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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  Ban fracking? Why stop there?
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Wednesday, November 27,2013

Ban fracking? Why stop there?

By Paul Danish

I have a modest proposal to resolve the fractious issue of fracking in Colorado. It’s a win-win amendment to the Colorado Constitution that will pass in a landslide.

First, let’s review. A number of Colorado cities — including Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins — are appalled by the prospect of oil and gas drilling in their communities and have attempted to either ban it outright or to delay it for years by the imposition of long moratoriums. The bans and moratoriums are imposed either on oil and gas production directly, or on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the well stimulation process used on 95 percent of the oil and gas wells drilled in the U.S.

While such measures are wildly popular in the towns that passed them, they are also a direct violation of Colorado law, which makes regulation of oil and gas production the exclusive province of state government. So the anti-frackers are expected to propose an amendment to the state constitution next year that would give local governments the power to ban oil and gas production or fracking, or both, within their jurisdictions.

The fight over the putative amendment is likely to be nasty, brutish and crude. And breath-takingly expensive. But both enviros and roughnecks could enthusiastically support the amendment, if it were worded like this:

“Colorado cities and counties shall have the power to regulate or prohibit the production of oil and natural gas and to regulate or prohibit the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within their borders.

“Upon the adoption of a permanent or temporary prohibition on oil or gas production or fracking by any recognized Colorado city or county, the sale of gasoline, diesel fuel and natural gas within that city or county shall be prohibited for the duration of the ban.”

A city like Boulder, for example, would be constitutionally empowered to ban drilling and fracking within its city limits, or to impose moratoriums on them lasting until the end of the next ice age. This would remove the legal cloud hanging over Boulder’s recent voter-approved five-year moratorium on oil and gas production. But if Boulder kept its moratorium, residents would have to drive to, say, Weld County to buy gasoline. (They couldn’t drive to a gas station outside city limits in unincorporated Boulder County, because Boulder County has its own anti-oil and gas production moratorium in place.)

By the same token, Boulder residents would have to quit heating their homes with natural gas; all-electric heat is the obvious alternative, although wood, old newspapers and dried dung are also possibilities.

The amendment will appeal to anti-frackers and petro-prohibitionists because it gives them everything they’ve asked for and more.

The real agenda of anti-fracking activists is to ban all oil and gas drilling for environmental reasons. Attacking fracking is just a means to the broader end.

But if it makes sense to reduce the use of oil and natural gas by directly restricting production, it makes just as much sense to reduce the use of oil and natural gas by directly restricting consumption.

Banning the sale of oil and natural gas in Boulder would lead to obvious reductions in demand.

Granted, having to drive to Weld County to get gassed up would require Boulderites to use slightly more gasoline (maybe a gallon or so per refueling), but the hassle, inconvenience and aggravation of having to do so would cause Boulderites to reduce their discretionary driving and to plan their local trips more efficiently to stretch out the time between refueling runs, which would reduce Boulder’s overall gasoline consumption.

Still, the aggregate saving in gasoline use would probably amount to little more than a symbolic gesture, but hey, Boulder has never been bashful about practicing symbolic gesture environmentalism.

On the other hand, cutting off the sale of natural gas in Boulder would result in immediate, big-time reduction in natural gas use — a couple billion cubic feet a year, or the combined annual output of dozens of (fracked) Weld County gas wells.

And if Boulder’s putative municipal electric company gets its electricity from renewables, then the savings will not be cancelled out by having to generate electricity for heating with natural gas. Which means the amendment would allow Boulder (and like-minded communities) to give a green finger to both global warming and Big Oil.

So the amendment should be wildly popular with anti-frackers and environmentalists generally, who would vote for it in droves.

But would anyone else in Colorado vote for it?

Is T. Boone Pickens an oilman?

Let’s face it, when one drives over the top of Davidson Mesa and back into the world of real things, where gasoline is still considered a feature, not a bug, one quickly notices that there are hundreds of thousands of folks in Colorado who see things differently than Boulderites do.

These folks may or may not be impressed by pro-fracking talking points about jobs, energy independence, national security, or the fact that alternative energy still isn’t much of an alternative.

