Written by Elisabeth Gick and Ron Bennet

Just when school got out at 3:45pm at Bella Romero Academy in Greely on Nov 5, 2019, elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, were detected by the CDPHE’s mobile lab located at the campus next to Extraction’s much-contested fracking operations. Despite a parent’s passionate appeal to our governor and despite making national news, drilling continued.

Altogether, we now have more than 55,000 active fracking wells in Colorado, ever closer to homes, closer to schools (Bella Romero Academy!), with more spills and other accidents, horrible air, and a climate crisis that has evolved into a climate emergency. We also have over 30,000 abandoned wells, many of which keep spewing methane into the air, which is invisible to the naked eye and 86 times more effective in heating the planet than carbon dioxide over the next 20 years. 

In the 12 months since Governor Polis took office, 2109 new wells have been approved in Colorado and over 900 have been approved since SB-181 was signed into law. The permitting body, the COGCC (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) has a very detailed interactive map on their website that seems up-to-date and is definitely worth playing around with; be ready for seriously scary scenarios, such as when you click the “air quality” button.

COGCC map indicating ozone nonattainment area

COGCC map showing CDPHE emissions inventory sites and 8-hour ozone non-attainment area along the Northern Front Range. cogcc.state.co.us/maps.html

COGCC map indicating well locations throughout Colorado

COGCC map showing 55,000 existing wells in Colorado plus approved permits and pending well locations. cogcc.state.co.us/maps.html

The relentless increase in oil and gas drilling and horizontal fracturing has happened despite the fact that SB-19-181 was signed into law in spring of 2019, giving local governments much more power in regulating oil and gas operations, shifting the COGCC’s mission from “fostering” oil and gas development to “regulating” it and “protecting” public health and safety.

It happened despite the fact that the COGCC now has members with medical and environmental stewardship backgrounds.

It happened despite numerous highly accredited scientific reports about the very real and serious toll on the health of people, especially young ones; despite heart-wrenching testimonies from parents of sick children; despite videos and movies, radio interviews and newspaper articles trying to educate the public on the effects of fracking on our air, water, landscapes, and our future!

It happened despite the fact that the industry has not made a profit in years!

What’s going on and what can we do about it?

So far, the industry has just been too powerful for us to stop it. This may be changing right now and we’d better seize the opportunity.

On November 10, Reporter Aldo Svaldi published a Denver Post article titled Drilling, dollars and debt: Colorado’s oil and gas industry is leveraged to the hilt. What does that mean for the future? He goes into great detail about the financial distress the industry is in, having spent $27 billion more over the past 5 years than they made; with stocks dropping drastically; and banks waking up to their horrific investments. The future, he states, looks dark for the industry.

With perfect timing, Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org) and an incredibly powerful cast of other large environmental stewards (Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Mazaska Talks etc. etc.) have expanded the divestment campaign to include banks, asset managers and insurance companies. The name of the campaign? Stop the Money Pipeline. “I suspect that the key to disrupting the flow of carbon into the atmosphere may lie in disrupting the flow of money to coal and oil and gas,” Bill McKibben wrote in the New Yorker. You can join the group on their website to get the latest info and calls to action.


  • Colorado Rising submitted language for a ballot initiative 2020 to the CO Secretary of State.
  • Boulder County commissioners heard their constituents demand a ban on fracking and they promised to have their legal team explore that option.
  • Members of Extinction Rebellion and Sunrise Movement were arrested and held in jail overnight for reminding the governor of his campaign promises; one of their demands was to stop fracking in the state by 2025.
  • Three states (Maryland, New York and Vermont) and some European countries have banned fracking. 

Please also read this Westword article explaining the new ballot initiative(s), as well as Deb McNamara’s article on divestment. Background info on fracking and divestment plus a sign-up sheet to join the relevant committees are right here on our website under campaigns.