Commissioners flooded with requests for fracking moratorium extension


At the hearing called by Boulder County Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 10 in Longmont, public support for a further extension of the county’s moratorium on fracking was relentless, with most commenters requesting at least a three-and-a-half-year extension.

Boulder County residents cited the need for more research on fracking’s health effects and the need to delay oil and gas development until a National Science Foundation study can be completed in late 2017. Members of the public also pointed to new data on escaping methane emissions as a reason to delay drilling.

Numerous examples of those negatively impacted by the current drilling boom were given, including that of a woman living near wells in Garfield County whose granddaughter’s blood has such high levels of hydrocarbons that if it were outside her body, it would be considered hazardous waste. Speakers also pointed to a Physicians for Social Responsibility statement endorsing extending oil and gas development moratoriums.

“June 2018 is a reasonable amount of time. It’s justifiable to let the science happen, let other things happen,” said Neshama Abraham with Frack Free Boulder and Frack Free Colorado. “As the citizens have said, by pausing oil and gas, we have a chance to let our renewable energy future take place. Give us that chance.”

In June 2013, following great public pressure and heated public meetings with anti-fracking activists, Boulder’s County Commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on oil and gas development for 18 months. That moratorium is set to expire on Jan. 1, 2015.

Public testimony at the November hearing was preceded by a presentation from Boulder County land use department staff that reviewed the history of oil and gas development in the county. Staff covered recent and ongoing research on fracking as well as the changing legal landscape, including recent lawsuits against Front Range municipalities. Staff also mentioned the state oil and gas taskforce that resulted from the compromise between Gov.

John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis that pulled anti-fracking measures from November’s ballot.

Kim Sanchez, Boulder County’s planning division manager, said the latest projections from the consulting firm the county retained estimated a “drill out” period of 16 years and a total of 609 wells in Boulder County if the moratorium were to be lifted.

Patrick Murphy, who has been hired by the county as an oil and gas specialist, said that in his site visits to monitor oil and gas development, he detected leaks at 43 percent of the 219 sites he visited and signs of past releases at 29 percent of sites.

Approximately 150 people attended the Monday afternoon meeting.

Throughout the afternoon’s three-hour session, the comments were unanimously in favor of extending the moratorium. Signs lining the front hallway (attendees are asked to keep signs outside so everyone in the meeting can see) read: “Don’t frack our water,” “California aquifers contaminated with arsenic from fracking waste water,” “10 barrels of water produces one barrel of oil.” Before the meeting had even begun at 2 p.m., three-minute time slots for public comment were booked until after 9:30 p.m.

At a press conference prior to the hearing, representatives from Our Longmont, 350 Boulder County, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Frack Free Colorado issued statements urging the county commissioners to extend the moratorium on oil and gas development in Boulder County.

“The threat is too great,” Lisa Trope with Food and Water Watch said. “We’ve found over the last year that there’s been research that found people living near fracking wells have had an increase in health impacts, and also there have been numerous counts of water contamination across the country.”

Commissioners will discuss the information presented at the Monday meeting and issue their decision on Thursday, Nov. 13.

Frack Free Colorado is hosting a community meeting on fracking at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at Unity Church, 2855 Folsom St. in Boulder.