Good morning, people. My name is Ed Behan and I am with the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment.
Yesterday there were many celebrations of the life and times of the late, great Martin Luther King, Jr, and his lifelong quest for social justice. And now here we are demanding environmental justice. This is sometimes dismissed as not being a related issue. However I don’t think I need to remind folks that the efforts of Cultivando, the community around the Bella Romero Academy, and tribal groups who resisted the Dakota Access Pipeline and other extractive incursions on native lands, only serve to demonstrate that the issues are intertwined and always have been.
Three years ago, with the passage of Senate Bill 19-181, this State made the remarkable first step of reordering the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to prioritize the protection of our communities’ health, our safety, and our environment.
The Larimer Alliance has advocated for improved local regulation under the mandate of that legislation, as well as lobbied at the State level during rulemaking processes.
We are all here to mark progress made. . . but also to mark that the first step taken has been a stumbling one at best. While new rules have been enacted, and new monitoring standards have been crafted, it is clear that everything from bureaucratic inertia to outright discouragement of effective enforcement has hindered our progress. This legislature has the opportunity and the duty to correct that and keep us moving forward.
Today, as in his inaugural speech last week, the governor is supposed to reaffirm his commitment to Colorado achieving the goal of having its energy needs met by 100 % renewable sources by 2040. But you all have seen the figures, you know the reality of the thousands of oil and gas permits that have been approved since he took office in 2019, and the hundreds more in the permitting pipeline. I’ll take a leap here, give Mr. Polis the benefit of the doubt, and assume we achieve the goal of Colorado’s energy needs being carbon free by the goal date. . . but where is all this oil and gas that is being developed going? I assure you, if it is not being burned here in Colorado, it is being burned somewhere else. And my friends. . . THAT AIN’T CARBON NEUTRAL!
WE ALL KNOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, AND WE NEED TO HOLD OUR LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE TO SEE THAT IT HAPPENS. THANK YOU.
In response to a significant joint letter submitted earlier in the year by six environmental groups active in the Front Range, the COGCC at last responded to repeated requests for rules about the cumulative impacts of pollution from O&G activities. See here:
In the last paragraph you will notice that the Larimer Alliance is mentioned among the other five groups: 350 Colorado, WildEarth Guardians, Womxn from the Mountain, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Sierra Club of Colorado.
The Larimer Alliance and 350 Northern Colorado staged a rally outside the County Courthouse Tuesday morning, August 30, before the County Commissioners’ administrative matters meeting. They continued to call for the County to pro-actively enforce their own oil and gas regulations. Representatives from Colorado Rising, The Plymouth Congregational Church, Foothills Unitarian Church, Citizens Climate Lobby, and the Sierra Club were also present.
This coverage from the Loveland Reporter-Herald describes the rally, and the statements made before the Commissioners’ during the public comments section of the meeting.
As noted in the coverage, the Commissioners had made statements following an executive session last week, indicating their intent to pursue more active enforcement of the County’s own regulations on new and existing oil and gas operations. This is a significant departure from their previous stance that such regulation would not be possible with existing facilities. We view this as a positive development, and hope to be part of the process of enabling such enforcement protocols.
Much of this focus on enforcement was prompted by concerns over the poorly operated Prospect Energy facilities North of Fort Collins, which had been causing health issues for local residents for years. Calls for more activity on the part of the County in dealing with this have been put forth by the Alliance and its regional allies. In another significant development, the Air Pollution Control Division finally enacted a shutdown order on the Krause tank battery in that area of Larimer County. This coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan details this State action, and includes comments from Alliance representative Doug Henderson:
Doug can also be heard in this interview on KGNU pubic radio our of Boulder, aired live just before our rally started. His section on the program picks up at about 6 minutes 50 seconds in the recording:
These are all positive developments, and none of this would have been possible without the support and teamwork of our community and our great friends in all our allied groups. There will be more attention to be paid to ensure that effective regulation is really enabled, and acted upon. Our thanks to all of you for all you do. . .
