Anti-fracking group in Colorado challenges state commission
Coloradans Against Fracking disrupts COGCC meeting
Coloradans Stand Against Fracking at COGCC Meeting
Coalition delivers declaration rejecting commission’s legitimacy and stages walkout
On Monday, representatives of Coloradans Against Fracking (CAF) and other concerned Coloradans staged a walkout of a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) meeting with government officials in Greeley, after issuing a declaration rejecting the COGCC’s authority as legitimate representatives of Coloradans on oil, gas, and fracking matters. This declaration was delivered in response to the COGCC’s failure to adequately address citizen complaints, as well as its blatant bias toward, and inappropriately intimate relationship with, the oil and gas industry.
“Over the past 2 years, we have watched as protective ballot initiatives were withdrawn by elected officials. We have testified at hearings and panel meetings, and we have written and encouraged others to write emails to the COGCC,” said Karen Dike, a representative of Coloradans Against Fracking. “We now realize that they are choosing not to listen to us or pay attention to studies showing that our health concerns are valid. It has become obvious that the COGCC doesn’t care about the people of Colorado, and that it is focused on fostering the oil and gas industry that is forcing extreme energy extraction on the people of our state.”
Most recently, COGCC has excluded public comment from a series of meetings currently being held with government representatives to plot out the implementation of two industry-approved recommendations from the discredited Blue Ribbon Task Force. Concerned groups and individuals say these inadequate recommendations, which the COGCC could adopt as regulations, are both dismissive and dangerous to our communities and our state.
Task Force Recommendation #17 defines the size of well pads within communities, and #20 allows oil and gas companies to dictate where they plan to drill in the future, so that space would be held and available for fracking operations within cities. Neither recommendation gives residents any protection from extreme energy production or prevents communities from being sued for establishing restrictions protecting their residents. Both measures serve the oil and gas industry, providing more evidence that the COGCC is far too closely aligned with the industry they are charged with promoting, at the expense of the people they are charged with protecting.
“The most blatant evidence of the COGCC alignment with the oil and gas industry against the people of Colorado is evidenced by the lawsuits that COGCC and COGA have instituted against the will of the communities of Longmont, Fort Collins, and others that have passed prohibitions and moratoria against extreme methods of extraction,” said Kaye Fissinger, President of Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “The intrusion into the Comprehensive Plans of towns, cities and counties is further evidence of the bullying by state government and the oil and gas industry to do whatever they want, wherever they want, and however they want with impudent disregard for the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Colorado.”
By law, the COGCC cannot simply be an enabler of wanton oil, gas, and fracking developments, and must enable development “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” Time and again, toxic emissions, spills, explosions, and other impacts demonstrate its miserable failure to do so.
“The COGCC is not representing us or other Coloradans who are not mineral holders they give rubber stamp approval to inappropriate and dangerous industrial sites around homes and schools,” said Anne Harper, whose family, along with many other Weld and Boulder neighbors, live in a pristine agricultural area are being threatened by two large-scale industrial oil and gas extraction sites, and associated petrochemical plants, within a half mile of their homes.
The families say that the channel for communication set in place by the COGCC’s public comments section with a 20-day comment period on the website haven’t manifested into actions that preserve their surface property rights. They have no recourse for being compensated if their property rights were to be violated by chemical trespass, permanent visual blight, blocked roads, threats of spills, explosions, noise violations, light pollution, and their peaceful quality of life that they believe will be destroyed by these massive industrial sites.
“The COGCC has been ineffective and non-communicative with us and many other entities who have pleaded for a withdrawal of these 24 well applications,” Harper continued, “and they have not supported my family and neighbors and other entities who have been fighting to preserve Pleasant View area from these egregious industrial sites that will ruin our lives here. The COGCC is a State entity that is not representing my family or my neighbors, thus we do not have any rights in a regime that is operating under the motto ‘taxation without representation.’ And worse yet, the director is currently able to operate with an off-balance power influence within the commission.”
Grassroots organizations in Colorado are declaring the COGCC, a tax-supported agency, both illegitimate and no longer deserving of Coloradans’ trust; until such time as it clearly demonstrates a priority in its decision-making, personnel, and organization toward the best, long-term interests of the people of Colorado, and not for a well-heeled and well-connected, special interest industry.
“This process is a sham,” said Sam Schabacker of Food & Water Watch. “The COGCC kicked it off with a cozy meeting at the industry’s headquarters and has excluded groups who support a ban on fracking. Governor Hickenlooper’s agency is doing his bidding: using an illegitimate process to let the oil and gas industry frack next to homes, schools, and parks across our state.”
