350 Colorado’s Executive Director Micah Parkin called for a ban on fracking in Boulder County during a public hearing addressing the recently enacted moratorium on oil and gas operations put into place by Boulder County Commissioners last month. Below is a transcript of her statement to County Commissioners and Staff. 

Thank you for your leadership and efforts to protect the people of Boulder County from the well-known dangers of fracking. 350 Boulder County represents over 3500 members in the County who are deeply concerned about the impacts of fracking on our land, water, air, quality of life, public health and safety, and our global climate. 

First, we thank you for enacting a temporary moratorium on accepting and processing of new oil and gas development applications and seismic testing in unincorporated Boulder County.  

Second, we urge you to use the new powers now granted to counties and municipalities via SB 19-181, providing land-use and zoning authority over fracking operations and the authority to prioritize public health and safety in evaluating applications for permits, to pass the most protective measure possible – a permanent local ban. 

Given the serious threats that fracking in Boulder County pose to public health and safety, our air, land and water quality, and to the climate, we believe that banning fracking entirely is the clear responsible choice that best aligns with Boulder Counties’ actions to be a leader on the climate crisis and to protect residents’ health and safety.

As you may know, after releasing the most recent (“Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking”, Physicians for Social Responsibility has called for a ban on fracking, concluding that “There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends.”(1) 

One such study from Yale School of Public Health found that fracking is linked to cancer-causing chemicals. They examined over 1,000 chemicals that may be released into air or water as a result of fracking. For 119 of these compounds, 44% of the water pollutants and 60% of air pollutants were either confirmed or possible carcinogens. 20 chemicals had evidence of increased risk for leukemia or lymphoma specifically. The lead authors called for additional research, especially looking at impacts on children, as they are a “particularly vulnerable population.” It would be terribly irresponsible for us to not use the precautionary principle and all means within our power to prevent our children from exposure to these chemicals.

We must stop oil and gas development from worsening our F-grade air quality and exposing residents to radioactive and volatile organic compounds from fracking that are associated with increased risk of cancer, neurological, respiratory, endocrine and cardiovascular damage, and other associated increased health and safety risks. 

The Front Range is already considered a “non-attainment area” under the US EPA’s limits for ozone pollution, and Boulder County has air quality rated an “F” by the American Lung Association. The work of INSTAAR’s Dr. Detlev Helmig, based on air quality monitoring at the Boulder Reservoir, funded in part by Boulder County, has concluded that Boulder County’s air quality is already adversely affected by oil and gas drilling in Weld County, with high exposures to related ozone, benzene and other VOCs.(2) 

An analysis based on Crestone’s CDP performed by air quality engineer Maureen Barrett of Barrett Engineering  found that Crestone’s planned operations would lead to levels of highly poisonous nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and benzene exceeding health standards in areas along Highway 52. 

We cannot allow fracking to worsen our F-grade air quality and further poison residents of Boulder County, especially vulnerable populations such as youth, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. 

Allowing any new oil and gas development would also be fundamentally inconsistent with Boulder County’s leadership on the climate crisis. We cannot bring groundbreaking legal action against Exxon Mobil and Suncor for knowingly contributing to climate change damages by continued production of fossil fuels, and then allow fossil fuel production on Boulder County land, when the IPCC’s 2018 report calls for a rapid transition off all fossil fuels, largely in the next 12 years to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. The Sky’s Limit report released by Oil Change International in 2016 underlined this point, stating that no new fossil fuels could be brought online if we are to meet global climate goals.(3) 

Enacting a local ban is consistent with our position in the Exxon Suncor lawsuit and it is consistent with the millions of dollars that Boulder County voters have paid in Sustainability Taxes and other measures that voters approved to do our part to address climate change and shift to a clean energy future. Allowing any future fracking would result in methane leakage and ghg emissions that could undermine our legal position and our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, a ban on fracking is also consistent with your fiduciary duty to Boulder County residents who have for decades paid taxes to promote sustainability and protect open space land and our air, water and climate, and who would be left to clean up the mess of financially unstable fracking companies. Over the last decade since the fracking boom began in earnest, the fracking industry in aggregate has never produced even 1 year of positive cash flow and is now over $250B in debt. Over 100 fracking companies in the US and Canada have filed for bankruptcy over the last 4 year and with 135 oil companies on the edge of bankruptcy it is likely that county residents would be stuck trying to clean up the mess left by insolvent companies if fracking is allowed. Most of these companies are only functioning because of ongoing bank loans, demanding continued fracking regardless of the poor economics at play.

Again, we thank the Commissioners and staff for your efforts to protect public health and safety and our global climate and we urge you to continue your leadership by enacting a ban on fracking in Boulder County. 

  1. “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking”,  https://www.psr.org/blog/2019/06/19/new-analysis-of-fracking-science-finds-serious-harms-to-public-health-environment-and-climate/
  2. Reported in Boulder Weekly, February 2019, https://www.boulderweekly.com/news/as-state-dems-prepare-legislation-data-shows-oil-and-gas-emissions-significantly-affect-boulder-countys-air-quality/
  3. http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2016/09/OCI_the_skys_limit_2016_FINAL_2.pdf