Despite a windy and chilly day, the “Keep Centerra Beautiful” rally was well attended, well organized and went on for hours. It showed there is real community spirit behind the movement to stop the McWhinney plan to drill at two fracking sites in Loveland.
Colorado Rising had organized and advertised the event, which the Larimer Alliance also helped to promote. The location was actually in Veterans Park, which is across from Lake Loveland, and the well known Loveland Heart sculpture on the north side of Eisenhower Boulevard. This was their nice graphic about it:
The event was structured around a series of speakers that included elected government representatives, a doctor from Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nationwide nonprofit, members of Colorado Rising, our spokesperson from Larimer Alliance (Ed Behan), and several “affected residents.” There was also music, from a guitarist accompanied by a singer (though I failed to get their names).
First I helped Ed set up the Larimer Alliance table:
As the crowd slowly started to gather, a musician played and sang:
A number of signs had been posted on the fence facing the busy traffic along Eisenhower Boulevard:
The speakers got started with a prayer and invocation from Colorado Rising organizer Harmony Cummings about how the event was occurring on stolen land where the Arapaho and Ute tribes used to live, and then led off with a yoga breathing exercise:
Meanwhile, other protesters waved their signs at passing cars — some of which would honk their horns in support:
Soon after the starting time at 11am, a small crowd had started to gather. As you can tell from how people are bundled up, there was a stiff, chilly wind that kept up through the day, with whitecaps on Lake Loveland:
This one visitor to the Larimer Alliance table shared her pet tortoise, Tiki, and their protest sign — small in size, big in heart:
Another animal protester shared their sign:
First to speak was Larimer County Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally:
Commissioner Shadduck-McNally spoke powerfully and eloquently about the need for local governments to use their legal authority to regulate oil and gas operations, and for we citizens to continue to attend meetings, and “ask the hard questions” of their elected representatives. The crowd repeatedly applauded during her short speech, and gave her a resounding closing applause. It was a decidedly pro-community, pro-safety and pro-healthy environment stance.
Next to speak was a member of the Loveland city council, Andrea Samson:
Councilmember Andrea Samson likewise asserted that local governments have the right — and the duty! — to protect the health, safety and environmental quality of their communities from the oil and gas industry. Reciting every other Loveland city council member by name and their respective wards, she exhorted Loveland residents to call up, write to or meet with their council representative, and demand that they take action on the McWhinney fracking proposal. The decision to allow the proposal to go forward or not rests entirely with the Loveland council; so this is why Loveland residents need to let their will known to them.
Next in the line of elected representatives to speak was Christiaan van Woudenberg:
Mr van Woudenberg has been on the Erie Board of Trustees (their version of a city council) for four years, and was recently reelected to another term. He and his family have resided in Erie for over a decade, and his progressive views on how Erie should develop in a sustainable manner are well known. Christiaan was outspoken in his support for stopping residential drilling of any new fracking wells, and also called out to those in the crowd to “get engaged” and speak to their elected representatives — repeatedly! He also got a rousing round of applause for his impassioned delivery.
By now the crowd had grown to around 75 folks or so, as shown here:
At the microphone is “an affected resident”, who identified as Ramone, and lives near where one of the proposed Centerra drilling sites could go in. He was rather upset at the prospect, and made it quite clear he did not want such a destructive and polluting operation be allowed to happen so close to residential neighborhoods.
Next up was Sandra Duggan, one of the organizers with Colorado Rising:
She is also an Erie resident, and shared her personal story — or horror story, as it came across — of having to endure the nightmare of a fracking operation being conducted in proximity of her family’s home. The suffering was inflicted in multiple ways: by the inescapable noise of drilling rigs, generators and trucks, the blazing light panels that are kept on 24×7 during the drilling and fracking phases, and then the insidious air pollution, which could be tainted with who knows what VOCs and methane, besides the diesel fumes produced by the trucks and generators. She is now pregnant with her first child, and has real fears about the endocrine disruption that can occur, and potentially even transmitted to her baby. In an effort to protect themselves, her family has installed a thousand dollars worth of air filtering equipment in their home. Her moving story was painful to hear.