“It appears, by both their words and deeds, that the COGCC kowtows to the very people they are charged with regulating,” said Sharon Carlisle of Protect Our Loveland. “How can we continue to trust them, believe in them, participate in their game? Our homes and are children are at stake.”
“Fracking poses a grave danger to the health of our communities and our climate, and the commission has done nothing to safeguard either,” said Shelby Robinson of 350 Ft. Collins, a group that recently organized a Fracking Tour of Weld and Larimer Counties.
Below is the new Declaration Rejecting the Legitimacy of the COGCC. On August 3rd this was delivered to Matt LePore, Director of COGCC, at a hearing in Greeley. As we prepared for the hearings, we realized that no matter what we said when we testify, how many personal stories of harm people experienced, or how many scientific studies we give them, they are unfazed. The COGCC is serving as a rubber stamp agency for the this Extreme Extraction Industry and doesn’t care that communities are being polluted. It is time to say ENOUGH. Join us as we continue to tell COGCC, the Governor and Legislators that they cannot continue to put our communities in harms way.
Declaration Rejecting the Legitimacy of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has failed in its mission to:
“protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens and protect the welfare of the environment and wildlife resources.”
We, Coloradans Against Fracking, find it necessary to reject the authority of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to make decisions that negatively impact our health, our air, our water, and our land, or violate the will of the voters seeking to protect their health, air quality, water quality, or property from the impacts of oil and gas extraction. Therefore, it is our duty to continue to work to genuinely protect the people, wildlife and the environment of the state of Colorado.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Mission Statement:
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was created “to foster oil and gas development in the state of Colorado while protecting public health, safety, and welfare, including the protection and welfare of the environment and wildlife resources.”
Nothing about the current heavy industrial processes used to extract oil and gas is compatible with maintaining public health, safety and welfare or protecting the environment and wildlife resources. Toxic air pollution, explosions, fires, earthquakes, and toxic spills contaminating ground water & polluting rivers and streams all continue to occur. As drilling and transport of raw materials and waste increases, so does the incidence of “accidents”. The COGCC’s actions and regulations have not stopped the spills, accidents or earthquakes. Compatibility between this heavy, toxic industry and public health, safety and welfare is not possible within such close proximity of human activity.
Research, studies, data:
The dangerously irresponsible actions taken, or not taken, by the COGCC are not from a lack of competence. They are the result of selective interpretation by the COGCC of the edict written by the Colorado legislature defining their duty. By choosing to define their mission from the industry’s point of view, the COGCC gives themselves permission to ignore scientific documentation, data and empirical observation that prove toxic, adverse effects to our air, water, soil, health and property caused by oil & gas development: and to reference only studies solicited by and for industry when creating rules and regulations. The COGCC chooses to ignore the many peer reviewed, scientific studies made available to them. What may be the most offensive and harmful action of all, is that members of the COGCC choose to ignore the many personal testimonies of Coloradans who have been harmed by oil & gas development.
The actions of the COGCC demonstrate that the processes established to provide opportunity for public input and participation are intended only to create a false sense of security for the public; a facade meant to lure a trusting public into submission and complacency – with the secondary purpose of deflecting any and all who might challenge the authority of the COGCC to permit drilling when and wherever the industry chooses. Any comment, criticism or testimony that is not in support of the industry may be listened to, but are ultimately ignored.
COGCC regulations, insistently touted as the strongest in the country, are empty words created to provide a false sense of security. Monitoring and reporting is largely left to the industry with notice given in advance of inspection. Self-regulation amounts to no regulation. Token fines may be imposed in instances when a fine is legally required. These minimum fines are often dismissed when the company accepts the choice of performing community service. Here the COGCC has been consistent. They regularly apply no fine or a minimum fine for industry violations.
Coloradans Against Fracking says enough.
We, the people, simply cannot and will not recognize the legitimacy of a commission whose actions are detrimental to our health and safety, and to the health and safety of future generations. By both their actions and inaction, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission constantly and consistently fails to fulfill its mission and by doing so, fails to protect us, the residents of the state they are charged with protecting.
Therefore, Coloradans Against Fracking must, in all moral conscience, reject any authority the failed Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission claims to hold, and will continue to work to truly protect the citizens, wildlife and the environment of the state of Colorado.
Coloradans Against Fracking is a coalition of people representing a broad base of business, health, community, environmental, faith, youth, and social justice organizations to protect Coloradans from fracking and other concerned individuals. For more information visit Coloradans Against Fracking. For more photos of the Greeley event visit Coloradans Against Fracking on Facebook.
Background: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC Colorado’s regulatory commission on oil and gas development) is meeting with representatives from local governments to discuss the implementation of two recommendations from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force . (Learn more here about Recommendations #17 and #20 ). These proceedings are open to the public, however public comments are not allowed.