AN 18-WELL FRACKING MEGAPAD IS ON ERIE PLANNING DOCUMENTS FOR LAFAYETTE'S BORDER


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Published blog version can be found here: AN 18-WELL FRACKING MEGAPAD IS ON ERIE PLANNING DOCUMENTS FOR LAFAYETTE'S BORDER - WE THE PEOPLE journal
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The “Cornflower” 18-well fracking megapad in Erie planning documents for East County Line Road and Baseline Road

A megapad consisting of 18 fracking wells is on Erie planning documents for Lafayette’s border with Erie on East County Line Road (119th) and Baseline Road, near the Great Bark Dog Park. Look for the Cornflower megapad on the map above.

The project -- Parkdale Development – will consist of 642 homes and – less well-known – may include a proposed megapad fracking operation consisting of 18 wells. Yes, you heard right – 18 wells. To put this number into perspective, that pad will hold twice as many producing wells as the 9 working oil and gas wells within the city limits of Lafayette.

Why concentrate wells in one place? This is the new trend. Basically, you can extract oil and gas using a fraction of the purchased land. Unfortunately, you also have the potential for more concentrated waste and cancer-causing chemicals to potentially blow over the town, leak into the soil, and be dumped somewhere along with the wastewater.

Did you know that Oil and Gas industry spills increased 17% across Colorado last year with nearly a dozen mishaps per week (see article)? It took local environmental citizen watch groups to call attention to a toxic waste pit sitting in Lafayette Silver Creek housing development (see article). The pit was used for depositing waste material from nearby oil and gas wells. In case you are interested, click here to see where the wells are located in our town. The council is proposing a setback from buildings of 150 feet for underground pipes, which have the potential to explode. Imagine an exploding pipe at the 50-yard line of a football field and your house at the touchdown.

Sadly, off-gassed pollutants are no respecter of boundaries. Having lived in a cancer cluster in the outback of Australia, I can attest to the serious impacts when they finally arrive. Childhood leukemia rates were 16 times the norm in my case, and one of those statistics was my friend. Our cluster was from the cotton spraying which was carried on air currents to the town from surrounding fields.

I feel sorry for the people who buy into the planned Parkdale development because studies show the medical outcome is statistically grim for people living within a mile of the wells (see one article on this) and the long-term impact further from the wells has yet to be determined. Cancer and neurological problems take years to manifest, and it also takes just as long for a body of robust, peer-reviewed data to be established.

Meanwhile, studies of air quality by CDPHE have been limited to air from isolated wells and not to the cumulative effect on air quality of hundreds of wells. Research is in its infancy, although no less concerning. Our Erie neighbors whose town is scattered with wells (see map) and more megapads in the works (see map) are reporting jarring, constant noise, toxic smells accompanied by sore throats and nausea. Just to give you an idea, here is a shot of off-gassed pollutants coming out of Coyote Pad, located in Erie by Vista Ridge.

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Ground view of Coyote Pad in Erie showing visible pollutants in the air

Aerial view of Coyote Pad, for which residents are reporting foul odors and accompanying sore throat and nausea

Children near wells are already being born underweight (see one article on this). Think about that. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be released at fracking sites are a proven fact as are the medical effects of such chemicals (see here for an explainer). Oil and Gas argue that with proper safeguards, though, we are safe.

FYI, apparently, Sonya Lewis, who is running to replace Michael Foote in our town's Colorado House Seat, sold a parcel of land on the site of the new Parkdale development. She has stated (see source of quote here):

"In my first days as a state representative, I will sponsor legislation requiring a 'time out,' a moratorium on new and oil gas development anywhere near people, water or our treasured public lands.”

Did she know about the proposed megapad to be installed next to families in the new development on our border? What will she do to mitigate the consequences of that sale? I don’t know. At times, I feel like there is a disconnect in local politics between rhetoric (what people stand for) and actions (what they actually do). Some say this includes our Mayor, Christine Berg. Some citizens voted for her, believing she would fight fracking by banning it.

However, she has remained silent on her position on banning fracking altogether as fortnight after fortnight, citizens plead at Lafayette City Council meetings for the council to enforce a ban on fracking. But don't we have a ban, you might ask? Yes. Sort of. Lafayette'ns voted in the Community Bill of Rights charter amendment in 2013. The bill of rights banned fracking due to being a violation of residents right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy climate. However, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) sued the city. The grassroots citizens’ rights group, East Boulder County United, who proposed and championed this charter amendment, applied to be added to the lawsuit worried that it would not be defended to the full extent by council. The city joined with COGA to fight the citizen's group's motion to join the lawsuit and won. The concern by East Boulder County United was that the charter wasn’t being defended adequately using all the available arguments like the rights-based argument, which was not raised. Boulder District Court ruled the charter wasn't enforceable and Council majority declined to appeal the court’s decision, adding the following footnote to the charter:

Footnote to the Community Bill of Rights charter amendment voted in by citizens in 2013

In January 2017, Councilor Merrily Mazza proposed a Climate Bill of Rights ordinance to ban fracking, again based on our right to health and a non-toxic environment. This ordinance honored Lafayetten majority's wishes as encoded in the 2013 charter. However, ordinances can be amended anytime by the council without citizen input. Unfortunately, Gustavo Reyna rewrote the ordinance and removed municipal protections of protesting citizens (direct action), a point of upset with many civic-minded locals who plan to protest. The council majority voted this version of the ordinance introduced by Alexandra Lynch in March 2018. Is the council majority choosing not to take a stand against fracking? We won't know until Oil and Gas apply to Lafayette City Council for fracking permits.