The next “afflicted resident” to speak was Kathy Kemper, who actually lives about 450 feet from the Knight Pad drilling site near Union Reservoir:
Kathy minced no words in her own “horror story” of how awful it is to have live just a few hundred feet from a massive fracking site. Her family’s quality of life that they had sought on their six acre property has been destroyed. Despite the operator’s placement of “sound barrier walls” around the perimeter of the operation, they still endured sleepless nights from the noise. The paintings on their walls would tremble from the vibrations of passing trucks. Cracks have appeared in their walls. One of their doors can no longer be closed since the door framed has skewed by the vibrations coming through the earth. Cathy was damn mad, and wanted the crowd to get damn mad with her, and then do something about it through their government.
Following Kathy, another organizer from Colorado Rising spoke next, Harmony Cummings:
She shared that she had worked in the oil industry for eight years, in North Dakota, where the large Bakken fracked oil fields are located. She saw close up the industry does not care in the least for its environmental destruction, or how much it damages the health of people in the area affected by their activity, or even for the health and safety of its own workers — not to mention the effect the industry has on global warming. Witnessing this callous indifference to its life threatening actions, much less its refusal to take responsibility for global warming, motivated her to leave the industry, and to seek out an activist organization like Colorado Rising, so she could feel like she was past of the solution, not part of the problem.
Now to address the rally was an expert in human health: Dr. Cory Carroll, who was there representing Physicians for Social Responsibility, PSR (psr.org).
He recounted stories of his own patients in the Fort Collins area, who if they describe any unusual symptoms, his first question is to ask if they know if they live near any oil and gas operations. He has had patients with unusual symptoms that defy diagnosis — other than a common characteristic being that they lived in proximity to an O&G operation. Brandishing the thick hardcopy book in the air, Dr. Carroll said the annual compendium from the PSR from the latest report about the dangers of fracking. (You can find out more about this annually updated report by clicking on this link.) This annal report, now in its 7th year, gets updated each year with new evidence of the medical dangers from fracking; it now contains over 2,000 abstracts of peer reviewed articles, reports, and studies. If you are ever challenged by anyone who wants some proof that fracking is dangerous, just show them this report!
Finally, wrapping up the lineup was the spokesperson for the Larimer Alliance, Ed Behan:
Ed delivered a concise history of how the Larimer Alliance has been focused on the political side of the issue, since forming in summer 2019 for the purpose of seeing the proper implementation of the SB-181 in Larimer County. This was the historic law passed in May 2019 that, supposedly, gave local communities, i.e. our city councils and county commissioners, the legal power equal to the state to regulate oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions. Since I have been with the Alliance since they were formed as well, I am all too familiar with this story as well.
When the Alliance was formed, we decided that we needed to focus on the county level for an effective implementation of this new law — though city governments also have this power, if (and it’s a big if) they choose to use it. In the previous year, 2018, a lone Democrat, John Kefalas, had been elected to the three person board of Larimer County Commissioners. The other two Republican commissioners had both been there for nearly three terms (or twelve years!). As we might have expected, the ensuing struggle played out along party lines, with the two Republican commissioners outvoting the lone Democrat with just about a 100 per cent record. So in that first year after SB-181, the commissioners empowered an oil and gas “task force” to come up with recommendations; and they basically changed nothing. This is well documented on our website, on this page Past commentary on County O&G Regs. We testified many times at county commissioner public meetings to express our concerns, largely to no avail (other than the satisfaction of having packed the public record.)
So, when the election year of 2020 turned out the two male term-limited Republican commissioners, and elected two female Democratic commissioners, our hopes were raised. A new task force came up with stronger regulations, though still not as strong as we would like. And so we are still pushing the commissioners on this board to take action, and use their power to protect us from this destructive and predatory industry. Our current focus is on getting a real time, continuous air quality monitoring system, such as exists in Boulder, Longmont, Erie and Broomfield; and enjoying working with Colorado Rising on that project.
Here are some other nice pictures expressing the community spirit that was on grand display at the rally: