Letters: 6/8/17

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Financial info discloses fracking risks

The oil and gas industry lies to people living near their operations — people forced by state law into risking their family’s health and safety and the value of their homes. But the industry tells the truth to investors — people voluntarily risking their money.

Compare companies’ slick assurances to local communities with what they tell potential investors in Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) 10k reports. 10k’s give a detailed picture of a company’s business, risks and operating and financial results for a fiscal year. Every 10k has a section entitled “risks” (essentially, what could go wrong) — events that could cause the company to miss financial targets and investors to lose money.                                                                      

Extraction’s 2016 10k is particularly illustrative. Extraction, facing citizen backlash over its unique focus on heavily populated areas (Broomfield is the latest), plans to drill in unincorporated Boulder County. Extraction’s 10k risk section is a straightforward discussion of what, to the public and environment, can be catastrophes. Contrast the 10k’s dispassionate discussion with the propaganda these companies unload on city councils and neighborhoods.

Is drilling risky? “Drilling for and producing oil and natural gas are high risk activities with many uncertainties…”  Some listed: “equipment failures or accidents, such as fires or blowouts; environmental hazards, such as oil and natural gas leaks, oil spills, pipeline and tank ruptures, encountering naturally occurring radioactive materials, and unauthorized discharges of brine, well stimulation and completion fluids, toxic gases or other pollutants into the surface and subsurface environment.” These events could result in substantial loss and result in claims for: “injury or loss of life, damage to and destruction of property, natural resources, and equipment; pollution and other environmental damage. …”

Does the driller have insurance for unforeseen events? “[Our] insurance is limited to activities at the well site and there can be no assurance that this insurance will continue to be commercially available or that this insurance will be available at premium levels that justify its purchase by us… Further, we have no coverage for gradual, long-term pollution events.” Makes sense. The taxpayers cover those expenses via superfund cleanup. And in a later section: “…pollution and environmental risks generally are not fully insurable.”

Other discussions in the risk section cover 2016’s Amendment 71 (a boon), Colorado’s forced pooling (ditto), Extraction’s short-time in business and limited experience (discomfiting); climate change; greenhouse gas targets; threats of bans like New York’s; and the risk of more federal, state or local regulation.

Merrily Mazza/Lafayette City Councilwoman

Making America great

Things look bigly bad for Trump completing four years. As much as his basic character and his conduct as candidate and as president disgust me, I’ll be disappointed if he fails to stay on. I believe that we have the best chance of “making America great again” by fully experiencing the clown show that we so defiantly voted into office.

Under Trump’s corrupt, above-the-law, imperial, shallow-minded presidency, even constrained by congressional and judicial actions, we will be able to proudly tout a strong, relatively leaderless military, hubris that will bring back the good old “ugly American” days, borders protecting us from a few thousand unproductive violent aliens and hundreds of thousands of productive nonviolent aliens, a Ferengi-like devotion to business-as-religion and “enrich the rich first” trickle down economics… and the list goes on. We’ll also become a country that is distrusted internationally, that will have increased economic polarization, expensive and broadly inadequate class-based health care, weaker protection of individual and minority rights, increased state-supported discrimination… and the list goes on.

What needs to emerge from this experience is a broad, level-headed, nonpartisan discussion about our country’s developments over the last 30 or 40 years that have produced such a bitterly partisan and polarized society. We need to figure out how to metamorphose into a tolerant, respected and productive society based on building a strong economic middle class rather than a super-elite 0.1 percent. We must recognize the dangers of fear-mongering and fringe politics. We must reinforce the opportunities our society offers, the rights it guarantees and the responsibilities it requires. If Trump disappears none of that will happen. In short, I hope that being forced to live through this self-inflicted debacle will prod us to build the great society we believe we once had.

Paul Atcheson/Longmont

Making America last

Reaction to Trump’s astonishingly foolhardy withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate accords from world leaders has been swift and strong.

“He’s declaring war on the planet itself.” “Make our planet great again.” “A major disappointment.”

Trump calls the accord a job killer.  However, lost coal jobs are mostly due to low natural gas prices. Millions of good-paying jobs in the sustainable energy fields are emerging every year.  Trump’s contention that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” not only demonstrates his narrow provincial outlook, but also his profound lack of understanding about ecology. Climate change is a global phenomenon requiring action by every country, including ours, the largest overall contributor to greenhouse gases over the years.

Evidence of the worldwide changes occurring because of human-produced warming cannot be ignored, despite the uniquely and tragically American denial that is personified by Trump.

I am heartened to know that many states, cities and counties around the nation are enacting meaningful policies, strategies and regulations to address climate change. We need to demonstrate our support for fighting climate change by electing intelligent, aware leaders, starting in 2018.

Huge governmental tax breaks and incentives given to the oil and gas industries need to be stringently reviewed and repealed. Meanwhile, hundreds of U.S. corporations have expressed support for the climate accords, both in word and action, and we can “vote with our dollars” by supporting sustainable products and services.

It’s about time the U.S. enacts a market-driven, revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend, to level the playing field for sustainable energies.

