Natural gas is a necessary energy source as our world makes the transition to renewable energy. I value the efficiency and productivity of it as a product. I acknowledge the benefits gas companies have brought to Erie by donating money and enhancing the quality of our parks, ballfields, and trails.
What is wrong?
The gas industry’s activity has become an intolerable nuisance for the residents of Erie. The presence of wells and drilling activity have encroached on our lives beyond acceptable limits. It is time for them to stop taking advantage of us. There is no other industry that would be allowed to operate next to our homes and, for 24 hours a day, shake our walls, emit loud noise, or off-gas into our backyards.
Residents are filing thousands of complaints with the COGCC but the industry is rarely out of compliance because the regulations are so lax. I have submitted comments on new well pad proposals. I also read the statements from local governments, HOAs, and residents opposing or requesting stringent rules for these proposals. It doesn’t seem to have much effect. The state and COGCC need to know the town of Erie will not accept this any more.
What are other towns doing?
There is always talk of imposing a ban or moratorium on oil and gas activity. In 2017 the residents of Broomfield approved a ballot question to give more oversight of the industry to the city. These moves will invite legal challenges and tie up resources while they fight. An article about Broomfield’s ballot question 301 reports:
Past efforts by cities — including Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette — to temporarily ban oil and gas drilling have met defeat in court. In May 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that municipally imposed fracking bans are illegal because state power to regulate the industry trumps local efforts to do so. – Denver Post Nov 7, 2017
Erie must join the fight but we need to be careful about picking a fight we cannot win.
What can we do?
We need to be thinking long term. Let’s take our voice where it needs to be heard. I would like to see us form a coalition with our neighboring towns and send a delegation of representatives to the state capitol to testify against the hazards to our health and safety by the oil and gas industry. Together we can bring a constant, united voice there and create change to the oil and gas industry’s operating freedom. As Trustee I will advocate for this coalition and I will personally attend important legislative sessions where my voice can be added to those who are requiring change.
I want to:
- Fund and operate constant monitoring of air quality and noise emanating from these sites.
- Apply setbacks of 500’ or greater to residential development.
- Support the Colorado Rising initiative to push new drilling setbacks to 2500’.
- Have on record the makeup and quantity of water injected into every well being fractured.
The COGCC is woefully underfunded so Erie needs to step up and take the reins in terms of watching and reporting on the drilling operations in town. We have a huge fight in front of us before we’re able to deny permits or change proposed drilling locations but we can make sure they know they will have to be good neighbors to operate in the city limits of Erie.
Sharing the blame
The setback for residential development near existing gas wells is 150 feet. In order to get more homes into a subdivision, developers built right up to the edge of them. A portion of the activity that pains us is caused by the companies plugging and abandoning them so they can exit the area. Hopefully, buyers are made aware they are moving in next to operational gas wells but I know that is not always the case. The town needs to change the setback based on the type of wells and dwellings being located near each other. See my statement on residential development for more ideas on dealing with the problem from another aspect.
The town of Erie should establish a way to inform residents of the progress in the fight for more restrictions. If anything is being done, it needs to be reported. Having optics on these efforts will help to keep people calm and assured that we are doing something. I will ask for multiple channels of communication to be opened so these reports can reach the largest audience.