That could very well happen. In September 2017, Extraction (via subsidiary 8 North LLC) submitted a spacing plan outlining plans to drill in town (see map below). Soon after, families began protests to stop fracking near Pioneer Elementary. Incidentally, it appears that Extraction drilling company is accessing the oil and gas under the ground shown in the map below via Cornflower pad outside of the city limits. Our citizens' protests to protect kids at Pioneer school might have impacted the decision to mine outside of Lafayette's border.

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Map of area Extraction proposed to drill in September 2017

A growing number of Lafayette'ns concerned about fracking are worried about what the Mayor and council majority plan to do. Why? The move by citizens group East Boulder County United to become a party to the lawsuit to defend the charter amendment they proposed and championed was blocked successfully by the city working with Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Think about that. The offer to defend the Climate Bill of Rights pro bono by Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund was declined by council majority (see videos of town meeting with CELDF representative). If the council majority approves fracking applications, defending the Climate Bill of Rights won't be needed. Instead, citizens will be protesting fracking unprotected by the direct action clause, the removal of which, was because council majority anticipated they might have to defend this protection in court. The threat to protesters by Oil and Gas is real ([see article](http://www.westword.com/content/printView/10202032)). That said, we do not know the Mayor's position on the fracking ban. Whether she will lead the council to deny applications Whether she will lead the council to deny applications to frack the town (even if the regulations are adhered to) is unknown.

Concerned citizens perceive the Mayor's championing of revised oil and gas regulations as an endorsement of fracking in Lafayette. If she doesn't enforce the Climate Bill of Rights' ban on fracking, the regulations certainly pave the way for more wells. Then there is this language in the proposed ordinance adopting the regulations, framing the regulations as allowing, "the responsible development of oil and gas resources in the city, consistent with and subject to, the rights set forth in the Climate Bill of Rights and Protections . . . "

Language in the proposed ordinance adopting the fracking regulations for Lafayette. Does this say the regulations ensure fracking is not violating our rights to protected public health, safety, and welfare?

Does this mean following the regulations means fracking will not violate our rights to protected health, safety, and welfare as outlined in the Climate Bill of Rights ordinance? A ban would be justified if fracking is hurting our environment and health. Does the Mayor believe her regulations are sufficient to keep us safe? Are the Oil and Gas lawsuits that are sure to come what stay her hand? There is an argument for only taking on fights you can win and Oil and Gas does own the State. State statutes trump municipal code. If the Mayor chooses to not fight Oil and Gas, the Mayor avoids lawsuits. Right after the last election, Mayor Berg said, “We are not afraid of the lawsuits.” (See article.) Why won’t she talk to her constituents and explain her plan for fracking applications?

To give Mayor Berg her due, she has always stood for regulating oil and gas. When we hear a candidate say they are against fracking we might automatically assume that means banning it from within our borders. In the Mayor's words directly after the last election, she wants to "ensure we have the strongest regulations possible and push for better leadership on this issue at the state level (see source article here)." She is currently an employee of the Environmental Defense Fund, which some say has a conflict of interest due to being partly funded by oil and gas corporations. EDF encourages free market environmentalism where the prosperity of the big companies is encouraged while ‘stewarding’ the environment, often with regulations.

We are in the middle of an uncontrolled health experiment on a large scale in a new frontier of fracking, the impact of which, we are just beginning to realize. Thousands of well pads dot the American landscape, in cities, towns, and rural areas, the cardinal rule of keeping factories out of populated areas non-existent as companies take advantage of this new gold rush and archaic mineral rights laws. A 1.6 trillion gas expansion is predicted by 2030 (read more). Both Democrats and Republicans take a regulatory stance. After all, fracking is now a key part of the American economy. However, I worry that minor changes to regulations won't be enough to protect our kids. Take a look at the proposed regulations for Lafayette yourself here. This is what Oil and Gas will need to comply with as they frack our town. "Growing evidence suggests that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm" (see a compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings, page 17).

Unfortunately, for my childhood town, beyond a 60-minutes story and government officials visiting my high school to assure us the sprayed chemicals were fine, nothing changed much until science and government caught up with the reality of these deadly pesticides. Meanwhile, kids died. I guess that's why I'm writing this. We may not even have the luxury of time to understand the devastating effects that fracking is reaping on our land and children. Global warming is already here and we are just learning about the possible impact of fracking on our planet.

Council will be voting on the proposed new fracking regulations at the Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at 5:30 council meeting. If you've read this and would like to join others in expressing your concerns to the Mayor about increased fracking within and around our borders, please come to the Lafayette Council Meeting next Tuesday, June 19, 2018. You won't be alone. (Click here for a sense of other towns' reactions to fracking.) Your voice could make the difference in the event that the council has to decide between enforcing the Climate Bill of Rights ordinance or approving fracking applications in the future.

To connect with others who are working to make a change locally, check out East Boulder County United's website and facebook page. Colorado Rising's petition to introduce State legislature to increase setbacks from occupied buildings to 2500 feet (half a mile) is also worth a look-see.

*Thank you Brooke Dryden for the photo of the Coyote Pad fracking wells.

**If any of you have important information the town should know, please join the forum and post that information. Once enough information on the topic is gathered we will generate a blog like the one that you just read, citing as many sources as possible.