Fort Collins Should Ban Fracking

Have you ever wondered why when they discover a new oil or gas field, they call it a "play?" Could it be that oil and gas corporations are playing with your family's health, playing with your home's value, and playing with your community's economic future?

The new Niobrara "energy play" in shale oil and shale gas along the Front Range of Colorado and moving into Fort Collins - with 10,000 new leases and counting - brings with it enormous problems, risks, and health concerns. Let's look at some facts.

Water: Thousands of spills and releases of drilling and fracking chemicals have occurred in drilled and fracked areas of the state, many impacting groundwater and some impacting surface water. Aquifer contamination has occurred. Wells have been poisoned. Water supplies are being stretched even thinner as rivers and farms are poised to be drained for drilling and fracking.

Air: Two scientific studies - one by CU and another by NOAA - have found serious problems with air quality in heavily drilled and fracked areas of the state. Headaches, nose bleeds, dizziness, and asthma attacks are the most common complaints as methane, ozone, and other cancer-causing chemicals blow into nearby homes and communities.

Property Values: Residents across the state who have wells and drilling permits within a few hundred feet of their homes report difficulties selling their homes, negative impacts on their property values, difficulties buying homeowners insurance, and that mortgages and home equity loans are more heavily scrutinized.

Wildlife: All across the state in drilled and fracked areas, wildlife have been impacted including elk, mule deer, antelope, and sage grouse. Drilling and fracking may cause the Greater Sage Grouse to be listed as Endangered Species, and are increasingly impacting Colorado's hunting and recreational economy.

In addition to polluting our water, air, homes, and natural landscapes, oil and gas corporations also pollute our democracy. At the national and state level - and now increasingly at the local level - oil and gas corporations are spending tens-of-millions of dollars in election campaigns and pouring money into lobbying activities to ensure their profits are as strong as possible while protections for our health, property, and environment are as weak as possible.

In 2011, oil and gas corporations spent $65.7 million to lobby congress to make sure no new laws were passed to protect the public's health and property and the environment. Here in Colorado, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being donated to the campaigns of elected officials - including our Governor's - and millions of dollars are being spent by oil and gas corporations lobbying to make sure we citizens cannot protect ourselves and our communities. In 2008, oil and gas corporations spent $10 million on TV ads in Colorado to defeat a ballot initiative that would have, in part, provided money to local governments that are struggling with oil and gas pollution and impacts. And now, the industry is deploying pseudo-scientists and public relations experts at the local level to further protect their sky-high oil and gas corporate profits and to keep regulations weak.

"Home rule" communities, like Fort Collins, have a right to protect themselves from all of this pollution, and we citizens should expect and require that our local City Council do just that.

The Fort Collins City Council did the right thing when it enacted a moratorium on drilling and fracking. The next thing to do is to ban drilling and fracking altogether in the city's boundaries and tell these oil and gas companies - and the politicians they have bought and sold - to take their dirty oil money and go play somewhere else.

Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist in Fort Collins. Contact: gary@garywockner.com Web: http://garywockner.com