Public anger at COGCC spills out into streets

January 29, 2018

Colorado, oil and gas drilling

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

Concerned Coloradans Call for Emergency Moratorium on Fracking and Protest COGCC Rules Stifling Free Speech

After 14 dangerous explosions and a COGCC in financial crisis, this out of control industry needs a time out

DENVER, CO – In 2017 the state paid more in tax refunds to oil and gas companies than the state brought in severance taxes, leading to a budget deficit that is putting the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Department of Natural Resources in jeopardy. After dozens of explosions, fires and toxic leaks, many concerned community members doubt the COGCC’s ability to regulate this “out of control” industry. These concerns prompted continued protests at the COGCC hearing today.

Impacted residents and local groups called for an emergency moratorium on all oil and gas production in Colorado, until the agency can prove it is able to protect public health and safety.

“The oil and gas industry needs to take a time out,” said Marcia Kohler a concerned mother of two.“The COGCC’s inability and unwillingness to properly regulate this industry is putting our families’ health and safety in jeopardy, and it needs to stop now.”

Outside of the building actors performed street theater with red aprons, hand bells with donation buckets. Aiming to highlight the financial crisis of the COGCC, participants pretended to be commissioners asking passers-by for donations to “fund the broke COGCC so they can promote the oil and gas industry instead of protecting public health and safety.”

Inside the hearing room impacted individuals, including local high school students, urged the COGCC to uphold their mission to protect public health and safety, and to drop the Martinez appeal.

“Our children are precious and vulnerable, and it is absolutely clear after a leak mere feet from an elementary school playground in Erie, that we must protect them,” said Patricia Nelson, whose child attends Bella Romero Academy in Greeley, where Extraction has requested a permit to frack just a few yards from the school playground. “We cannot continue to risk their health and safety, after all the only party who benefits is the oil and gas industry.”

The protests continue to gain momentum while the COGCC comes under significant criticism after instituting new rules for public comment at hearings.

Colorado’s oil and gas regulator puts new restrictions on public comments

The new rules greatly reduce the time allotted for public comment, allow commissioners the discretion to organize comments by topic and institute an online sign up. These changes are a clear retaliation of the twelve hours of public comment given at COGCC hearings since June. Rather than responding with concern, the COGCC has referenced the huge public turnout at recent meetings as a reason for releasing new rules last week. Many felt the new rules limited impacted residents’ rights to free speech and are an attempt to silence public outcry, and held up signs that said “COGCC: We will not be silenced.”

“I know a lot of people who thought that they had to sign up online and list a docket number, and didn’t come because they thought they wouldn’t be allowed to speak,” said Elizabeth Hudetz, from Fort Collins. “This almost stopped me from coming today, and I know it stopped a lot of other people. They clearly don’t want to hear what we have to say.”

Protests erupted when the COGCC concluded the hearing after two hours for a lunch break, standing in solidarity with those who were unable to attend or today because of the new public comment rules. Dozens in attendance refused to leave, stood up and read their 3-minute comments in unison until they were forced out by security.

Several members of the public referenced their support for the statewide ballot initiative being organized by the grassroots coalition Colorado Rising. The initiative would create 2500’ buffer zones between oil and gas fracking operations and homes, schools, playgrounds and water sources. The 2500’ buffer zone aligns with public health studies that show dangerous health impacts like increased risk of cancer, respiratory distress, low birth weight babies and birth defects within a half-mile.

“If the state isn’t going to protect us from fracking, then we have to protect ourselves,” said Karen Conduff, a 38-year resident of Boulder who said she is deeply concerned about the 144 wells proposed for Boulder County Open Space land. “Everyone concerned should get involved by going  to Colorado Rising and pledge to sign the ballot initiative so we can protect our families.”

State Oil and Gas Commission meeting reaches a fever pitch over public comment rule change

Watch the 350 Colorado video

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