350 Colorado Statement to Adams County CommissionersAdams Co. Commission Meeting regarding fracking

In Favor of a Moratorium on Oil and Gas Development

Hi Commissioners,  my name is Micah Parkin. I’m the Executive Director of 350 Colorado, and I’m speaking today on behalf of over 10,000 350 members in Colorado, over half of whom live in or within 100 miles of Adams County.  We want to strongly encourage you to place a moratorium on oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

Research and on the ground experiences have proven that fracking poses grave risks to public health, clean air and water, and a stable climate.

Emissions, toxic chemical spills, negative affects on human and animal health, water and air contamination, decreasing property values and other deleterious impacts from this industry are well documented.  Over a 3 year period in Colorado, more than 1,000 fracking-related spills of diesel fuel, oil, toxic chemicals, and other contaminants, dozens of which have polluted groundwater were documented.   Unfortunately, 1,500- or 2,000-foot setbacks of wellheads, tanks and other equipment from property lines cannot ensure protection of precious groundwater, which spans these artificial lines, and therefore so can toxic fracking chemicals.

According to the TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, many of the hundreds of chemicals used in oil and gas operations have been shown to have severe impacts on wildlife and human health, including the respiratory, digestive, immune, reproductive and nervous systems.  A recent analysis of 353 of the 632 chemicals used during natural gas operations found that more than 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40-50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.

When there is clear evidence that fracking air emissions put nearby residents at increased risk of cancer and other health ailments, why should any resident be subjected to fracking within sight or breath of businesses, schools or homes?

As part of a global grassroots network working to solve the climate crisis, 350 Colorado is also very concerned about emissions of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas – 86 times more potent than CO2 over a 20 years timeframe. Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas (~95%). Research by NOAA and other scientific organizations has shown leaks from fracking well heads directly into our atmosphere at rates from 4-17% of the total gas produced. Researchers assert that leakage rates higher than the 3.2% “break-even” point[1]  are worse for the climate than burning coal.  So there is great concern that fracking is contributing significantly to climate destabilization, which has already loaded the dice for record-breaking storms and floods, extreme heat, wildfires and drought, all of which have enormous consequences for public health and safety.

And with climate change placing ever more stress on water resources, it is also essential that the impacts of fracking on our water supplies be considered.  It’s unconscionable to use and permanently remove from the water cycle vast quantities of irreplaceable water – from 5 to 9 million gallons per well – which is made so toxic that it is uneconomical to clean up and must be pumped into deep injection sites that are being implicated in increased earthquake activity.

It is critically important that local leaders carefully consider the long-term prognosis of the oil and gas industry and of its potential lasting negative impacts on local health, land, water and property values.  As of today, oil prices are down to ~$31/barrel. The low oil prices have caused a wave of bankruptcies in the energy sector, spreading alarm on Wall Street, where plunging oil prices have set off a selling stampede. Goldman Sachs has warned that oil may sink as low as $20 a barrel, which would shake financial markets by sinking energy stocks, driving more companies into bankruptcies and setting off a round of junk-bond defaults. Bankruptcies among oil and gas companies have hit the highest quarterly level since the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, Bloomberg Business reported last month. Oil and gas companies have laid off more than 250,000 workers and that number could swell in the months ahead.2

And what is being left in the industry’s wake? Industry studies by Cornell University engineer Anthony Ingraffea clearly show that five to seven per cent of all new oil and gas wells leak immediately. As wells age, the percentage of leakers can increase to a startling 30 or 50 per cent. And who will clean up the mess 5, 10 or 20 years down the road when these companies are, in all likelihood, bankrupt?

In a time when all the science indicates that a sane society should be transitioning rapidly away from all fossil fuels, when Stanford researchers and others are showing that we have the technologies and potential now to transition to 100% renewable energy while saving consumers money, and while federal and state oil and gas regulations are proving dismally ineffective, it’s essential that local communities do their due diligence to safeguard air, water, public health & safety.  A moratorium in Adams County will not only protect the people of Adams County from explosions and toxic emissions, it will stand in solidarity with other Colorado communities who have stood up for their democratic rights and empower more local governments to take a brave stand.

Lacking conclusive evidence that fracking is safe and with mounting evidence to the contrary, the prudent action is to follow the precautionary principle as the state of NY did, with the State’s DEC Commissioner concluding that “there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and address risks to public health from this activity.” We urge our leaders to consider the legacy you want to leave behind, put our families’ health and safety first, and keep fracking at bay by placing a county-wide moratorium on oil and gas development.

Thank you.

350 Colorado

[1] Alvarez, R. A., Pacala, S. W. Winebrake, J. J., Chameides, W. L. & Hamburg, S. P. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 6435–6440 (2012).