Niwot fracking protest only the beginning

Ilan Sherman

The local coalition that recently came together to protest the new oil/gas drilling site east of Niwot is not done yet.

The group, which includes Occupy Boulder, of Boulder, East Boulder County United, The Mothers Project and Colorado Frack Attack, is planning additional events to raise awareness about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and other oil and gas extraction processes that decrease property values and are suspected of posing health threats.

For one, they plan to spend upcoming Saturdays as they did on Aug. 18, protesting at Encana’s drilling operation on Niwot Road just west of County Line Road.

“One of the biggest things we’re going for is educating the public,” says co-organizer Tom “Grandpa Tom” Cummins, a member of Occupy Boulder.

He says the starting time of future Saturday gatherings will be posted on the events page at, and participants are hoping to expand their numbers.

“The goal is, every time we go back, everybody brings another person with them, to make the event larger,” he says.

Cummins says that acts of civil disobedience, like lying down in the road to block Encana’s trucks from entering the site, are possible but unlikely, since only he and a couple of others are willing to take the protest to such extreme measures. Others, he says, are too afraid of the government and what increasingly militaristic police might do.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but at this point, I don’t think it’s our main goal,” he says of civil disobedience. “This current site is basically a done deal. … We may not stop this one, but maybe we’ll stop ones in the future. We don’t want Boulder County taken over like Weld County. If we don’t stop it, that’s what’s going to happen. If you look at Weld County, it’s a pin cushion.”

The coalition is planning other awareness-raising events. For example, as part of the international “Global Frackdown” being spearheaded by Food and Water Watch on Sept. 22, the group will hold an event in Longmont. While details haven’t been finalized yet, information will be posted on the aforementioned events page, Cummins says.

In response to Boulder Weekly columnist Paul Danish’s column this week (see page 8) questioning why protesters allowed their children near the site if fracking is so dangerous, Cummins says the drilling process, which is currently under way, is less hazardous than fracking and other procedures, and only one child, age 12, accompanied activists on their tour of the drilling pad.

“It boggles my mind that the community of Niwot is not rising up about this,” he says, alluding to the possibility of property values going down. “There are some big homes out there.”

He adds that citizens — and elected officials — need to wake up.

“I think people in Louisville, Gunbarrel and even the city of Boulder are naïve enough to think it’s not going to happen here,” Cummins says. “Frankly, everybody’s on the take on this … I just don’t buy the argument that there’s nothing we can do, that it’s all in the hands of the state. This is Boulder County. We should have some commissioners willing to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re going to fight this.’”