But they are most definitely not impressed by “do as I say, not as I do” environmentalists who want to ban oil and gas production while living an oil and gas dependent lifestyle — like the folks in Boulder who own 58,000 cars and trucks and heat 99 percent of their homes and businesses with natural gas. And they’ll vote in a heartbeat for an amendment that requires such greenwashed NIMBYs to walk their talk or shut up — because they resent eco-busybodies as much as eco-busybodies resent oil companies.

Resentment — that’s the key. At a time when the country is wallowing in the politics of resentment, the amendment allows both sides to vote their resentments by voting “yes.”

It can’t lose.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

 

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This is another example of how conservatives are bad at humor - a very long rambling joke with an obvious and totally unfunny punchline.  Sarcasm is supposed to be funny, otherwise, it's just being dishonest and annoying.

Have you noticed the number of people who bike to school and work in Boulder county? I'm tired of the hypocrit arguement against people who like clean air and water and think zoning rules should maybe apply to all industry - silly silly people I know (see how I did that?). It's tired and not working.

Maybe I'm wrong and this is actuallly a parody of the ridiculous arguments made against the bans. In that case the problem is that it's too good, since I couldn't tell.

 

DBD
James - here do you think the energy comes from to charge your iphone, ipad, and macbook to leave your comment below? Without petroleum products you would have no tires and grips for your bicycle and no lubrication for your chain. Natural gas power plants have allowed us to cut our CO2 emissions in this country to what they were in the 90's.

 

This is what I'm talking about DBD. I'm not going to engage in "straw man" or false choice arguments. Fracking is largely unregulated, exempt from the clean water act and secretive about the chemicals used in the process. They resist any type of reasonable controls to ensure health and safety, insist on operating anywhere that is convenient for them including in residential areas, near schools and next to reservoirs that supply drinking water to our cities. Because the industry is sloppy, wasting much of it's product to the air, creating an even worse greenhouse effect than carbon, accelerating climate change, not slowing it, because they sue everyone and anyone who dares get in their way, impose gag orders on families they pay off so they can't talk about the damage to their health, air water and property and have to shut up and move away, I don't trust them and do not want fracking in my back yard or anywhere near where people live. So yeah, I'm proud to be a NIMBY because otherwise, I'd be an IDIOT. Fracking has to be banned in our cities until/unless they follow some basic rules of zoning and safety and get a lot more transparent about what they're doing. The profit margin on fracking is too thin to allow them to do it responsibly and still make enough, therefore, they should not be allowed to do it at all, especially not where people live and work. That's how the market should work - if profit has to come at the expense of the health and welfare of everyone in the area, that's not a profitable business, period. Otherwise, it's not capitalism, it's crime. I don't have an iphone or ipad, but my old macbook isn't going to do me a lot of good if I die of cancer because I've been poisoned. This is what's at stake - the our health, not to mention property values since no one is going to buy your house near a fracked well. Not to mention that no amount of energy production is going to do anyone any good if the planet is uninhabitable. Yes of course DBD, petroleum is important to many manufactured products. That's a good basis for an argument that burning it up at a furious rate might be a bad idea. If the industry were to take some of the cash they're throwing at lawsuits and lobbying campaigns and use it instead to clean up their act, everyone would be better off. How about that for modest proposal to resolve the issue?

 

Touché DBD touché indeed. I'd say the question contains a false choice and invalid assumptions, but to be fair, my answer is that as long as we're depending on energy extracted from the ground, whoever can produce it safely, cleanly, transparently and without having to resort to lawsuits is who should do it.

 