Check out the Citizens’ Climate Lobby website for its great proposal.

As far as climate change mitigation goes, Trump has ceded American leadership to China and Europe. Trump’s legacy will be that he made

America last!

Kenneth Nova/Boulder

Living near oil and gas is medical concern

I am writing this letter as a father, homeowner and physician living in Boulder County. I read with interest the excellent article by Boulder Weekly, “Warning: Oil and gas development may be hazardous to your health” [Re: News, May 18].

I believe the evidence regarding the harmful health effects of fracking, not to mention serious environmental effects, is undeniable.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), led by Dr. Larry Wolk, is failing to serve the health interests in Colorado. While the interests of our elected officials may be divided, there should be no question the primary responsibility of the CDPHE is to protect the public health.

For Dr. Wolk and his department to interpret the current data regarding the safety of living near a fracking site as low risk is unacceptable.

As physicians, we and other healthcare providers use the data we have available to make informed decisions to best serve the health of our patients. Medicine, like science, involves a data set that constantly evolves. We make decisions to shield our patients from unnecessary harm while promoting health practices we believe to be in their best interest.

Many counties throughout the United States, as well as the states of Maryland and New York have banned fracking, as have entire other countries including France and Scotland.

A recent poll showed more than 70 percent of medical professionals oppose fracking. Numerous respected scientists, including those mentioned in the above article oppose it as well. There are hundreds of studies in the past 12 months supporting the health effects of fracking. How much more data do we need before we act to prevent irreversible damage to our community’s health?

As a father and physician I would not allow my family to live within the 500-foot perimeter of a fracking site and would counsel my patients the same.

The health effects related to the fracking industry are being better understood every day. Now is not the time to stand by and expect our elected or appointed state officials to protect our health and the health of our families. I urge you to contact your elected officials, to write to Dr. Wolk (Larry.wolk@state.co.us) and to support the efforts of the excellent community groups working to stop this dangerous process in our communities.

To see drilling locations in or near your community go to drillingmaps.com. For a summary of the peer reviewed studies and other data regarding fracking effects on health and the environment, go to psr.org/environment-and-health/hydraulic-fracturing.html

Ray Howe, MD/ Physicians for Social Responsibility

  • One fact about Dr. Wolk’s recent fracking study that made its controversial findings suspicious is that the study was done in 2015, when well counts were as low as 1/6th the number of wells active in previous years when the University of Colorado, NCAR, and NOAA found much greater human health impact from fracking.

    My impression of Dr. Wolk is that he, like many climate change deniers and pro-fracking advocates, spends a lot of time trying to poke holes in peer-reviewed research to defend the targeted industry.

    Take the two 2016 studies of airborne fracking emissions and their impact on those of us who suffer asthma and COPD. One was an extensive multiyear study of over 34,500 people, published in the prestigious AMA Journal, and yet Dr. Wolk summarily dismissed its finding that fracking was causing a 150-400% increase in asthma attacks and steroid inhaler use based on proximity at up to 12 miles.

    The other study, entitled “Gasping for Breath” a product of Colorado State University and a professional research organization, which found up to an additional 750,000 asthma attacks annually attributable to airborne fracking emissions, appears to also to have been summariliy dismissed by Dr. Wolk for reasons we can only guess.

    Dr. Wolk has previously spent a lot of his time trying to poke holes in several University of Missouri medical school findings on negative human endocrine impacts of fracking emissions as well as CU/CIRES and NOAA findings that airborne fracking emissions were as high as 750% above a safe standard for cancer-causing benzene, triple the safe level of methane, (a finding more-recently revised upward by 30-35% due to an under-reporting problem later discovered in airborne methane-content analysis equipment), and double the safe-level of ozone-causing VOC emissions, which also cause an increased incidence of asthma attacks.

    Of particular concern about CDPHE under Dr. Wolk is his participation in decisions made by our State government not to publicly report several very large fracking industry hazmat spills that included substantial negative human health impacts.

    Take the Encana Coslette B disaster east of Erie in June, 2015, which occurred within 400 feet of I-25. Motorists driving by on I-25 south of Erie Parkway and north of Hwy 7 were subjected to airborne cancer-causing airborne benzene emissions of up to 1,000 times the safe level after a huge tank of toxic fracking wastewater ruptured and spilled a reported 16,000 gallons. At least Encana didn’t lie and try to falsely claim that groundwater had not been contaminated as Noble has done in the past.

    The responsible thing to do would have been to shut-down I-25 until the spill had been cleaned-up and airborne benzene reduced to a safe level, as now unsuspecting motorists from a minimum of several States and numerous Colorado counties have been exposed to an extremely high unsafe level of an airborne cancer-causing chemical, a decision I will bet was substantially Dr. Wolk’s.

    Obviously under Dr. Wolk’s direction, protecting polluting industry profits is more important than protecting Colorado residents’ health.

  • YETI67

    ‘…Millions of good-paying jobs in the sustainable energy fields are emerging every year…’

    Millions? Every year?
    Hey, Kenneth Nova, show some data to support that dubious claim.

  • ernie_oertle

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