As technology continues to advance, it can be expected that the oil and gas industry will continue to adopt best practices to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations.”
Although the technological advancements mentioned in the above paragraph exist, they are not likely to be used unless the industry is forced to use them. As people from Huerfano County have pointed out based on many years of direct experience, the oil and gas companies are only concerned with their bottom line; they do not seem to be concerned about anything else.
Another statement directly from industry PR appears on p 1, “…hydraulic fracturing has become increasingly… a topic of debate…However, what is often not discussed is this technique has been utilized since the late 1940s.” The truth is that fracking, as it is done now, is not the same as it was over half a century ago. Fracking now uses much higher water pressures, a witch’s brew of harmful chemicals, tons of water, and travels long distances horizontally underground.
Most of the jobs created by the oil and gas industry will go to people already trained and experienced in oil and gas, the majority of employees will be migrant oil workers. See p 130, 133.
The study only focuses on the local industries that are helped by oil and gas, nothing is said about the negative effect on, for example, tourism. See p 131, 161. Nor is there any attempt made to evaluate the economics of pollution, damage to peoples’ health, and damage to our water, air and soil caused by, in this case, oil drilling including fracking. (The study focused on oil drilling.)
The Colorado Springs City Council has not listened to the warnings of its own citizens, leaders of other local governments in Colorado, and to the voices of academic experts and governments from around the world. The City Council has not researched the negative health and environmental effects of fracking, nor has it researched all of its legal options. This Council has thus blindly consistently voted to require very little regulation of the polluting oil and gas industry while ignoring the growing evidence that oil and gas drilling using fracking is very likely to endanger the health of our citizens and pollute our water, air and soil.
Since the U S Government, the State of Colorado and this Council are not protecting the Citizens’ of Colorado Springs rights to be healthy, to have clean air, clean water and clean soil, we citizens, calling ourselves the Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights (CSCCR), are going to be initiating a petition campaign to place a rights based charter amendment banning fracking on the ballot in either April or November of 2013.
CSCCR has signed an engagement letter with the Pennsylvania based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund http://celdf.org/ , which is in the process of assisting us with the drafting of a rights based charter amendment http://celdf.org/section.php?id=39 .
There have been approximately fourteen rights based ordinances, or charter amendments, that ban fracking adopted by local governments across the US http://celdf.org/ordinance-archive?preview=1&cache=0 , and there has not thus far been one law suit against any of these local governments.
In addition to the petition campaign CSCCR will be initiating an educational campaign. As part of that campaign we are today presenting the Colorado Springs City Council nine copies of the movie Gas Land, and the flier False Promises and Hidden Costs: The Illusion of Economic Benefits from Fracking. The director of Gas Land, Josh Fox, has also done a second anti-fracking movie called The Sky Is Pink, and a third movie is scheduled to be released soon.
The very informative Fracking Colorado Springs: Debunking the Myths and Stating the Facts will be back in Colorado Springs in January. The next Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights (CSCCR) Meeting: 6:30PM — 8:30PM, Thursday, September 27, 2012, Penrose Library Adult Room.

City Council is due to enact oil and gas regulations for the city on Sept. 25.

Meanwhile, the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group of petroleum interests, issued this press release yesterday regarding a proposed rule that would restrict the use of fracking, and, hence, diminish domestic production:

Today, Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) President and CEO Barry Russell and Western Energy Alliance President Tim Wigley sent a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar, requesting a meeting to discuss the impending rule for well stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing, on federal and Indian lands.

The two trade associations representing thousands of independent, mainly small oil and natural gas producers, pointed to a recent economic analysis of the proposed rule that shows a cost to society of about $1.5 billion annually. These added costs will undoubtedly divert productive resources away from American energy development, job creation, and economic growth, and further disadvantage states with federal and Indian lands.

IPAA and Western Energy Alliance filed joint comments today which detailed how the implementation of these rules would negatively affect America’s oil and natural gas producers.

From the letter:

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed rule will have enormous implications for America’s oil and natural gas producers. The proposed rule is unnecessary, excessive and requires actions that no state currently regulating oil and natural gas production deems necessary, based on their decades of regulatory experience. The effort will also place undue economic burdens and time delays on independent producers that will inevitably drive many smaller companies away from exploring for oil and natural gas on federal lands.

Onshore federal lands hold an opportunity for increased production of American energy. This benefits our nation with greater energy security, increased employment opportunities and higher royalty revenues to the federal government. The proposed rule with its one-size-fits-all federal approach to regulating well construction, disclosure and water management overrides states which have been successfully regulating oil and natural gas activities for decades with an exemplary safety record.

The BLM should look for opportunities to work with the individual states and allow them to do their job, not enact another set of burdensome regulations that will only further drive small oil and natural gas producers from operating on federal lands.

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