Updated: March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am
News that Ultra Resources recently announced a lack of interest in further oil or gas exploration in Colorado Springs and El Paso County should not alter our city’s course. Economics, changing technology, or new information can renew interest in drilling here. An Ultra CEO told one reporter the company could be back, drilling here next year, if some things change. So it’s imperative we resolve this issue.
City Council has grappled for the past year with the idea of amending city regulations to allow drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in all zones inside city limits. Drilling is prohibited in all but agricultural zones, but the state and the industry insist we don’t have that right, so they’ve been pressuring us to change this regulation.
A recent Luce Research poll found 51 percent of city residents do not favor allowing fracking in the city (45 percent favor it). I suspect 90 percent feel it absurd to allow drilling in residential areas, near homes, schools and parks. The industry tries to minimize the fact that known carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors are among the chemicals injected into wells during fracking, but there is no disputing these chemicals are used and many are on the “superfund list.”
The industry has been trying to improve the integrity of fracked wells for years, but independent analysis has shown wells often leak — some immediately, and every well is likely to eventually leak. This is because concrete cracks and crumbles over time and casing rusts.
Yet Colorado’s industry-influenced governor and regulatory agency insist we have no choice but to allow this hazardous process in our town. They claim prohibiting drilling or fracking would be “a taking” of the property rights of those who own the mineral rights beneath our neighborhoods.
As a homeowner you also have property rights. Many of our rights end where they begin to infringe on the rights of others. You cannot hold a rock concert in your backyard at 2 in the morning. You can’t open a lead smelter on your cul-de-sac.
I don’t believe an oil company has the right to poison your air, water or children in the process of exercising its mineral rights. When you bought your house, drilling was prohibited in most zones of the city. To reverse that now and allow drilling would be “a taking” of your property rights.
City Council is scheduled to vote March 12 on regulations that — if passed — will violate your right to clean air and water, and your right to have a neighborhood free of heavy, noisy, unhealthy and polluting industry. Some of your representatives are ready to allow this. I suspect they are reacting to claims this will boost our economy and create jobs.
An oil and gas boom in our city will not reduce our unemployment rate. It may be a boost for a few trailer parks, liquor stores, strip clubs and truck stops, but it will cost our community more than it will benefit.
The impact on air quality very likely could drive tourism, bicycling, and Olympic training elsewhere. Property values decline when drilling and fracking come to town.
You don’t have to do much digging to find the dirt, but you do have to get your information from sources other than energy industry trade associations. It turns out you also cannot rely solely on information from state agencies. Agencies are reluctant to admit their failures, and industry influence reaches deep into government offices. Credible, authoritative evidence is out there, however — and it’s growing daily.
Our own regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, was initially created to promote the industry. It has too few inspectors and its track record for protecting citizens’ health and safety is embarrassing.
That is to be expected from an agency whose primary goal is to make it as economical as possible to drill for oil and gas in our state. We can never count on a regulatory agency with these conflicting directives. We have the right to protect the health of our own community and protect the property rights of our citizens, and it is very important we exercise that right when the state isn’t doing the job.
If you’ve been silent on this issue, you owe it to your children, your neighbors, and yourself to let your council representatives know you fully support standing up to the state and protecting our rights.
Dave Gardner is the founder of SaveTheSprings and board member, Colorado Springs Citizens for â€¨Community Rights.