Anonymous, first of all, why are you anon? "Fracking is largely unregulated" is an absolute falsehood. The drilling of oil and gas wells, the hydraulic fracturing of them, and the ongoing operations thereof is regulated by more agencies and rules than you could list on both hands and feet, if you would bother to actually research. Exempt from clean water act? Because it doesn't impact drinking water (even the lawyers know that one). Secretive about the chemicals? You should check out FracFocus.org for FULL disclosure. Gag orders on families that are harmed or have to move away? Please explain to me why the Weld County farming community embraces the industry, if that is at all true? Clearly, Anonymous, you aren't aware of the profit margin, or you wouldn't be spouting something so patently untrue about where the operators are making their money. Cleaning up the industry's act? How about LOWER levels of pollution now than in the 90's, even though production has increased multiple-fold? Honestly, the industry is one of the most-regulated of all industry, and is accountable--which is more than those that spread untruths can say--to multiple agencies for fair and honest reporting of all aspects of production. Who is to hold anyone accountable for what is said on a blog, in a documentary, or even at the neighborhood BBQ? TTHAT is where there is no regulation. Finally, let me ask you, do you really think that you're throwing stones at Big Oil? Please consider for a moment the tens of thousands of jobs mean tens of thousands of real, living, breathing PEOPLE. People with a conscience of their own. People that, like myself, work at a company that puts doing the right thing over making a profit, although ultimately if we aren't making a profit, we'll not be in business. I am a human, I live and work in the area where we operate, and I have done my research. I have been on a drilling rig, I have been on-site when hydraulic fracturing is going on. I have touched the fracturing mix, I have breathed the air on-site! Have you? Do you REALLY know? Have you done your homework, or are you, like so many, parroting back what you may have heard? Something in a movie, something in a presentation, something "explained" to you by someone with an agenda? Believe me, if it were unsafe, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night; my conscience wouldn't let me. I'd be out on the street looking for a new job, waiting tables or selling shoes. But I HAVE done my homework, I HAVE researched and reviewed and read ACTUAL reports prepared by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the EPA, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, to name a few. Please, before you knock the "conservatives" (James), make note of the fact that John Hickenlooper, Sally Jewell, and even Ken Salazar have actually reviewed the data, and all have deemed that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely. Stop throwing stones, please. Open your mind and do some genuine research. Or, if as I suspect, you don't really WANT to know the truth, then please quit trolling and go stick your head back under that rock.

 

DBD, I have no doubt you are being paid, directly or indirectly, by the industry in question. Ideally, no it shouldn't have to be a question between energy extraction and healthy communities, but because cost is always the corporate bottom line, and safety costs more, that's just how it plays out in the real world. BP shat on the entire gulf of Mexico.. oops - they saved some money. You can't unshit once you've shat. And those shat upon have little recourse. So, I say, frack you, and go frack yourselves. I do not trust the corporate interests not to destroy everything in their path on their quest to make profits because that is their prerogative and that is what past history shows they are about. I am not happy to roll over and die for the good of corporate capitalism. Call me a commie socialist, I'm not down for it. I like living. I like not having dangerous heavy industry right in my neighborhood. Satan, I mean Dick Cheney, engineered this situation that makes fracking so dangerous - exempt from the clean water act, etc. How is that even possible? I think it's important (for Boulder Weelky et al), to report on the history of fracking, even though it's old news. The fact that fracking is exempt from the clean water act, etc needs more coverage. I don't think people have any idea how dangerous it is to every aspect of their lives if the industry is not held accountable. I'm not saying fracking is inherently unsafe, but without regulation, it's definitely unsafe to the point of being hazardous. At this point, your property value will definitely go down if fracking is going on in the area. This is not hypothetical. People do not want to live near fracking. I guess they are just silly, but they seem to think it's not safe.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

When I learned about expository writing I was told to back up statements.  Danish does none of that, just blasting through a set of made up assumptions as if they were settled, such as:

"The real agenda of anti-fracking activists is to ban all oil and gas drilling for environmental reasons. Attacking fracking is just a means to the broader end.."  

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Liberals: all heart, no brain. You all should've been spanked more as kids, too soft for this hardworking country. 

 

This is a parody, right? Pretty funny.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Unregulated? The Oil/Gas Industry is one of the most regulated industries you'll find. And please research a little more about a topic before posting something and stop using the conservative or liberal side of things, it really hurts your integrity.

