350 Colorado mobilized public comment at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Hearing on July 14th, 2020, the first public hearing with the newly seated professional commission. The focus: Calling for stronger climate action, a halt to permitting, and environmental justice for impacted communities. With 184 participants at the two separate hearings dedicated to public comment, the message was loud and clear. Coloradans want a halt to neighborhood drilling, a solution to the growing gap between statewide GHG emissions reductions targets, protection for impacted communities and a halt to permitting immediately, especially during a respiratory epidemic. Below you’ll find testimonies from 350 Colorado’s new Campaign Coordinators, Michaela Mujica-Steiner and Giselle Herzfeld, who joined the team this month. 

Today we urge the new commissioners to address the role that the oil and gas industry plays in threatening public health and safety, particularly in regard to disproportionately impacted communities of color, low-income individuals, and others who are already more vulnerable to public health risks such as the coronavirus.

A critical way that the commission can help protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of fracking is by immediately suspending Extraction’s operations at Bella Romero Academy. Elevated benzene exposure due to oil and gas activities immediately adjacent to the 4th-8th grade Bella Romero Academy in Greeley is unacceptable. It is a perfect example of environmental racism underway in our state, given the history of the decision to site this oil and gas installation next to a school with a majority of students who are students of color. A report released in March that was conducted by Barrett Engineering PLLC revealed that benzene emissions at Bella Romero Academy in Greeley exceeded health standards appropriate for schools on 113 occasions while the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) took measurements May-December of 2019.

It is the responsibility of this commission to protect public health and safety and to adopt the most protective standards for toxic emissions from all oil and gas sites near occupied buildings and especially by schools. We need to continuously monitor the emissions at these sites and make this data available to the public in real-time online. We also ask the commission to issue warnings whenever these thresholds are approached and immediately shut down operations if they exceed standards. Especially in this time of unprecedented health concern and in light of the systemic injustice that contributes to disproportionate health impacts facing communities of color, low-income individuals, and others who are already more vulnerable to public health risks, the need for environmental justice in all aspects of public policy, and in this case concerning oil and gas development, can no longer wait.

We call on this new commission to put people’s health and safety first and help meet our state’s goals to address the global climate crisis by rapidly phasing out the approval of new drilling permits and supporting a just transition away from oil and gas toward a renewable energy economy. 

Michaela Mujica-Steiner is an artist and activist living on the Front Range in Colorado. Michaela first became involved in the climate movement in 2013, doing a combination of work on campus-based fossil fuel divestment and several local campaigns and efforts to halt fracking in Colorado. Since then, she’s worked on various political campaigns and issues from being a Mentor in 350.org’s Training Corp Program to co-founding the Southwest Divestment Network to working on Get Out the Vote efforts during the 2016 election cycle. She was a youth delegate with SustainUS at COP23, and was a returning youth delegate at COP24. She has a degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology from Northern Arizona University.  Michaela feels passionate about creating healthy group cultures through deep relationship building, art, and somatic embodiment and enjoys these activities in her free time.  


I have never been more terrified for the future than I am now. I often lie awake at night in panic, unable to sleep, because of the rapid and escalating degradation of our planet. I spent the last four years getting my college degree to kickstart my future, only to graduate and ask, “what future?” I want you to understand that every day, I grieve the loss of countless global habitats due to climate change. Every day, I grieve for the millions of people being displaced from their homes due to rising sea levels and increasing natural disasters. I grieve for the communities whose air, water, and land are being polluted and poisoned by extractive industries for the sake of “economic growth.” The thing about constant and unregulated economic growth is that it is not sustainable. It is not humane. Our modern capitalist rationality allows us to place profit margins over human lives and fragile ecosystems. While I recognize that the issue of fracking is complicated, and that COGCC members are placed in a difficult position, I ask you to please recognize that my own future, and my ability to have a future, is being compromised and sold out in favor of economic growth and profit for a globally detrimental extractive industry. You have heard community members speak passionately about our experiences, as families being poisoned by wells in our neighborhoods, as mothers worried for their children’s health with wells dangerously close to their schools, and as young people fearing for our futures. I am disturbed that now, in 2020, amidst a global respiratory health pandemic, we even have to question whether eliminating fracking is a good idea. It has been proven that fracking dramatically reduces our air quality, and that breathing polluted air puts people severely more at risk for respiratory complications due to COVID-19. 

The oil and gas lobby can give you all the justifications and financial incentives and legal obfuscations in the world, but they can not give you a good answer to our communities’ cries for help. I am not coming to you as a politician, or as a lobbyist. I am coming to you as a young person who is deeply and overwhelmingly terrified for our future given our current trajectory. This isn’t about a paycheck for me, this is about survival. I ask you to please halt all new permitting for oil and gas wells, stop bailing out the collapsing oil and gas industry, force the industry to deal responsibly with orphaned wells, and create a comprehensive plan to phase out oil and gas development in Colorado. Alternative, clean energy sources exist and can and should be developed in their place. I ask you to please start putting the safety of the people of Colorado first. 

Giselle Herzfeld is the new 350 CO Defunding Climate Disaster Campaign Coordinator. As a long-time youth advocate for progressive politics, Giselle has become increasingly alarmed by the “business as usual” way of thinking and acting in the shadow of the climate crisis. Her passion for environmental activism inspired her to work with 350 Colorado to mobilize local activists, engage with Colorado legislators, and take an active role in the fossil fuel divestment campaign. Knowing that our health is directly dependent on the health of the ecosystems we inhabit, she intends to continue to stand as a voice of hope for current and future generations in the fight for a just, equitable, and sustainable future.