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EDITORIAL: Colorado politicians deny 'existing science' on oil and gas wells

By: The Gazette editorial board
April 13, 2017 Updated: April 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm
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This photo taken on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, near Frederick, Colo., shows oil pump jacks working on a property across from a subdivision. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

A group of 17 Colorado state politicians have outed themselves as science deniers, in writing. No amount of empirical scientific data, regarding a pollution concern, seems good enough if it does not further their political agenda.

At issue is an environmental report issued in February by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding fracking and other forms of oil and gas extraction. The department is part of the administration of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a liberal Democrat.

Hickenlooper is so concerned with global warming that he vowed to march on with something similar to President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, even after the Supreme Court of the United States put the president's energy regulations on hold.

Worried about potential negative effects oil and gas mining have on air quality, the governor's environmental agency assessed more than 10,000 air quality samples taken near oil and gas operations.

The agency used the samples to examine 62 substances of concern for people living or working within 500 feet of fossil fuel production rigs.

The scientific assessment found concentrations of toxins, surrounding oil and gas wells, are lower than standard limits set for short- and long-term exposure. Cancer risks near oil and gas rigs are within the EPA's range of "acceptable risk."

With 10,000 samples to examine, the evidence is overwhelming. We'd call it a consensus of scientific proof that oil and gas rigs don't harm our air.

Environmentally conscious legislators should be celebrating. The study could help them sleep at night, as it finds our state's oil and gas wells pose no imminent health risk.

Lo, they are not dancing in the aisles. Instead, they are protesting good news.

Oil and gas opponents apparently wanted polluted air. They wanted a report that could help them shut down fracking. That's why state Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, led 16 other Democratic senators and representatives to sign a letter complaining about the study.

Jones has been a leading advocate of legislation designed to regulate fracking into oblivion.

"Since CDPHE is charged with protecting the health of the people of Colorado, this study should use the precautionary principle that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous," the letter states.

State environmental officials did their jobs. They looked for bad air. That's why they examined 10,000 samples for 62 compounds.

They released honest, objective scientific data that show our air is clean in the immediate vicinity of oil and gas production operations. They found nothing to suggest we should shut down an industry that provides high-wage jobs by harvesting resources that heat our homes and fuel our cars.

Brow-beaten by anti-energy fundamentalism, state officials vow to "continue to evaluate health risks using more comprehensive, relevant data currently being collected." The February report, state officials say, merely "evaluates the existing science."

"Existing science" is settled science, unless and until conflicting data emerge. Science has spoken, and fracking does harm our air. Activist legislators should stop denying scientific proof to further a political crusade against energy.

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