Check out the COGCC, EPA, and fracfocus.org (please pay attention to the ingredients and the concentrations of them and look up the ingredient and do not make assumptions about what it is as I would be more concerned about preservatives and chemicals in my food than fracking), COGCC Rule 205A, and water usage in Colorado.

http://cogcc.state.co.us/Library/Oil_and_Gas_Water_Sources_Fact_Sheet.pdf

 

Another tired trope - tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, and try to claim intellectual and moral high ground while referencing a website created by an advertising agency called BroCo.com, yes bro, short for brothers, probably the same firm responsible for the vomit inducing radio spots telling us how Colorado is special and we're gonna get fracked in our own unique mile high way. That's your evidence that you know more than I do, a website created by an advertising agency? I wonder who's paying them.. no I don't. OF COURSE I know exactly where the money is coming from - it's money that's not being spent by gas companies to make sure their wells and operations are safe. Instead they pay for a company to give the illusion that they are very responsible and accountable, rather than actually being responsible and accountable - typical - and people like you, try to demean and belittle the opposition blowing smoke and industry talking points. Even if there were any substance to what you say, it's completely undercut by the ties to the money from the industry you defend. I'm not interested in public relations messages from the gas industry. Where's the integrity in this game you're playing AThomas? Who's paying YOU? Liberal or conservative, Coloradans are not stupid, hence the bans. Telling us we're just uninformed or have bad information and pointing to your own PR effort as evidence is despicable and not working. The more people actually know about fracking, the more they don't like it. So I hope there will be many more lawsuits, trying to bully cities and towns into submission, meanwhile making headline news, because when it comes to fracking, all PR is definitely not good PR. I will make assumptions that if if something is secret, like the specific ingredients in specific fracked fluids, it's probably not good. If my food said it may contain and then went on to list hundreds of different chemicals, I wouldn't research all the chemicals and figure out what concentrations are safe for consumption before deciding if I should eat it. I would bring that food to the toxic waste disposal facility. When information is withheld from the public, the public is wise to be suspicious, ask questions and demand a halt of operations until they have answers. As for COGCC, we all know whose interest they really represent, by their actions (or lack of) and anyway, you assume I'm concerned about water usage, which I am, but I didn't bring it up, only contamination, so what is the point of throwing this random handful of straw at me as if it were relevant to the conversation? You guys need to work on your game. Clearly you're losing.

 

DBD
James - Who should produce your energy for you?

 

James, It's always about "not in my backyard" in Boulder, no oil/gas wells in my backyard but we are completely dependent on it. But what about wind turbines, not the half dozen currently around but wind farms in our own backyard currently being proposed by Xcel to be placed in Eastern Colorado. But of course you would not want those to disturb your beautiful views of the Front Range, FYI wind farms do not operate without natural gas. I am a concerned citizen working in an unrelated industry with real world views and know that energy is not "free" and out right bans will solve nothing. Give people solutions on how to solve our energy issues instead of heated rhetoric we have all heard James.

 

Who the COGCC really represents? They represent me, you and every Coloradoan who voted them into office and that has been appointed. And not all your nine appointed commissioners have experience in the oil and gas industry, in fact only two do. It may take a look through who is actually representing you, it's not "big oil" at the COGCC like you think.

 

I refuse to choose between energy and health, or energy and property values. By ignoring what I'm actually arguing just repeating over and over again that I can't object to fracking anywhere in my city, against all zoning rules and common sense, unless I give up all my energy, you're being childish, and more or less admitting that fracking is inherently unsafe. So, you think we all need to just deal with that reality, accept any level of risk, and suck it up, because we need to use energy. That's the argument. If you use energy, bend over and take it and if you get hurt, too bad for you, because that's the bargain we have to accept in order to power our gadgets. I don't think so.

 

DBD
The Real James - You can have both - energy AND health. You just need to enter the conversation NOT trolling for the next internet flame war.

 

We should put these in our backyards in Boulder since we are forcing Xcel to do it in other places. http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20131122/wind-farm-gets-fined-for-killing-eagles

 

The Real James, please tell me how your health would be today without heating your home, when it is 13 below zero?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Co2 levels my have dropped. .but methane levels are up and methane is more potent gh gas than co2..so how is gas cleaner...oh I forgot cause the big gas politician and the EPA turn a blind eye to the devastating effects of what the gas industry is doing!

 

DBD
Debra - It is in the oil and gas industry's interest to capture every molecule of methane produced as it's a saleable product. The CDPHE just proposed new regulations on the oil and gas industry to protect Colorado's air.

 

 
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